I have just bitten into a stuffed red bell pepper that is so healthy it is positively leaking Vitamin C. Inside the pepper are 250 calories full of brown rice, ground turkey and a tomato sauce so clean it seems scrubbed behind the ears. I figure all this virtue is costing about $1 dollar a bite.
"Look at it this way," says a friend visiting from New York. "Think of what you're saving. The Golden Door would cost you $3,500 plus gas."
We're saving on the gas here. Definitely. Yolanda Bergman--the "food coach" to Carrie Fisher, Kate Jackson, Ozzy Osbourne and other assorted celebrities--comes to you.
Sometimes she'll arrive with oat bran waffles, low-fat pizza, grilled orange teriyaki chicken, barbecued scallops, berry tarts . . . or, at the very least, a large empty bag.
Bergman, the former ballerina and Jane Fonda instructor who likes to be called just "Yolanda," will make a clean sweep of a kitchen and fill it with lean, healthy food (no fats, sugar, additives, caffeine, cholesterol, red meat, salt, MSG . . .). Many of her clients place weekly orders for precisely the sort of food you'd find at a spa. A week's worth of Yolanda's "The Perfect Food" meals runs between $200 and $250.
I dig into the marinated grilled vegetables, a gorgeous mound (65 calories, $7.95) of smoky tri-colored peppers, whole mushrooms, slabs of zucchini and yellow squash, fat eggplant discs. It is bursting with flavor, crisp, juicy and amazingly fresh. I could get used to this.
My New York friend is on the telephone. "How much does a live-in cook run these days?" He writes down the facts. "Really? From three-fifty to seven-fifty a week."
He hangs up and announces, "We're saving money." Indeed. Two little bell peppers are $17.50, tomorrow's turkey meat loaf is $15.95 for two, the roast turkey breast is $17.95, and that small package of mixed wild and brown rice is $6.50.
"What about that $10 delivery charge?" I ask. "If you have to ask prices . . . ," he says.
If you have to ask prices then you probably won't have your fridge bursting at the seams with Yolanda's microwaveable packages. But since she happily delivers individual meals--$35 minimum--with eight hours' notice, you might order a week of light lunches--or have a supper now and then.
Yolanda's food is comparable to the meals served at the best American spas--with one plus: The portions are normal, not Lilliputian. (Ozzy Osbourne wouldn't stand for doll-sized meals.) While the muffins are gummy, the barbecue sauce (no sugar or honey) is a pale trace of the real thing. But the low-cal lasagna (plenty of fresh tomatoes, tofu and spinach) is nothing that a little cheese and salt wouldn't rev up, and the entrees tend to be so delightfully fresh (and, gosh, cheerful) you'd think they were farmed and cooked five minutes before.
"I could imagine coming home to this after a hard day at the studio," said my pal tasting the grilled lime chicken. It is 138 calories per portion, tender and served with a flirty little red salsa--I could enjoy it again too. Likewise the sweet, juicy roast turkey fashioned with a thin green mustard sauce. Even the low-calorie garlic herb salad dressing, usually, by its very nature, execrable, is sparkling. (It's 6 calories per tablespoon and $7 for a small jar.)
The next night we're eating the fluffy turkey meat loaf woven with onions, carrots and zucchini. The no-oil tomato topping is even fluffier. It's exactly the kind of food that tastes great when you've been at a spa for five days. Even now, it's pretty good--but why am I up hunting down the tamari sauce?
"I don't know why," says my friend who stopped smoking two years ago, "but this meal makes me want to have a cigarette."
Yolanda's, (213) 657-3821. Call for delivery information. $35 minimum order, $10 delivery charge. Eight hours' notice required. American Express, MasterCard, Visa and checks accepted. Entrees: $6.95-$25.50.