After finding out last year his cholesterol level was quite high and his carotid artery had a 30 percent blockage, he had to change his eating habits.
He tells The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith, "The book is about our behavior -- yours, mine, your mother's, your father's, your aunt, your uncle... The way doctors talk to them, it's not about food. The food doesn't jump in your mouth. So the humor of the book is how we go about doing the wrong things so that we can enjoy."
What Cosby says he enjoys most eating is scrapple. Pointing to his neck, at the approximate location of his carotid artery, he says it is loaded with scrapple. What is scrapple, you may ask?
"If you take the first four letters, you'll know," Cosby says, "Scra, scra. And I don't want to get sued by the company. But let's put it this way: At some point in your life, everybody has said to you while you were eating something, 'If you ever saw them make that, you wouldn't eat it.' Well, scrapple, if you ever saw, you wouldn't eat it."
What happened with his cholesterol, Cosby explains had to do more with forgetting he had a doctor's appointment.
He says, "What I didn't tell the people in the book, was a fellow was talking to me about cleaning out certain glands, organs and he said that olive oil would be great. So I drank a cup of olive oil. But I forgot, the next morning, I'm going to have my blood drawn for cholesterol. This is in Lake Tahoe. The doctor called after the test results. He was crying on the phone: 'Mr. Cosby, you're over 400 and 16,000 in the triglycerides.' So he called my wife and that's the wrong person to call. In anybody's house! Once your wife gets word that there is something wrong with you, everything goes out, related to what it could cause it."
So now Cosby says he does not miss eating anything. He says, "I mean, I'm beginning to sound like somebody who knows what they're talking about. I'm just talking about myself. I know that I went to my doctor and I said, 'Explain to me: How long is "once in a while"? Because that's dangerous to a person who's got to cut something out.' It could be, 'I ate once and in a while, I'm going to eat again.'"
Read an excerpt from Chapter One here (or better yet, Cosby says, go to the bookstore).
Meaning four croissants. (Made in France, I'm telling you, which is like having a biscuit in Atlanta.) And a large cup of espresso with steamed milk. Along with the usual suspects comes butter. We all know that in each croissant there's at least a quarter pound of butter. Nonetheless, I would take a patty and spread it on the croissant and then empty out two little things of blueberry jam and one thing of marmalade and mix them together and put it on top of the croissant. I would bite into it, sip on that coffee, and that mixture was fantastic.
But now the doctor is telling me I could have blockage in my carotid artery. The plaque. And it keeps on plaquing. And I thought to myself: Time is going by and this stuff is just plaquing up.
So the doctor sent me to a place where they put these things on my chest and I got on the treadmill and I started walking. And the treadmill increased every three minutes and after I reached 150 rpm of my heart per second, they yanked me off and they walked with me and I felt like somebody who'd been thrown out of a bar or something. Then they put me horizontal and they started to put instruments on the side of my neck, checking my carotid artery. And I heard these squishing sounds. When all the testing was over, I went back to the doctor and he looked at me and he said:
"You have a thirty percent blockage in your carotid artery."
That was not good news. And I was mad at myself. And so I said to myself: You started out with a clean carotid. Fantastic! Now look what you've done!
Believe it or not, even though my body was shaking and my brain was reeling, my mouth was watering. Which proves how stupid my taste buds really are. So I told my mouth: You will never have these things you like again. Water all you want, but you've had your day.
Blockage! Thirty percent blockage and more to come. Scrapple. One of the great tastes of all time. But if you want to squeeze it after you cook it, or just put it on a piece of paper, you'll be able to see your own carotid artery. I've seen a simple slice of scrapple cooked to a dark brown -- then placed on a piece of paper towel -- and the scrapple killed the paper towel. The grease clotted the paper towel. Turned it into a sheet of saturated carotid artery blocking glop.
I am what I ate, and it frightens me.
It's not a matter of one's left arm going numb, it's a matter of knowing deep down inside while we're running a machine on bad fuel that things eventually are going to happen to that machine. It's going to break down.
Thirty percent blockage! I can't afford to go with my taste buds anymore. I know it sounds pitiful. But when does one realize that the last dance was in fact the last dance and you don't have to dance anymore. That you have to tell the taste buds that was it. That the taste buds have to know, along with the memory, that if you want to live longer, just stop it. It's not as easy as one thinks. Because along with it comes the smell. So you begin to smell things, see them, your mouth waters. But you have to move on.
By the way, leave the people alone who are eating. There's no need for you to go from table to table and say: You know, you're blocking your carotid artery. There's no sense in getting angry when you see somebody older than you still eating it and they're okay. Their body is not the same as yours. And who knows? Maybe that person eating all those things might have the same percent blockage or worse. And they just said: "I don't care."
Please don't try to push them and hope they fall out of the chair so you can say: "That's the carotid."
Blockage! Oh, my goodness. Popcorn. With butter. Oh my goodness. Pancakes. With butter. And then the same meal would slide gracefully to eggs over easy between the pancakes. Bacon. And sausage. Forget the turkey bacon. Just get some good old-fashioned pork sausage. Espresso with steamed milk. Blueberry jam on the side to cover up the holes left by the syrup, places that the syrup missed. Never been big on milk shakes, but I have had my share. Pies and cakes. Lard ...
The foregoing is excerpted from I Am What I Ate...and I'm frightened!!! by Bill Cosby. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022