Me, if I have a really good meal, al fresco, say, followed by an espresso and an eau de vie and someone offers me a cigarette? I’m going to have it. I love a cigarette. What a pleasure with, say, a grappa overlooking the harbor of Portofino on my 49th birthday. Damn, that was a good cigarette. But I have no intention of addicting myself again, because that will give me the lung cancer and emphysema that killed my dad. I’d sooner eat straight sugar than drink a regular Coke, but am I going to forgo duck confit and bacon so that I can eke out 90 years? Are you kidding me? Shoot me now.

I’m sorry, I just get so goddam sick of studies and data telling me how to live, reading about this or that new diet that’s going to take pounds off my body and add countless Sound of Music years to my life. My hunch is that people don’t actually want to live longer—I think people want to be happier, to be more at ease with who they are, to feel glad when they wake up rather than dreadful, to feel good at the end of the day instead of crummy. The South Beach diet is not going to do this for you. Show me the data on how to be happy and I’ll listen. That’s what people are after and they can’t get their fingers on it. It’s not in a damned diet book, that’s for sure. It’s more likely in a pot of minestrone simmering on the stove.