For Bon Appetit, by Alex Beggs.
When we’re stuck on a rickety elevator, or on a plane landing in turbulence, or in a taxi driven by an Nascar reject, we never think to ourselves—well, if this is it, I’m so glad I ate all those salads. Because at some point in the scheme of things, a life well-lived is measured by the things that made us happy. Is this terrible medical advice if taken literally? Definitely!
But in that spirit, let’s look to the world’s oldest people, who when interviewed, always have pretty particular, and surprising, eating and drinking habits. Take this as inspiration:
Since Morano was a teenager in Italy, she’s eaten three raw eggs a day—now it’s just two. She also likes a bananas, ladyfingers, and brandy, “But I do not eat much because I have no teeth,” she has said. Her other explanation for a long life that I’m just going to throw out there: she’s single.
Yisrael Kristal, World’s Oldest Man, 113
Kristal, who was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust, owned a candy shop in Poland before the war, and reopened one after it. His daughter credits his longevity to his love for God, a simple life, and being “someone who takes happiness in everything.” She also told the New York Times that he eats to live rather than lives to eat. That said, he has pickled herring every day, and in his younger years drank wine and beer.
Susannah Mushatt Jones, World’s Oldest Person Until May 2016 at 116
Every day for breakfast in Brooklyn, Mushatt Jones ate four pieces of bacon (her favorite food) with eggs and grits. “I never drink or smoke,” she said, “I surround myself with love and positive energy. That’s the key to long life and happiness.”
Adele Dunlap, Oldest American, 113 (114 in December)
Dunlap, who lives in New Jersey, has always eaten whatever she wanted, enjoyed the occasional martini with her husband, used to smoke, and “never went out jogging or anything like that,” her son told USA Today. Right now she likes to eat oatmeal, and insisted to USA Today she’s merely 104, despite what records show.
Misao Okawa, Oldest Living Person Until 2015, 117
In Japan, where there are over 65,000 centenarians, Okawa held the record for world’s oldest person until her death in 2015. She told The Guardian, “You have to learn to relax,” in order to hit those digits, but also get plenty of sleep. Her favorite food was sushi, especially mackerel on vinegar-steamed rice.
Dharam Pal Singh, Probably Not 119 But Still Very Old and a Runner
Even if he’s not 119 as the New York Times and aging experts suspect, Singh is probably still super old and he runs a lot, which is why he’s included here. He says his long life is thanks to “cows’ milk, herbal chutney and seasonal fruit that ripened in sunshine” and avoiding “butter, fried food, sugar, tobacco, alcohol, even tea and coffee.”
Täo Porchon-Lynch, 98-Year-Old Yogi
Porchon-Lynch started doing yoga when she was eight in India, because her uncle told her it wasn’t ladylike. After an incredible life that includes marching with Gandhi, dancing for soldiers, and acting for MGM, she founded the American Wine Society with her husband—and only drinks tea and wine. No water. She also wears only high heels because they “elevate her consciousness,” which is a physical feat all its own.
Agnes Fenton, General Hero, 111
We’re including Fenton here because she made news for her remarkable key to longevity: three Miller High Lifes and a shot of Johnnie Walker Blue Label a day, until last year when she had to give them up per doctor’s orders. The New Jersey resident’s favorite foods include chicken wings, green beans, and sweet potatoes.
Jeanne Calment, 122 (!!), World’s Oldest Person Until 1997, Longest Confirmed Lifespan
Calment’s obituary said she “used to eat more than two pounds of chocolate a week and treat her skin with olive oil, rode a bicycle until she was 100,” and had smoked nearly all her life, until her doctor made her cut that and her Sunday glass of Port at age 120. The French!
More from Bon Appetit: