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On Doctor's Orders

A Cigar is a Valuable Way to Release the Stress of a Busy Day
Charles Carluccio
From the Print Edition:
Fidel Castro, Summer 94

(continued from page 1)

I suppose I started smoking cigars to model myself after Major Foss. The ship's store had nothing but Muriels--cheap and fresh,so they were my first. The fact that the cigar had a woman's name was pure coincidence. Take note, psychoanalysts.

As the years went by, the quality of the cigar became more and more important, and, just as one endeavors to move up from a Chevy to a Rolls Royce, I endeavored to move up to Cubans. I aspired to the best.

I remember well a pre-Castro Romeo y Julieta double corona that cost me all of $1. It was savored after a memorable Italian meal, great in its simplicity. The best of pastas, homemade red wine, crusty Italian bread baked in old brick ovens, crisp fennel and orange salad, espresso, cannoli, and then tiny glasses of grappa with the magnificent Romeo y Julieta. I can taste it now. My brother-in-law Richard and I looked on with sadness at the remains of the cigars that we were forced to extinguish or burn our fingertips.

There is one other milestone I would like to tell you about. Fifteen years ago, while driving through the South of France with my family, I found myself outside Lyons at 9:00 p.m. without a clue as to where we would eat that night.

The Michelin Guide listed Paul Bocuse's restaurant as outstanding. Believing that we would probably not be accepted without a reservation, I gave it a try anyway.

I don't know about you, but I've noted that the French are not overcome with joy at the sight of a family arriving late at a restaurant without reservations. I had also noted over the years that French waiters don't smile very easily. Like Freud, I couldn't have been more mistaken.

We were welcomed as if we were family, and I asked them to serve whatever was convenient for them. The meal was magnificent, simple and elegant. Bass en croûte, garden vegetables, fresh raspberries, café filtre. Then the waiter presented a Davidoff panetela, lit it for me in a manner I had never seen--with a long taper--and handed it to me fully lit, to be savored with a snifter of Delamain Cognac. It doesn't get much better than that.

Even now, recalling this, I am overcome with a sense of relaxation and, yes, peace. Has anyone ever remembered great cigarette experiences?

As a psychiatrist, I don't prescribe cigars in place of Xanax or Valium, but unlike my interdiction of that dirty habit of smoking cigarettes, I can't bring myself to discourage cigar smokers. I have given cigars to patients on occasion and have received my share of some great cigars in return. One unusual gift was two H. Upmann coronas from Cuba that were as old as the patient: 35 years. They had been given by his father at his christening, and these few had been lovingly saved.

Incidentally, they tasted remarkably good after being resuscitated in my humidor. Some of my psychiatric colleagues will look askance at this practice, but if both the patient and I felt better as a result of this interchange, was it not therapeutic?

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