Monday, April 30, 2007

Slow Food and Local Food

Here's another person's reaction to my latest set of blog entries:
In my experience, the vast majority of slow food people I have heard,
seen, and met are all tedious extremely arrogant snobish extremists who
are judgemental of any individual who has, for example, ever eaten
macaroni and cheese from a box or gone to McDonalds and not been
embarrassed. Especially if the person actually LIKED the food. The people
are in a cult, not a movement.

The local food people I have met and heard have all been down to earth
people who are just trying to grow a garden, make a trip to the farmer's
market in the summer, or buy local food when it's available. Or like the
woman who opened a cheese shop which is making an effort to sell from
local cheese makers. Some of them get school classes of city kids to grow
vegetable gardens to supplement the school lunch. That seems like a nice
idea, both from educational and nutritional standpoints. Kids are also
probably much more enthusiastic to eat a vegetable that they grew

It's always possible to find a spectrum of people in any given movement,
and any movement for which even one person gives up toilet paper in its
name is highly suspect. But is my impression of the average slow-ies as
snobbies and locals as laid back completely wrong?

My reply: I think you are indisputably right about the slow foodies, but my point was that the extremists are drowning out the reasonable local food advocates like Alice Waters and her school gardens.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Another Local Food Question

From yet another person: "Do the authors who are advocating that people eat only locally grown food believe that no one who lives more than 100 miles from the publisher should buy their books?"

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Let's not get too serious

I was just out jogging and listening to an old favorite on my iPod: "Junk Food Junkie" by Larry Groce from one of the Dr. Demento collections. Here's the beginning and end of the song:
You know I love that organic cooking
I always ask for more
And they call me Mr Natural
On down to the health food store
Oh, folks but lately I've been spotted
With a Big Mac on my breath
Stumbling into a Colonel Sanders
With a face as white as death
I'm afraid someday they'll find me
Just stretched out on my bed
With a handful of Pringles potato chips
And a Ding Dong by my head

In the daytime I'm Mr Natural
Just as healthy as I can be
But at night I'm a junk food junkie
Good lord have pity on me

Is Whole Foods part of the Local Food Movement?

A Query from my friend in London:
Moving on to your local food posts - you probably don't know where I mean, but there was a large departmental store called "Barkers" on High Street Kensington, that I used to pass as I walked from IC to the M&S on the High Street (right by the underground exit). The store closed & I waited to see what was going to come in its place (I think the building was locally listed as they haven't torn it down). Anyway, they are advertising a "Wholefood market" opening "summer 2007". My mind is boggling with the following thoughts:-
1) This is a very large store. How can they fill it all with what they state is going to be there?
2) If they do, will it make enough money to stay in business?
3) And this is where it ties in with your posts - Where is the "locally grown food" going to come from in Kensington??????? Even with your 100 mile radius.......

My very long reply, with a few added ideas:
The new market you have noticed in Kensington will be a branch of the Whole Foods chain -- the one in Ann Arbor is one of my main shopping sites. See
for a little info. Though this chain (which began in Austin TX and has proliferated througout the US by opening stores and by buying out smaller regional chains) is pretty committed to organically grown produce and organic producers of packaged food, they aren't at all part of the local food movement. I don't even know why there is a Locally Grown sign in the picture on the above website. I am particularly fond of the meat and fish at the Ann Arbor store, which do follow standards of organic and responsible production -- though definitely are not local or even necessarily from the US. For local produce (in summer, of course) I still go to the Farmers' Market.

If Whole Foods take the same approach in the UK as they do in Ann Arbor and Austin, I think you will like the extensive prepared food and deli section. There is a kitchen and a very large number of freshly prepared salads, grilled meat, and other ready-to-eat dinners. Recently they added sushi and several other options here. In Whole Foods in Austin, which we visited as a tourist thing when friends were showing us around, the prepared food area was immense.

This is very much a for-profit chain of grocery stores, and many of its "alternative" claims are a little shaky, I think. Still, they make efforts to encourage organic growers. They have some rules for the packaged foods as to additives and growing/processing methodology. It's probably the only way the old organic movement could be scaled up to a really large size. And they have standards of hygiene that were unfortunately missing in the 1970s in small organic markets of my acquaintance!

Above all, it's a pleasant place to shop because they are selective about their employees and train them to give good service -- unlike the other chain stores, whose employees are surly on a good day. I shop there because it's a good experience as well as because I like the foods. (I have to go elsewhere for diet soda because they have a principled objection to nutrasweet or other artificial sweetners.)

Everyone agrees with one fact: Whole Foods is EXPENSIVE. Some call it "whole paycheck." As there are only two of us, it's not a major issue.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Local Food: Second Thoughts

On my post yesterday about the crazy side of local food. Yes, as a friend reminded me, in California local produce grows all year around, so the idea of eating locally makes some sense. Further, the California proponents are often not possessed fanatics: they see that flour may need to grow in, say, the midwest. I've heard, for example, that at Google one of the staff restaurants serves only locally grown food -- and that it's good. I'm not talking about the projects to encourage children to grow vegetables in the school yard, either. That's not what I mean.

I mean the craziest of all: the local food nuts living in New York apartments. The sanest thing about them is they haven't started eating the rats that live in the local Taco Bell (and inspired the clean-up campaign for New York's restaurants -- but I digress).

The most egregious local food pose I've heard of is the couple engaged in a year "eating only food (organically) grown within a 250-mile radius of Manhattan; (mostly) no shopping for anything except said food; producing no trash (except compost ...); using no paper [including not using toilet paper]; and, most intriguingly, using no carbon-fueled transportation [including elevators]." The journalist writing up this project was mostly impressed by the odor of their little apartment.

Why do such a project? Well, the husband of the couple: "needed a new book project and the No Impact year was the only one of four possibilities his agent thought would sell." I read about this in the NYTimes Magazine of March 22, 2007: The Year Without Toilet Paper (gated).

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Local Locos

One of the most impractical new food ideas (since the all-raw-food fad which at least didn't claim to be for anyone but poseurs) is the local food movement, today documented in the New York Times food section: Preserving Fossil Fuels and Nearby Farmland by Eating Locally by Marian Burros.

A number of earlier articles and books also document this fad, whose advocates vary from moderate to totally wacky. Some of the proponents, admittedly are talking about real-world choices, like buying vegetables at farmers' markets when good local food is in season. Or they have very subtle points about local genetic specialization -- see my earlier post: "Book Review: Why Some Like it Hot."

Some of the extremists, though, are equally understandable: they want to write a best-seller and don't have any sensible ideas. So they do a personal experiment by going on a bizarre diet and writing about their self-imposed hardships. In many cases cited in a number of articles, I find the experimenters' attitude repugnant, in view of real people's problems with hunger (mainly in remote areas of the world) and balanced diet (near the very places where they live). I'm much more sympathetic toward the moderates who try local food for one meal or one week, than those who try it for a year -- exemplified by the person who said "It’s not a life philosophy but it’s not a game."

The farthest-out advocates refuse even flour and oils trucked in from beyond their 100-mile limit. One example from today's article -- authors Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, who "spent a year in British Columbia eating only food grown within a 100-mile radius." At one point they really craved bread: "when they eventually found locally grown wheat they took it even though it was filled with mouse droppings. Mr. MacKinnon painstakingly separated the droppings from the wheat with the edge of a credit card."

Here are my main questions about the claim that eating only local food would improve the planet, reducing the use of fossil fuel and other wonderful results:
  1. If you use a freezer to preserve your produce from summer, is that better in energy use than having some of your food brought to you by truck?
  2. If everyone in New York City did this, would there be enough food for all of them? (I think the answer proves that there isn't much real green thinking going on among the "advocates" of this save-the-planet idea.)
  3. If it reflects a better, more ancient way of life how do you account for the historic spice trade being so important? And salt trade? And trade in other foodstuffs?
  4. Would we resume having deficiency diseases if this new idea were to spread? Goiters from thyroid deficiencies? (Iodine isn't found within 100 miles of every city). Pellegra? Rickets? More subtle problems recently reduced by adding folic acid to mass-produced flour? Are we really nostalgic for plain old starvation?
My conclusion: local dining on bizarre and limited food is a brilliant idea for selling books!

What is English food?

My friend in England writes:

Monday 23rd was St. George's Day (patron saint of England). The staff lunch room at Imperial College London has been having "feature" lunches on such occasions. So, what would be the 3 choices that would come to your mind as being typical of England? The catering staff chose:
Fish and Chips
Roast Beef
Sausage and Mash.
John told me he chose the Sausage and Mash!!

My note: Mash means mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Yes, they are fooling us

In today's L.A.Times, an article about food choices in chain restaurants:
Here is the core finding of this article:
When more than 500 Californians were shown lists of four dishes served at chain restaurants and asked to identify the one with the most fat or the least salt or the fewest or most calories, 68% of them chose the wrong item every time.

Just 27% got only one of the multiple-choice questions right. And not one of the 523 Californians who were surveyed aced the test.

The four-question quiz — which focused on food served at Denny's, Chili's, McDonald's and Romano's Macaroni Grill — was commissioned by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, a nonprofit group based in Davis, and conducted by Field Research Corp. The findings were the same, regardless of education or income levels.
The Center that did this quiz is lobbying for a law to force chain restaurants to provide nutritional information on their menus. The California Restaurant Association opposes such a law (well, duh). It's interesting that the results of the quiz look as if they are pretty much due to guessing, since each multiple-choice question had 4 possible answers.
The article was very careful in its wording about restaurants making a pretense of offering healthy options, when actually their recipes result in excesses if you eat one order of the food. They accepted the underlying assumption that people want to overeat so restaurants should provide them with what they want.
Whatever you want to say about people being happy to be fooled, or happy to have cooperation in fooling themselves, it seems to me that disclosure of the nutrition information would allow these "people" to decide for themselves whether to be fooled. My own reaction is that the restaurants are engaged in a kind of calculated deception, maybe even fraud -- and they blame the victim.
In the book Mindless Eating, the author Brian Wansink demonstrates over and over again that people, making something like 200 food choices a day, are incredibly susceptible to a variety of suggestions, illusions, and inabilities to analyze food before they eat it. It's not their fault, Wansink shows. The most memorable areas of research he reported were those demonstrating that people almost never really grasp how much they have eaten. “Stomachs can’t count” is a phrase that comes up over and over. People served larger quantities also generally ate more – and didn’t realize it. Perception of portion size is created by clues that you don’t control and rarely notice. So excessive calorie, fat, and sodium content per order confuses even well-intentioned diners.
Viewed in the context of the book's findings, I think the restaurant designers have done the same research with the opposite motive: Wansink wants to help readers eat mindfully. The fast food industry wants us to eat eat eat and come back for more. They take no responsibility for the frailties of the humans they manipulate. To quote Wansink: “Who really overeats – the guy who knows he’s eating 710 calories at McDonald’s or the woman who thinks she’s eating a 350-calorie Subway meal that actually contains 500 calories?” (p. 206)
Quotes in the article give several reasons to pass a law requiring full disclosure. The nutrition info for most fast food is available online or on tray liners that come with an already-ordered meal, but the Center representative interviewed in the article says: "I'm not sure what the industry expects. ... That we'll take our laptop to the restaurant?" Possibly the disclosure of some of the more outrageous calorie counts would even encourage restaurants to reformulate some of the menu items, advocates hope.
My consumption of food in chain restaurants is infrequent (though I'm having lunch at Panera later today). I try to stay on top of the misguided idea that a salad is always healthy or that turkey is always low-fat. But I'd really appreciate if this law were nation-wide, especially on the turnpike where I have no other choices than fast food.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Book Review: Why Some Like it Hot

Here are my thoughts about Why Some Like It Hot: Food, Genes, and Cultural Diversity by Gary Paul Nabhan. The information in this book is very dense. Though it’s well written, I had to read it twice. The central point of the book is that dietary traditions interact with or cause specific genetic profiles -- he gives a list of the exact genes and their consequences.

Nabhan provides a new analysis and new context to a number of facts that I was already aware of. Here are a few examples from his wide-ranging points:
  • Fava beans cause severe anemia in some individuals whose origins are in the Eastern Mediterranean. Nabhan examines the genes that cause this reaction, and explores the results:
    • Fava-bean sensitive families are more malaria resistant.
    • Bio-active elements in herbs and plants (for example, sage) used in cooking the beans contribute to the positive aspect of this genetically-based sensitivity.
  • Diabetes affects large numbers of Native Americans, Hawaiians, and Austrailians when they give up their traditional way of life. Nabhan provides evidence about this:
    • Desert plants, a major part of the traditional diet, contain slow-release carbohydrates, which protect the plants themselves in times of drought. Diabetes-prone individuals, in eating these plants, received protection from their weakness until introduction of a western diet.
    • The change was much too rapid for any genetic adaptation to respond: “half a century ago, … more Indians were dying each year of accidental snake bite than of diabetes.” (p. 163)
  • Herdsmen used cattle for meat and dairy products in northern Europe. In part animal food compensated for the lack of vegetation due to the short growing season. Variations between this and other populations resulted:
    • Development of a genetic ability to digest lactose conferred benefits on these groups: their herds became a more effective year-round food supply. (Outside of Europe far fewer people are able to digest lactose.)
    • The northern diet lacks greens because of the short growing season. A high level of heart attacks (compared to Mediterranean peoples) may be the result, as greens provide folic acid and other heart protectives.
    • Domestic animals polluted the water supply, making it favorable to develop alcoholic beverages. Specific genes make some individuals less susceptible to alcoholism: these genes are more common in descendants of northern Europeans. Because alcohol consumption reduced bacterial disease, the alcohol-resistance genes conferred an advantage to members of this society -- another complicated adaptation of genes interacting with diet.
  • Strong, bitter flavors – like chili pepper and some types of greens – are tasted more prounouncedly by some individuals whose tongues have more taste receptors. In contrast, less sensitivity may enable some population groups to use hot seasoning and greens more. Advantages of using hot spice may be to preserve food from bacterial contamination, and to profit from the high vitamin content.

Each chapter is focused on a different group and the interaction of their genetic makeup with the foods in their traditional diet. Obviously, it’s easier to look at groups who were most recently living in the traditional way, like people on islands in the Mediterranean or Southwestern Indian tribes. On the whole, the book makes a really interesting point about how people adapt to their environment.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Reading about food

I've been reading or re-reading several food books. Here are some quotations that I found especially interesting.
“Your stomach can’t count…. and what’s more, we get no help from our attention or our memory. We don’t register how many pieces of candy we had from the communal candy dish at work, and whether we ate 20 French fries or 30….It’s not necessarily that we’re trying to fool ourselves, or that we’re living in blissful, snug-clothing denial. We’re just not designed to accurately keep track of how much we’ve consumed.” (Brian Wansink, Mindless Eating, New York, 2006, p. 36-37)

“Increasing the variety of a food increases how much everyone eats. … what would happen if we gave two people huge bowls of M&M’s to snack on while they watched a video? The only difference between the bowls is that one has 7 colors of M&M’s and the other has 10 colors. Most people know that all M&M’s taste alike… The person with 10 colors will eat 43 more M&M’s (99 versus 56) than his friend with 7 colors.” (Wansink, p. 73-74)

“This reverence for, or indeed, worship of bread is strange to us, being accustomed to a post-industrial diet wich is unique in lacking a basic carbohydrate staple. To the Aztecs, the Maya, the Inca, and the Europeans of the sixteenth century bread was the all-important carbohydrate source the lack of which meant famine and the presence of which, even alone, meant that one was fed and contented…. Modern ignorance of this concept of the basic carbohydrate staple has led to numerous misinterpretations of the sources [about pre-Columbian diet] which would have been impossible had the reader been brought up in a society which depended on a single staff of life.” (Sophie D. Coe, America’s First Cuisines, Austin, 1994, p.9)

“There is compelling evidence in Jeffrey Steingarten's iconoclastic book The Man Who Ate Everything that the more tedious and unvariegated each plateful is, the less likely we are to overeat. But really, who wants to be bored as a way of avoiding obesity?” (Zoe Williams, “Chuck out the spag bol!”, The Guardian online, Tuesday March 20, 2007)

“Yes, genes matter, but diverse diets and exercize patterns matter just as much. And when the positive interaction among all three of these factors is reinforced by strong cultural traditions, our physical health improves, as does our determination to keep it that way…. When the persistence of traditional foods is more widely recognized as a source of both cultural pride and as an aid to physical survival and well-being, I doubt that many Native American communities will abandon what many of them feel to be a true gift from their Creator.” (Gary Paul Nabhan, Why Some Like It Hot: Food, Genes, and Cultural Diversity, Washington, D.C, 2004, p. 185)

The three books treat a variety of food topics: history, eating behavior, detailed interaction of genes and diet, and social contexts. Each one offers a fascinating look into its author's area of expertise. Each one (as well as the Guardian article) stresses the contrast between modern urban life and the life of a variety of people in the past.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Family Recipe

Choosing a family favorite recipe was Miriam's homework. Here it is.

Alice Trillin

I have been writing about famous people named Alice in my children's story blog. So I was thinking about Alice in Travels with Alice, Alice Let's Eat, and some other books by Calvin Trillin. I love his approach to food writing, giving both his reactions, his opinions of both the food and the other eaters, and learning about history and context or whatever was most interesting.

My story blog: Mae's Real Stories; today's post: "Another Alice"

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

McDonald's vs. Panera

I was in a discussion of various options for eating along the Ohio Turnpike, which settled down to the question: Panera or McDonalds? Here is some data from the various nutrition info on the web:
  • The leanest Panera sandwich I found is Asiago Roastbeef at 670 calories. The highest is Italian Combo at 1100. Smokehouse turkey panini is 680; turkey artichoke is 840. Tuna salad is 720.
  • A Big Mac has 570 calories. A Quarter Pounder with cheese has 530. A McD cheeseburger (320) PLUS medium fries (450) is less than many of the Panera sandwiches!!!! Even on saturated fat, McDonalds still wins.

Evelyn points out: "This is a perfect example of the villification of McDonalds. Panera Bread has placed themselves in the 'healthy alternative' category through effective branding. From a marketing point of view, you have to admire the fact that Panera has managed to keep the upscale label and still be available on the turnpike. It is very easy to equate upscale with healthy."

However, we agree on this: Panera sandwiches taste better!

Update on Campbell's soup. Carol writes on my thought that the soup cans have stayed the same size: "But haven't you noticed? Campbell's REDUCED the size of the 'classic' soup cans, and added 'Family size' ones with 26 oz.!"

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Far-away Food

I've been reading two books about food in Japan: the book Tsukiji: The Fish Market at the Center of the World by Theodore C. Bestor and Rice as Self by Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney. Both rice and fish are key foods for Japanese people. The importance of both foods pre-dates modern Japan, but persists in modern Japanese ideas and self-image, I learned from both books. Here are a few more things I enjoyed reading about.

Both rice and fish as food and as agricultural products play a role in Japanese art and literature. The famous prints at left by Hokusai illustrate a rice-harvest scene and a fishing scene.

The association of fish with Japanese culture is reflected throughout the Tsukiji book. The author even points out that there are two Shinto shrines in the vast, modern and bustling market. One of these is dedicated to
"Suijin-sama, the god of water, who is the patron deity of the marketplace and also is enshrined in many domestic kitchens as an essential household god.... the Suijin Shrine is providentially positioned almost directly in a NE-SW line opposite the curve of the sheds housing the wholesalers' stalls and the auction spaces beyond them, in almost perfect alignment with the traditional idea that a deity should protect a place against ill fortune entering from the northeast." (Bestor, p. 89)
Ohnuki-Tierney develops many ideas about the association of rice with the Japanese images of the essence of their culture and identity. She shows how many ways rice is appreciated. Here is an appreciation of the beauty of rice by novelist Junichiro Tanizaki:
"When cooked rice is in a lacqueur container placed in the dark, shining with black luster, it is more aesthetic to look at, and it is more appetizing. When you lift the lid, you see pure white rice with vapor rising. Each grain is a pearl. If you are a Japanese, you certainly appreciate rice when you look at it this way." (quoted by Ohnuki-Tierney, p. 77)
Both books deal with ideas of commerce, historic emergence of markets, and many other topics.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Big and Little

Big: Little:
Beefsteak tomatoes Cherry Tomatoes, Grape tomatoes
Honey Tangerines Clementines, Satsumas
Oranges Kumquats
Idaho Potatoes Fingerling potatoes
Lemons Meyer lemons
Carrots "Baby cut" carrots
Eggplants Italian and Japanese eggplants

Bell Peppers Funny little peppers
Grapes "Champagne" grapes

Do you notice that the little fruits and vegetables are all kind of trendy?
The big ones on the left are old-fashioned, ordinary vegetables and fruits
like we ate in an old-style balanced meal. Is this trend intended to leave
room for richer, less healthy foods? I wonder. Exception: yesterday I saw
some gigantesque "stem strawberries" that were way more expensive
than normal. The wonderful fraise des bois (wild strawberries) are always
really tiny, but I guess so rare that they haven't even made it to trendy.

I recently had a chocolate croissant at Panera that was around three
times the size of a Parisian pain-au-chocolate; it was also bloated with
sweet chocolate and coated with syrup that made it sticky and not as
good as a plainer one. Some local bakeries do still make what I would
call normal pains-au-chocolate: after all, the French original is an
after-school snack for kids -- a small square of croissant dough wrapped
around a small bar of semi-sweet chocolate.

I saw Wolfgang Puck in his show on the Food Channel in an old episode
about Passover, and he was making matzoh balls with an ice-cream scoop.
(I can't imagine how they managed to get cooked through.)
What I would consider a normal matzoh-ball has half that diameter or less.

It's almost a cliche to mention the supersizing of bagels, hamburgers, and
servings of French fries.

Sushi Rolls and Sashimi

I have been reading the book Tsukiji: The Fish Market at the Center of the World by Theodore C. Bestor. There are many wonderful things in the book. And it made me want to eat sushi, which I got from Sushi Town, a nearby takeout sushi place run by a rather large extended family (I assume). I really enjoyed it -- with beer! More about the book and my renewed interest in reading about Japan later.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

More on Counting

My family has a lot to say about counting. Here are a couple more comments from relatives:
"Wine glasses are now so big that the number of glasses in a bottle has changed. [I illustrated this with a photo of new and old wine glasses.] Which is a problem, since the healthy amount is given in number of glasses. Which is really stupid, since everyone knows that there is not a standard wine glass size. So how can you know? The health industry is definitely organized by people who don't know the proper way to count." -- ES

"I'm sure TCB would agree that counting is useful sometimes. But my reaction to articles about what you should and shouldn't eat and how many thousand servings of fruit you should have in a day is usually to go buy a candy bar." -- ESB
I'm waiting to hear from you, ADF.

Big Apples

I bought a bag of tiny apples -- shown at right with another unchanging food item for scale. As I enjoyed these little apples, I started thinking about some food-size oddities I've noticed lately:

  • I wonder why soup cans are so stable in size. I guess people eat the whole thing and maybe used to share.
  • Tiny apples are in my view the right size for eating. I think that recently apples on average have supersized. I wonder how this happened.
  • Ice cream sandwiches, drum sticks, and stick-mounted ice cream bars are the same size as they were as long as I remember. Since so many other sweets (candy bars, scooped ice cream cones, chocolate chip cookies, cheesecake portions, to name a few) have supersized, I gave this some thought. Maybe the speed with which you can eat a Creamsicle, say, just hasn't increased enough so you could eat a supersize Creamsicle without melting and dripping?

From the popsicle website, the news that maybe the size has been close to constant for 100 years. I love this story for its myth-like quality:

"The Popsicle® ice pop was accidentally invented in 1905 by 11-year-old Frank Epperson. Epperson left a mixture of powdered soda and water and a stirring stick in a cup on his porch. That night San Francisco experienced record low temperatures, and Epperson awoke the next morning to find a frozen pop that would eventually become a favorite American treat."

So these have been with us a long time, an island of size consistency in an ocean of giants. Only one difference -- they all also offer a sugar-free version, symptom of national diet mania.

See Popsicle® Frozen Novelties - Popsicle®, Creamsicle®, Fudgsicle ...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Giving up on counting

OK, I got a message that I should not give up counting all together, even if I give up counting fat grams and calories and the like.

Counting backwards is a healthier thing to do. In aerobics class we count down all the time. Push-ups: eight, seven, six.... Over the bench: twenty-four, twenty-three.... Squats: sixteen, fifteen.... Crunches......

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Eating Light: In which this becomes a FATBLOG

Like many bloggers, one of my goals as both cook and blogger is to reduce the size and heft of meals. I need a new definition of balanced meal. Balanced once meant a plate of meat with a starch, a vegetable (or two), and bread, maybe salad, and then dessert. Membership in the Clean Plate Club was mandatory. Now many of us are resigning from the Clean Plate Club -- or at least hoping to be expelled.

This balanced idea has continued to dog us as we went through diet phases. At one point, diet advice was to eat grapefruit at every meal. Or for breakfast. Or at lunch to cut the sandwich bread in thinner slices. Or eat the bread and cut down on what was in the sandwich. Or cut out the sandwich and just eat the lettuce and a slice of turkey. Endless and pointless variations, and we are all fatter.

Calories count. We can have also learned to count fat grams, mono-, di-, unsaturated, and trans-fat-grams; carbohydrates, high-glycemic carbos, and whatever. How many authors have recently commented that cutting down on fat worked until the invention of fattening non-fat food. When Snackwells were rare even that was ok. Then Nabisco solved its production problems: you could have all the packages of Snackwells you wanted.

I guess I need to resign from counting things as well.

Mindless Eating is my current favorite book. And I do like to read food books, even if they lead to eating. I hereby begin to explore new routes to mindful eating, mindful that I shouldn't be thinking about it.