Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Bad Side Good Side

  1. Bad side of globalized fast food: everyone knows the burgers and fries are high in all fat, especially in bad fat; low in fiber and vitamins; and made in a way that's bad for the global environment. Everyone knows the bad side of soft drinks. Good side of American hamburger chains: clean public rest rooms. Don't forget the original good side: when you go to a chain fast-food place anywhere in the world, you know exactly what you will get.

  2. Bad side of grocery stores: over-processed foods are so much cheaper than the good choices. Good side: cheap food means fewer people are starving. In fact, starvation is such a distant memory it's no longer relevant in discussions of most of US culture. Bad side of this: hard to empathize with African famines or to keep a focus on whether we can help. Yet another side of cheap groceries: unions for a while ensured a decent wage for grocery store workers, but this is in jeopardy.

  3. Bad side of supermarket shopping: we hear so much about the over-processed that we often forget the good choices one can make: fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy products, and meat -- some even "natural" or organic. Also reasonably healthy bread and whole oats; even some packaged cereal and so on. Perfectly reasonable consumers get swamped, discouraged and don't see this good side.
    For much more from the other side of the grocery store, here's an unexpected blog: that of the owner of my favorite supermarket, Hiller's in Ann Arbor: Jim Hiller's blog

  4. Bad side of Italian food: pizza has A LOT of calories, too much carbo, fat, too few vegetables even with that good tomato sauce. Similar problems with pasta, ante-pasto... Olive Garden: all you can eat of greasy bread and oily salad? Did you think you were getting the advantages of the old-line Mediterranean diet? If you want them, you have to cook yourself, and if you do, that's the good side.

  5. Bad side of Dairy Queen, Ben & Jerry's, Baskin-Robbins, etc.: no nutritional value.
    Good side: on a summer night, you can sit at a picnic table at our local DQ facing the firehouse and slowly spoon up your Blizzard or lick the softly melting surface of your ice cream cone and you might feel better about world politics or your job or the housing bubble. And the people at the next table, and the people pulling their cars into the lot, and the ones at the table in front might all feel better too.

  6. Bad side of Chinese food: lots of fried things. Think of sweet-and-sour pork -- salt, sugar, MSG. And sometimes even the potentially healthy stir fried foods are really fat-laden. Dim sum: nice high calorie snack. Good side of Chinese food: if you make it yourself, and eat the high-nutritional parts with rice and lots of vegetables, it can be healthy.

  7. Bad side of TV chefs: many set unrealistic expectations or they make food seem like a game. Celebrity for its own sake: what could be good about that? Just make viewers feel bad. But maybe they influence some people to be more interested in the basics of cooking.Who knows?

  8. Bad side of Japanese food: tempura is deep fried; high salt content in many other dishes. Good side: sushi teaches us to eat fish. Bad side of fish: the environmental challenge of overfishing everywhere.

  9. Fine dining fortunately doesn't affect most people, except when they occasionally read an article about it or hear something on TV. I expect the silly fad for making flavors into some kind of industrial-edible foam will trickle down to neighborhood restaurants soon. I've lost my heros like Julia Child (perfectly captured in her posthumously published My Life in France) and like the old time chefs who spent their lives in the kitchen of one restaurant creating excellent dinners, never got rich or very famous.

  10. Bad side of organic food: small-scale demonstrations show that it's good for consumers, for the environment, for farmers. Attempts to produce organic food on a larger scale have gone badly for consumers (labling standards corrupted), for the environment (the organic cows on a large-scale farm don't get a better life), for farm workers (large scale agriculture can exploit them whatever). This is well-documented. For example: The Omnivore's Dilemma and recent food issue in The Nation.

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