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All you can eat. July 31, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I am so fed up (sorry, I couldn’t resist that pun) with our society’s dualistic approach to overeating. I can’t turn on the computer or pick up a paper without reading yet another group announcing that all the world’s ills are caused by fat people, from plane fares to health care. I’m waiting for some group to announce that the world’s supply of fossil fuels is being depleted, not because we squander it driving huge SUVs and trucks we don’t actually need, dump shiploads of oil into our oceans in so-called “spills,” and waste horrific amounts of this nonrenewable resource on unsustainable business practices, but because it’s all being used to make polyester for fat people’s oversized clothes. In an era when you can’t open your mouth without fear of offending someone, it seems that the overweight are the final frontier for every kind of public abuse and socially approved loathing.

And yet, it’s our very society that has created the “obesity crisis.” In the selfsame papers in which the self-righteous announce their latest condemnations of the overweight, I’m barraged by ads for “all you can eat” buffets. The very thought of this makes me sick, I have to tell you. Maybe it’s because all I can eat amounts to a salad and half a baked potato or something on a good day, but I’d so much rather order from a menu and take the leftovers home to reheat for another meal. The cost savings of two meals for the price of one more than equals those “bargain” buffet prices.

It’s especially disappointing since I love Indian and Asian food, and it seems as if every single Indian and Asian restaurant that’s opened in this area in the past few years is a buffet-only restaurant. Then there are those restaurant chains our friend Ben and I encounter on our road trips, the ones where you’ve barely sat down with your food before the wait staff appears with a stack of four plates so you can go back for refills. Yuck! I’m not even going to start on the fast food thing here; surely everything that needs to be said about that whole discouraging phenomenon has been said already.

Mind you, I’m not a fan of the opposite approach, epitomized by nouvelle cuisine, either. Being served a two-inch cube of something with 57 unrecognizable twigs sticking out the top of it and the rest of the vast, empty plate taken up by drizzles of god-knows-what is definitely not my idea of a good time. I’d rather look at art than be expected to eat it, thank you. My eyes may be bigger than my stomach, but I’d like to see a plate with ample food, and then be left to decide when I’ve had enough and am ready for the doggie bag. But not two (or four) plates full of food, please, unless you plan to let me and our friend Ben take home enough leftovers to feed us for the rest of the week!

This, though, is what really gets my goat: the rise of the all-you-can-eat competition as a national sporting event. Hot dogs. Pies. Ice cream. Even jalapenos. These gorgefests make news headlines in our local paper, often with several followups as the contest draws near. People flock to see competitors shovel down 37 hot dogs and buns (or whatever) with all the trimmings.

In the same section of our paper that featured the latest dire official warning about how the overweight were destroying our entire country was a big feature on an “Eat Your Way Through Musikfest” competition with lots of prizes. (Musikfest is a huge musical street fair and concert event that runs for ten days every summer in nearby Bethlehem, PA.) If you could eat all ten required items during a day or over the ten days, you’d win fabulous prizes! Of course I realize that the whole point of the contest is not really to get people to stuff themselves to the point of  explosion but to boost attendance at Bethlehem’s premier annual event and promote sponsor sales, but sheesh. MUST it be a bellybuster competition?!

What I’d really, really like to see on everyone’s part is a little moderation. And maybe some common sense and common decency. Could we please stop blaming everything from global warming to the crash of the housing market on people who are overweight? And could we please stop popularizing these all-you-can-stuff events as entertainment? What’s so entertaining about watching people shovel in food? It’s just another manifestation of the conspicuous consumption that really has led us to our present crisis. A little restraint, in terms both of dishing out abuse and dishing out food, would be more worthy of us. Our hero and blog mentor, Ben Franklin, who promoted moderation as the route to health, wealth, and happiness, would certainly agree.

          ‘Til next time,




1. Lzyjo - July 31, 2009

I agree! A fellow quilter just returned from Italy and commented on how no on there was fat, because of the smaller portions. She also mentioned that everything in Italy is made with cane sugar not high fructose corn syrup, which the liver can’t metabolize. Scary!!

I’ve been preserving a lot of tomatoes and the truism of the phrase feast or famine has really been hitting me hard. Things like blight could wipe-put tomatoes and potatoes in one fell swoop. Right now how many pounds of tomatoes are there in warehouses for every person, doesn’t that include the purported 40% waste of grocery goods, it’s all just mind boggling!

Mind-boggling is right, Lzyjo! And the sooner we get HFCS out of our food, the better!

2. Daphne Gould - August 1, 2009

Our whole US culture is one of over consumption. I wish we could all get away from that. Food follows that trend too. When I go out to eat with my friends, I’m always shocked by how much they all eat. My husband and I go out twice a week for dinner (usually), but we either split a meal or we take home half. We always carry reusable takeout containers with us too so we don’t have to bring home Styrofoam. We usually put away the part of the meal we are taking home before we start eating, which works well since I find it takes a while for the brain to catch up with the stomach. The brain could still be sending out signals that it still wants food, when I’ve had enough. I’m really happy that both my husband and I are in the same mind frame. We both love and appreciate good food, but understand moderation. The average American restaurant gives way too much food. However I have noticed a trend with the recession that the portion sizes in some places are starting to shrink.

I don’t know what’s more disheartening, Daphne, going out to eat with people who consume mass quantities or listening to them talk about the food, and nothing but the food, for the entire meal. But on the plus side, I love your idea of taking your own reusable containers for the leftovers. Brilliant! We’re going to try that, too, and thanks for a great idea. One trend I’ve noticed with relief around here is that more menus are featuring “lite” sections, not light in calories but smaller portions for reduced prices. (These used to be referred to as “senior menus,” but mercifully, it looks like it’s finally dawned on the restaurateurs that some of us non-seniors might prefer them, too.) I’m always stunned by how much food actually comes with these “lite” portions—usually a side salad and a full plate of food—which makes me shudder to think what a “full” portion would look like!

3. deb - August 2, 2009

Well I never thought of taking my own container. What a great idea. Styrofoam no more.

Kudos to Daphne for a really great idea!

4. Daphne Gould - August 3, 2009

The waitresses all seem to love that we bring our own container. They think it is a great idea and always make comments about it. The only time I had a different kind of response was when we were in a more upscale restaurant. I think he thought we brought it all home in our own container was because we were dirt poor or something. The guy offered to wrap up the extra iced tea for us. It was hard to retain ourselves from laughing at the image of that , but tried to explain to him why we do it.

Oh, geez, what an image! “May I prepare the undrunk iced tea for you?” I hope you were able to expand his world view just a little when you explained why you were taking the leftovers home rather than leaving them to rot in some landfill.

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