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Let them eat cake. February 5, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , , , ,

Silence Dogood here. We are so obsessed with dieting as a society that no day goes by that the popular news isn’t full of diet trends, tips, expert advice, and fads. This week, five of the hardcover nonfiction bestsellers (out of 10) were diet books. In an age where thinness is valued above every quality but youth, where Barbie dolls have thighs that are thinner than their calves and arms like toothpicks, this is still a testament to frivolous self-absorption but can hardly come as a surprise.

Yesterday, I read about yet another diet fad, the “Marie Antoinette Diet,” where the premise is, sure enough, that you can eat cake like France’s queen and still keep your figure if you have soup for supper (le souper in French). The same day’s news reported that a British medical researcher had consumed live tapeworms to see if it was true that they would allow you to eat whatever you wanted and still lose weight, a popular teen trend I’d read about some years before. (He actually gained weight, and the side effects apparently range from gross—as if being infested with parasites that can reach some 50 feet in length wasn’t gross enough—to fatal.)

But let’s get back to cake. Our friend Ben and I received a delightful belated Christmas present from our neighbor, Fran, a beautiful chocolate torte. The smell alone was swoon-worthy. We were going to our Friday Night Supper Club get-together, so I decided to bring it so the whole group could enjoy it. (This decision was made a lot easier since Fran had also given us some luscious-looking carrot cake.)

When we arrived, our friend Rudy was talking about how he and his brother Fritzie were trying to recreate their mother’s German jelly doughnut recipe. This recipe involved deep-frying the doughnuts in fat, then stuffing them with currant jelly or apple butter and rolling them in sugar. After a lengthy discussion, Fritzie asked Rudy if he thought they should really use Crisco, his mother’s choice, to fry the doughnuts. Was that really good for you?

Mercy. We’re talking about deep-fat-fried, empty calorie-laden, cholesterol-heavy, nutrient-free, diabetes-inducing junk food here. It’s a total indulgence, maybe a once-a-year treat. Deep-frying the doughnuts in canola oil isn’t going to transform them into health food.

I watched as the group ate their meal, then moved on to the chocolate cake. As I ate a half-cup of my delicious chili, a square of cornbread, and a half-salad (and no, I wasn’t depriving myself, that really was all I could eat), I saw the rest of the group go back for seconds and (in one case) thirds of hearty helpings of everything. I couldn’t call the cornbread healthy, but the vegetarian chili and avocado-rich salad certainly were. So far, pretty much so good.

Then came the cake. I watched with interest as each person cut their own slice. Some took paper-thin slivers, others half-inch cuts. Nobody cut themselves an inch-thick slab, and nobody had seconds. In fact, they tended to select a slice size that corresponded to their activity level. (I rarely eat sweets, so I considered my square of cornbread as dessert.) And yes, not one of them was even slightly overweight.

What to make of all this? As I see it, the answer is to stay physically active and match your food intake to your exercise output. To eat mostly healthy foods, and when you indulge, enjoy your indulgence, in its original form, to the fullest, but in rational portions and only occasionally. To eat a balanced diet, to eat only as much as you’re hungry for, when you’re hungry for it, and to forget about prescribed eating times and fads. And if you’re trying to lose weight rather than maintain your figure, you’ll just have to buckle down and follow the only valid weight-loss advice: Eat less and exercise more.

Folks, if you want a jelly doughnut, eat a jelly doughnut (or an apple fritter or even a Cinnabon), or French fries, or whatever. But eat the real thing—the actual thing you’re craving, not some sanitized substitute that can never satisfy you and could cause you to overeat trying to feel the satisfaction. Eat it only as a special treat, something you can look forward to, a few times a year. Don’t overeat it just to stuff yourself with a prized indulgence: Remember, enough is as good as a feast (and a lot less caloric). That way, if you want that gooey chocolate indulgence, you can have your cake and eat it too.

‘Til next time,




1. Becca - February 6, 2014

I pretty much always want cake. I can make really good cake with almond flour and honey but I adore fluffy white icing on plain vanilla cake. Once (and only ONCE), I bought a tiny lemon sugar-free cake in an attempt to limit my sugar intake. I’m sure you know how that turned out. From now on, only the real thing!

Real food rules! My Mama wasn’t big ob desserts except for birthdays and holidays, but sometimes she’d relent and make white layer cake, then cut it hot (uniced) and drizzle melted butter on the slices. Yum!!!

Becca - February 7, 2014

Oh mercy, butter? On cake? Your mother sounds like an angel. 🙂

Just remember, it has to be hot, Becca! The sweet equivalent of luscious hot-from-the-oven buttered cornbread!

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