Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Food For Thought

An interesting article which reviews two books about gluttony:

   "The deadliest sin"

Some excerpts:
"Take a look at Europe. Kingsley Amis, a sometime restaurant critic as well
 as a novelist, had a neat, two-dimensional way of sorting out European
 nations: England -- nice people, nasty food; France -- nice food, nasty
 people; Greece -- nice people, terrifying food; and so forth. Amis initially
 thought there was a perfect negative correlation here, that nice people
 invariably went along with nasty food and vice versa. But this hypothesis,
 he found, was defeated by the datum of Italy -- nice people, nice food!"
[Another flaw in his hypothesis: USA -- terrifying people, terrifying food.]

"Where one does turn up a strong inverse correlation, however, is between
 quality of national cuisine and fatness. The European countries that have
 the nicest food -- Italy, Switzerland, and France -- also have the lowest
 adult obesity rates, below 10 percent according to the latest figures from
 the International Obesity Task Force. The countries that have, shall we say,
 less nice food -- Greece, Finland, and Britain -- have the highest adult
 obesity rates, in excess of 20 percent."

"Could a certain kind of gluttony also, paradoxically, be an aid to thinness?
 Americans are certainly not getting fatter because they are eating more grandly.
 Consider the number of courses we consume at a meal. In the 19th century, as
 Strong reminds us in 'Feast,' a typical bourgeois dinner party ran to no fewer
 than 12 courses: hors d'oeuvre, two soups (one clear, one thick), fish, the
 entree, the joint or piece de resistance, a sorbet, roast and a salad, vegetables,
 a hot, sweet, ice cream dessert, coffee, and liqueurs. By the beginning of the
 20th century, the number of courses had contracted to eight. In the 1950s,
 American etiquette books counseled five courses. Today you are lucky to get

"Lately, the breakfast-lunch-dinner rhythm has been giving way to a new and
 distinctively American style of continuous food-consumption throughout the
 day, known as 'snacking,' 'grazing,' or 'noshing.' For the 'vast majority of
 the population,' Strong laments, 'the idea of at least one meal in the day
 being a shared experience is gone forever.'"

"... new profit strategy to fast-food companies: supersizing. An order of french
 fries went from 200 calories in 1960 to 610 calories today. And appetites
 expanded accordingly. A 2001 study by nutritionists at Penn State University
 found that larger portions in themselves caused people to eat more.
 Meanwhile, Americans were working longer hours and squeezing in more
 meals away from home, which added to the appeal of calory-dense
 convenience foods."