Eating–What’s the Use?

Etta Wilson

Blogger:  Etta Wilson

Location: Books & Such Nashville Office

Weather: Warm and cloudy

We eat for so many reasons, and some of us don’t or can’t eat for a lot of reasons. Everything from psychological, allergies and other health issues, as well as poverty. Consider that one in six children in the US does not have enough to eat at home. Thus public schools in many areas provide breakfast as well as lunch for children. Some schools even send home packaged food when there’s a school holiday. I don’t know statistics on hunger among the homeless or the low-income employed on welfare, but state and federal agencies say the numbers of hungry people in the US are rising.

However, on the other extreme for those with adequate income, eating and eating out have become major pastimes, almost an obsession. We survey print publications and websites looking for the new “food experience.” Chefs constantly develop new food combinations to lure restaurant-goers. And what I find really astounding is that more cookbooks have been published in 2010 than any previous year! It seems incongruous while we are still in a period of economic downturn.

While traveling in France recently, the only obviously overweight people I saw were a man and his wife sitting near me at a restaurant. Their speech identified them as Americans, I’m sorry to say. I was a little puzzled to find such a trim native populace in a country that cooks with so much cream, eggs and butter. Then I noticed two things–their portions of food are small and a lot of them are either walking or riding bicycles.

What’s happened to us here? Have we taken consumption to such radical levels? Does a TV show like “The Biggest Loser” mean we know something is wrong, that some of us have a food addiction, or is it simply something the show producers hope we will find entertaining? And speaking of TV, where does “Hell’s Kitchen” fit in? (Note that chef Gordon Ramsay ‘s cookbook is entitled World Kitchen, not Hell’s Kitchen.) That show is not really about preparing food, but I wonder what kind of attitude all the foul-mouthed behavior may engender in viewers. Why hasn’t the Restaurant Owners Association called a halt to it?

Maybe we had better rethink what we are lifting to our mouths this Thanksgiving and perhaps whom we could share it with.

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9 Comments

  • I take the uptic on cookbooks as a good sign — more people are cooking which is better for the environment, health, community-building, and it saves money.

  • Etta… I, too, love all things French (especially the cooking!). In fact, I stumbled across a marvelous collection of French cookbooks in a used bookstore recently (yes, I bought them all) and discovered a simple dish that is now my all-time favorite meal. I like it so much that one of my dependable weekly standbys is going to have to scoot over for it.

    But as for the weight problem that seems to be showing up so much these days even in children, I tend to agree with Mirelle Guiliano’s take on that in her delightful book, FRENCH WOMEN DON’T GET FAT. Many wonderful French recipes in that one, too, that I could not resist making part of my life.

    And since it is an appropriate time for giving thanks, I would like to also mention how much I enjoy the variety of discussions that take place on this blog, and how much I appreciate the extra thought and effort it must cost on the part of the entire BOOKS & SUCH staff to keep it going.

    Thank you!

  • Amen, and amen.

    I’ve been especially sensitive to this since my students in China asked me why all Americans are fat. (I write this between snacks.) The second verse is how much we spend to counter-act over-eating. It would be interesting to know what the current ratio is between numbers of cookbooks and diet books being published.

    But I think I’ll wait until Friday to consider this more deeply. Right now I need to focus on preparing tomorrow’s feast.

  • Caroline says:

    These observations might show a bit about we (in general) struggle to be thankful for what we have. We constantly desire change (different foods) or to view other peoples’ peoples (the TV shows you mentioned). We may struggle to be content in with our own realities or aren’t intentionally aware of all that we are given. It often takes either seeing someone “without” or experiencing being without ourselves to call our awareness to what we can be thankful for. (There are so many biblical examples of this, as well as stories from recent times.)

    I second D. Ann’s thanks to you all here at Books & Such – in a very intentional and sincere way!

  • Caroline says:

    Arg, sorry for the typos. In the third line, that would be “other people’s problems.” Also, erase the “in” between “content” and “with” in the fourth line. Forgive me.

    Late night proofreading isn’t accurate evidently.

  • Laurie says:

    Etta,
    What a great topic!

    “Family” has broken down. Unhealthy, outrageous portions of fast food are a major culprit to our obese society. Home cooked meals have been replaced by those golden arches. Kids aren’t riding bikes or playing kickball anymore –things that burn calories. We’ve become a culture of computer zombies and video game robots. You can’t burn fat by sitting on your rump roast!

    I grew up with family dinners promptly at 5 PM. I raised my kids the same way. However, my adult kids spend more time at taco stands and hamburger joints. I thought I instilled the value of family dinners?

    My kids, raised in a Christian home, love Hell’s Kitchen. I can’t stand Gordon’s vulgar use of taking Jesus’ name in vain, but it’s everywhere and Hollywood doesn’t bleep it anymore. Why hasn’t the Restaurant Owners Association called a halt to it? Simple, ratings generate cash. Hollywood must be bigger than the Restaurant Owners Assoc.

    Our failed parenting and permissive television viewing is as harmful as saying “king size” when ordering fries.

    Happy Thanksgiving!
    Grace and Peace

  • Valerie C. says:

    A very dear friend is living in France for a year and she tells me she is losing weight on a diet of pate and cheese :). She also says that her family has a new saying – “That chicken was running around” – meaning the food supply chain is so much better than in America. There is far less mass produced food that is injected, plumped, over processed and otherwise robbed of its nutrition. Here in the US, though, it seems that only those with better incomes can afford the “organic” foods on the shelves or at the local markets. How ironic is it that those with less in the grocery budget are actually getting less nutrition for the dollars they do spend?

    I also want to agree with those that have expressed their thanks to you and to Books & Such for keeping this blog interesting, entertaining and timely.

    Best wishes to each of you.

  • LeAnne Hardy says:

    A dear friend of mine was hospitalized for an eating disorder. When she told me they were not allowed to watch any television in the hospital, I began noticing how much advertising either pushes us to eat more or derides us for not being slender. And all romance involves alcohol consumption. No wonder our young people have a twisted view of consumption!

  • Etta Wilson Etta Wilson says:

    LeAnne, it’s interesting that no TV is allowed in a hospital treating eating disorders, but they’re definitely on to something. Can we turn the tide on the same excesses that were so prevalent in ancient Rome?

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