Of Burgers, Fries, and Al-Qaeda
If you are like most widowers, you can only stand so much of your own cooking. Luckily, our town has no shortage of fine restaurants, some of which serve my very favorite type of cuisine: American Comfort Food. Oh, the meatloaf at Lumberyard, the chicken dinner at Nick’s, the French dip sandwich at Tommy Bahama’s. But, I, who once proudly identified himself as a “junk food junkie,” can no longer ignore the dangerous direction our appetites and many willing restaurants are leading so many Americans.
Let’s start with the classic American hamburger and fries. The burgers were the perfect size for fitting into our mouths. Now, as chefs compete to create the ultimate burger, they are piled so high with ingredients, one has to simulate a python unhinging its jaws just to nibble around the sides. The “heart attack on a plate” burger usually comes with a mound of fries so massive, one could build a scale model of the Sierra Nevada Mountains with them. I cannot tell you how long it has been since I have come close to finishing an order of fries.
What other things are we putting into our stomachs these days? A recent article about food at the Orange County Fair shed some light on this matter: bacon-wrapped turkey legs, deep fried butter, deep fried pickles with Ranch dressing, deep fried Oreos, and a Texas-sized donut with ham. Statins would not stand a chance at the fair.
A little historical perspective. Find a photo of dinner plates used in the home 50 to 100 years ago and compare them to the plates at restaurants today. The former are small, the latter look like sundials piled with food. Just don’t eat it all, you say. But it is human nature to eat too much if you are served more than you need.
Why does any of this matter? Because Americans are getting dangerously fat. Laguna is an exception to this trend, being one of the least obese cities in California. But I am not just a resident of Laguna, I am a citizen of a nation that threatens to tilt the earth’s axis due to our expanding waistlines. So, let me sound an alarm. The Center for Disease Control says that 70 percent of adults are either overweight or obese. Even more heartbreaking, 17 percent of children fit this category. The United States is only 4 percent of the world’s population but has 13 percent of all the overweight and obese people on the planet.
I recently came across a book by Dr. Yuval Noah Harari, who teaches at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Let me quote him at length:
“In 2014 more than 2.1 billion people were overweight, compared to the 850 million who suffered from malnutrition. Half of humankind is expected to be overweight by 2030. In 2010 famine and malnutrition combined killed about one million people, whereas obesity killed 3 million.”
So, “Why eat less, when you can have more?” Because it is slowing killing us.
Think for a moment of all the time, worry and money we as a nation spend protecting ourselves from a terrorist attack. But Dr. Harari points out, “In the early twenty first century, the average human is far more likely to die from binging at McDonald’s than from drought, Ebola or an Al-Qaeda attack.”
Let me end with a little story about my dear friend, Diane, who can eat as many French fries as she wishes. About every two weeks we go out for a hamburger and, yes, fries. I never finish mine, but she does and will even pilfer some of my leftovers. However, she eats salads for dinner practically every other day and walks six days a week, often as many as seven or eight miles. She keeps increasing the distance because she is preparing for the Camino Portugues this fall. She can eat lots of fries. We shouldn’t.
James Utt, author of “Laguna Tales and Boomer Wails,” urges you to remember the words of Aristotle: ”All things in moderation.” Except perhaps love.