Monday, August 04, 2008

I Don't Burn Books, I Throw Them

Life is too short to do things that should be fun but aren't, like reading books that make you angry and annoyed.

As I've been reading about what we eat, why we eat, and where our food comes from, I've stumbled onto the book "The Gospel of Food" written by some guy that I refuse to plug. Let's just call him Numbnuts.

Now, when I picked up this book, let's just say that I had an inkling that he would be coming in from a different angle in relation to what I had been reading. I really enjoyed "Fast Food Nation" and even though I am a filthy hippie liberal card carrying tree hugger, there were times in "Fast Food Nation" when I felt like I was being hit over the head with the party line. Just because I agree with someone doesn't mean I ALWAYS need them to grasp my fat little face in their hands and make me READ THEIR LIPS. I agreed with how things are marketed to kids, I have no doubt that corporate slaughter houses and chicken farms are horrible places, I agree that "with great power comes great responsibility" and the corporations highlighted in the book have their eye on one thing and one thing only, the bottom line. I do think that blaming the fast food chains for how they work teenagers was a little ridiculous, and although I was raised in a union family, I don't always agree that unions solve all your problems. It depends on the union and it depends on your problems.

BUT...I digress. I'm here to talk about Numbnuts.

Now, I am not one of those tree huggers that cover my ears and HUM REALLY LOUD when someone has a different view. I will listen and I will ruminate, and sometimes, I will even...*GASP*...agree. I have this squishy grey thing between my ears and occasionally, every now and again, I use it.

Which means that there were SOME things Numbnuts wrote about that I agreed with. I agree that there are many people in this country that are completly wacked when it comes to what they believe about diet and nutrition. People that never let their children have an ounce of sugar or wheat or preservatives EVER, are a little bit ridiculous. If your child doesn't have any dietary conditions and you are totally taking all this stuff away when, as a culture, they are surrounded by it, one day they will bury their head in the sugar bowl and they won't come out until they have gained 300 pounds. Everything in moderation is a very old and very wise saying.

But beyond this, Numbnuts states that we Americans view our food as medicine and that is why stupid people do things like eating Quaker Oatmeal for breakfast to lower their cholesterol. He says that since it is so difficult to actually improve your heart health through diet that most doctors just recommend drugs. I kept waiting for the sentence that said "But since changing your diet and lifestyle empowers you to TRY to help yourself, you should try it before you take drugs", but that sentence never came.

He brought out a bunch of commonly held myths that people believe are proven and he "debunked" them. Lowering your cholesterol isn't as important as you have been led to believe so don't even bother. But then he mentioned taking medication instead. Hmmmmm. I'm confused.

Another part of the book was an impassioned argument for the fast food industry. He said that more affluent people made comments about fast food making poor people fat because that's where they could afford to eat and they were to stupid to know the difference. He then stated that more affluent people ate just as many calories at their favorite places and no one lectures them about how many calories are in a latte. I can agree with some of his arguments here. I have met some completly ridiculous snobs at Whole Foods Co-op who have never had only $5.00 in their pocket that had to last them until payday and they had to do this thing called "eating on a budget". My kids and I were on WIC many years ago and I remember the nutrition classes that I was required to take that treated me like I had an IQ of 5. It made me very angry. And perhaps a lot of people don't realize what gets donated to soup kitchens when they "rescue" food from grocery stores. Why, it's the baked goods of course! I've walked into soup kitchens that have a long table filled with donuts and breads and cakes. Fresh fruit? I don't think so.

BUT, my issue with his argument is that my sense of the situation is that people aren't eating at the fancy schmancy places every night or even three times a week. They just might be sipping their lattes but thankfully, they can work it off with their gym membership. It definately is an issue of class but it's MORE than that. It's also an issue of making quick, cheap, crappy food. People will buy this food no matter what, and THAT IS THEIR CHOICE, but shouldn't people with a conscience want to make that food a little healthier with more expensive ingredients? The author talked about how unfair it would be to have to hike the price of a burger for the impoverished consumer but amazingly enough, he never talked about any CEO's taking a pay cut to compensate for it.

One HUGE thing that finally made me throw the book across the room and give up was his assertion that fast food couldn't be to blame for the obesity epidemic because we became a fast food nation back in the 50's. The obesity epidemic didn't really gain traction until the 80's, therefore, it couldn't have anything to do with it.

Can you think of any one thing that has changed in the lives of, dare I say, the majority of people in this country since the 50's? Hmmmm, could it be that we are SITTING ON OUR ASS A LOT?????

OH MY GOD!!!! I seriously kept reading and reading and waiting and waiting for Numbnuts to even talk about our sedentary jobs, sedentary amusements, and cuts to physical education in the public schools. But never seemed to cross his mind.

Now, I'm completly frustrated by people that think there is only ONE cause for this. I think we hit a perfect storm back in the early 80's with a variety of factors coming into play. Mom's went to work, the school lunch program budget was cut to the bone and the standards re-written (no Ronnie, catsup IS NOT A VEGETABLE!), jobs became more sedentary as manufacturing jobs moved overseas, people started to quit smoking, schools cut gym, kids watched more tv and played more video games, and parents increasingly bought into the hysteria of child abductions and violence as alleged news networks like CNN made hyperbolic statements to scare every parent into thinking a pedophile was parked on their doorstep. Little Jimmy can't go out and roam the neighborhood! My God Woman! Are You Crazy???

I made it to within one chapter of the end of this book. I think I deserve a medal.

Perhaps next I will read something light hearted.

How about "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How about reading a little something from Michael Pollan or David Mas Masumoto? For more crazed anger, try 'The Sexual Politics of Meat' (Adams)