I always wonder whether diabetes would be epidemic today if Americans had been sold mayonnaise instead of ketchup with their fries. Fat and fat have to be better than fat and sugar. Not to mention the satiety factor: You don’t need many duck-fat-roasted fingerlings dunked in chipotle mayonnaise to feel very happy very fast. They’re like a potato Spritz.
I’ve admitted before: I read crazy people. So I was quite curious to see what the wingnuts had to say about the news that butter consumption is way up, to a level not seen in 40 years. And I’m not being sarcastic in saying I’m shocked, shocked. The odd (or is that redundant?) commenter tried to spin the story into a full-gutted victory over “the nanny state,” but of course those idjits don’t know their lard history (a k a: Big Food rules). But mostly I was heartened to sense the divide between Faux News consumers and sane Americans might not be so wide after all. They know what’s good, why and how to use it. I just hope they never see this. Or they’ll be scouring kitchen history for how to spit-roast butter.
If you’re following the nutty news lately, take my advice without a pound of fleur de sel: Ignore it all. I managed to tune out all the dire warnings on salt all these decades and still somehow maintain low blood pressure, so when I read that’s no longer the white demon I closed the paper and went on mainlining lard.
I noticed a fair amount of high-fiving going on after the latest study to validate the health merits of the Mediterranean diet. To me this fell under the old “success has a million mothers, failure but one.” I’m so old I remember how the MD was sold to Americans: Food writers were rounded up and sent on a luxury liner through the Mediterranean, trip after trip, year after year, always coming home singing the praises of the one that brung ‘em. Common sense dictated that what they were selling was valid, but still: Without a shit-ton of promotion by people with a heavily underwritten agenda Americans would not be dunking their artisanal bread in extra-virgin olive oil but still slathering it with margarine.
And I’m sure I’ve written many times about the spectacle a young mother made of herself 25 or so years ago at a nutrition conference where we reporters were informed that no scientific evidence proved sugar is a menace if consumed in moderation. The poor woman was in tears insisting it had to be evil. It had to be! And how far we’ve come. Now it’s the demon all fat was before only trans fats were. You can hire a writer to make any case in an age where everyone can choose his own facts. I’m just not sure how it helps to ban anything. I’ve written this many times, too, but one reason I can exercise uncharacteristic moderation with sweets is that my mom baked a cake or some other dessert every single day she was not in the nut hut when I was a kid– as I later learned in restaurant school, sweetness shuts off your appestat, makes you feel sated. Not for the first time, too, I’ll note that “look for the industry label” on any “nutrition” research would be a healthy first step. Pom. Wonderful.
After only glancing at the heds, I was actually excited to see Bloomberg was cracking down on salt again. I’d heard on the radio before the last snowfall that he was boasting of having 250,000 pounds ready to coat the streets, and I’d seen white flakes flying as if in a sandstorm over at 97th and Park, and I’d walked home from the ophthalmologist’s with drops in my eyes feeling as if I’d gone snow-blind because the roads and paths in Central Park were already white as Morton’s. But of course he was only yapping about curbing, so to speak, the salt without which the human body cannot survive. So dogs will continue to need booties to keep from dry-brining their paws. But at least no restaurantgoer will have a properly seasoned steak or omelet.
And not to rag on outlets that don’t hire me, and now never will, I was convinced my copy of USA Weekend was misprinted — the date was current, but the food content was from 20 years ago, the heyday of Snackwells and Snackwells ads. “Crispy oven fries” as a substitute for the real deep-fried thing? Go on — next tell readers to substitute yogurt for sour cream.
I realize no one will ever be able to think straight about the soda “ban” and how it’s not Big Gubmint restricting liberty but actually a feeble attempt to warn Big Fud it will face tobacco-level settlements unless it reins in its own greed. Everyone railing about loss of liberty seems to have no problem with far creepier legislation — there really are laws being pushed to require women to let the state literally get all up in their lady parts. Compared with spreading ’em, having to fill a soda cup twice seems rather minor. There’s also the little problem beyond the obesity that the law is meant to thwart: New research is calling Alzheimer’s Type 3 diabetes. And how might you acquire adult-onset diabetes? Maybe by filling that soda cup repeatedly? Some days you have to wonder if the Depends manufacturers aren’t the ones really pushing the high-fructose corn syrup.
As for the clearly suspect organic-is-no-better study out of an allegedly incorruptible university, may I remind everyone of Larry Summers and “Inside Job”? The crazy-making research that wound up on the wrong rural route really was problematic, but the pushback on it reflected a couple of encouraging trends. Simplest: Readers don’t have to just yell at the teevee anymore when they hear “news” that is so clearly wrong. They have many ways to push back and hold “real” reporters’ feet to the flaming fire. Strongest: No one just yells “but I know it’s better” — the sentient line up arguments that touch on the larger issues, ecological first of all.
Only editors raised on hamburger that never needed helper could be swept up into the drought panic enough to produce this headline: “Food shortages could force world into vegetarianism, warn scientists.” Their message is “be afraid, be very afraid,” which is ridiculous — going meatless would not be the worst thing in the world (spend a couple of weeks eating in India and see if you ever miss red-blooded anything). The real scare is that there will not be enough water or arable land to produce protein substitutes for sacred cows on an overpopulated planet. Actual truth-tellers would type up a hed along the lines of “Food shortages could force Chipotle into leaving both rice and beans out of tortilla-free burritos.” And eventually: “Rat — it’s what’s for dinner.”
Relatedly, I really wanted to make fun of a stupid roundup on “food insecurity” with a link, but I can’t find the original (maybe for a reason). So I’ll just rely on trust, not verification to say it lamented that people are now so down and out they have to “create their own dressing.” If you can’t mix oil, mustard and vinegar, you probably shouldn’t be allowed down the Wishbone aisle. And it whined that people were reduced to buying canned rather than fresh fruit. If we had any sort of education in this country, those sad sack grocery baggers would understand they can buy several cans of no-sugar-added pineapple for one 50 percent-waste fresh one — not all canned is crap. Worst of all, it had people whimpering about having no hamburger. With no directions to the Goya aisle.
Speaking of which, the push-back against our anti-gun mayor’s attempt to save the porky populace from itself has been rather fascinating. We actually now live in a world where a gallon of sugar water is considered not just a normal portion but something to be defended to the diabetic-and/or-obese death. If only all the money being thrown around on the misinformation campaign could be directed to free public gyms; soda swillers could have their vice but get some exercise, too. Instead, trickery rules. I’m half-embarrassed to say I read an op-ed in the print version of Faux News and was actually almost taken in: Poor little artisanal iced-tea company, suffering under rules designed to hurt big cola companies. So good on Marion Nestle for noting: David is actually owned by the same Goliath that bottles Dasani. If you have to put “honest” on the label, you must be lying.
And my supremely wise consort has long insisted any think tank given print time should be identified by its political bent: Left or KKKrazy. Never was that more needed than the day the Egopedist became the dummy for ventriloquists who hide their animal-rights activism behind the white coat covering 5 percent of their organization. I can’t remember who on Twitter added the perfect hed to the milk dis — “Got ghostwriter?” — but I was glad to see I was not alone in calling BullShit. This is where the editors who mistook a $500-a-week gig for a deal might want to face what a monster they’ve created. An audience of millions needs to be fed truth, not pop science. Especially when it’s being spoon-fed by an organization that cares nothing about health and the environment. Contrast the “milk’ll kill ya” with this sanity. As I have said many times, the first time I was assigned a piece to edit, I was warned: “He’s not a very sophisticated writer.” He was brought on when the 1/2/3 passed on the zombie Franey gig. One day the seersuckers will look back and realize they should have put Panchito on the nutrition-nuttiness beat. At least the word salad could have been doused in Ranch dressing . . .
Too bad our uppity mayor is too short and too non-Mormon to ever fly as pres. Despite some restaurateurs’ laments, he has been good for food. The latest move is allowing city agencies to buy local. Given that NYC is the second-largest institutional buyer in the country, after the military, that could be very, very good for upstate farmers. And even for Brooklyn/Queens artisans who are thinking out of the crate. Sixteen-ounce mayonnaise? Bring it on.
Where are almonds going to go to get their reputation back? I always knew they were a smart choice if you care about what you eat. But now I’m wondering, given that the people who turned pomegranates into bogus live-forever juice are marketing their version. How many millions did it take to demonstrate the healthfulness of roasting and salting?