Friday, July 18, 2008

Count Your Calories!

Well, here in New York, the calorie counts have been posted in fast food restaurants. I hate to tell you this, but I don't think it's going to make a damn bit of difference.

I don't know about you, but when I have an urge for a double cheeseburger at McDonald's, I have already given myself permission to ingest a whole lot of calories. And I add a small order of fries. Admittedly, I also order a diet soda, but I've been drinking diet soda for so many years that I literally can't swallow one that isn't diet - the sugar gags me.

But I absolutely do not believe that listing the calorie counts is going to have the slightest effect on say, a harried mother of 4 who's just been buying school clothes on 42nd Street and will do anything short of murder to get the kids to shut up. Nor do I think it's going to have any effect on hordes of teenagers after school, or any of the other normal denizens of McDonalds, etc.

The reason I feel this way is that I just don't think that anyone who has a jones for McDonald's gives a shit about how many calories are in it. Also, I'm not at all sure (and I know this is just as elitist as hell) that a lot of the people at whom this idea is aimed have any clear notion of what the hell a calorie is to begin with. And, I don't think they care much.

In order for this idea to work, you have to start teaching people about nutrition very seriously. In the two grocery stores in which I shop for all my basics (both of which are geared to us low income types), I see the shopping carts of lots of people, and when I stand in line behind them, I see exactly who's paying with a food stamp card. There tend to be a whole lot of empty calories in that shopping cart. And I understand this, because food stamps most certainly have not kept pace with the rising cost of food, and if you a large family...well, you get what's most likely to fill everybody up at the least cost. And that doesn't include a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables or even a lot of meat and/or chicken, and certainly not fish, because who can afford that these days.

I would like to propose that before you can get food stamps, you must take a course in nutrition. There are optional courses for it now, but I think they should be a great deal more available and I think they should be mandatory. (Of course, learning how to say no to your kids regarding a diet of pretzels and ice cream would be helpful, but you know, first things first.) I realize this sounds somewhat draconian, but we have to start somewhere, for God's sake. Today's papers featured a story announcing that 25% of New Yorkers are obese. That's just simply awful.

And, as I go on about at positively horrendous length, we have GOT to find a way to make fresh fruit and fresh vegetables more affordable. The present setup is simply unacceptable. Plums, two for a dollar. Hey, great! If you live alone. Plain old iceberg lettuce, 1.99 a head. Hey, that's really useful for a family of six. One salad for one dinner, and that's the end of that.

I don't know what the answer is, but we can't go on moaning about the problem without DOING something about it. Nobody is ever, ever, ever going to lose weight if their main diet is rice and beans.

Isn't that weird? This blog was going in an entirely different direction when I planned to write it, and then I got off on my hobbyhorse. Ah, well. The pleasure of blogging is that you never actually know what you're going to say until you say it.

By the by, about all those neat social occasions? Well, only one of them ever came to pass - the night at the Anyway Cafe. Oh, well. I have been terribly social for the last two nights, on both of which I had planned to eat dinner and go to bed at some sort of nice reasonable hour. Last night my friend Steve turned up, and we had a nice chat involving his recipe for a chicken stroganoff. This is something I don't think should exist to begin with, but as Steve is an absolutely brilliant cook, I'm willing to take his word for it.

Tonight, just as I was thinking about making dinner, Jiggers turned up with a very nice guy named Matt - but for some reason, Matt was dragging with him a book of Tom Waites' lyrics. The guys both read aloud from said lyrics and then insisted that I do so too. I was disposed to be pleasant about this nonsense because Jiggers had bought me an entire six pack of beer, and one must be kind. But I frankly feel that song lyrics are best left to records which include the music...

Many, many years ago there was a wonderful comic named Dick Shawn, and he appeared with a fair amount of frequency on the Ed Sullivan Show. His most famous shtick was that he read song lyrics aloud. I don't know whether there's any video on this (when I get new speakers for the computer I'll look it up on YouTube [amazing - here I am writing this on a computer, and when I hit spellcheck, it doesn't recognize YouTube - it suggested Yoruba. Eh?] and get back to you), but I am here to tell you that it was hilarious, because late 50's/early 60's rock and roll, which is what he was doing, was amazingly idiotic read out loud. You have to see this tall, attractive man standing onstage, intoning in a rich baritone - "Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong? Who put the boop in the boop de boop de boop?" - in a solemn voice that was entirely Shakespearean. And he was very serious about the whole thing. Even thinking about it now I get the giggles.

Ah, well. I think I'll go to sleep, having missed dinner once again. On the other hand, if I can end up looking like Helen Mirren in a bikini, my sacrifice will not have been in vain.

Love, Wendy

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