Monday, August 25, 2008

While I'm On The Subject

I had some beautiful thoughts while I was getting a nightcap beer and taking a leak, and since I have nothing better to do while I drink the beer, you will all be the recipients thereof. I knew you'd be thrilled.

It has struck me - quite unoriginally - that the reason for America's (and England's, for that matter) monstrous obesity problem lies in our attitude toward food. We have been trained by doctors, advertisements, etc., etc., etc., to believe the myth of "Three square meals a day!" "You can't work on an empty belly!" "Make sure your child eats a good healthy three course breakfast!" And the most pernicious one - "Clean your plate! Children in other countries are starving!"

It just ain't so, guys. Once, when Sarah was about three, she woke up one morning and was yelping for breakfast, and I finally said, "Well, what do you want? You can reach the icebox. Get what you want for breakfast." (I think I was feeling somewhat overburdened that morning.) OK, you do have to know that we didn't keep junk food in the house, because I don't think it should be around children until they're old enough to take their allowances and go buy it themselves. And anyway, given our exceedingly limited means back then (what else is new) we couldn't afford it anyway. But Sarah went into the icebox and got her own breakfast...yogurt, a slice of whole wheat bread, and a banana.

See? Small people who are too young to listen to the hype have a firm grasp on this stuff. Yes, food is fuel. But it should be satisfying. It should be the only, the perfect, the exact thing you want to eat at that very moment and no other moment. And it has to be the absolutely best of its kind. If you want nothing more for dinner than a big baked potato slopped with butter and a bunch of grapes, then it should be the absolutely most perfect potato you can find, and the best butter, and the most beautiful grapes ever.

Nobody needs three or four courses of food because the "rules" say you have to have a "balanced meal." Peg Bracken, in one of her wonderful books, remarks about eating alone that you should balance the week, rather than the day. So, she goes on, if one day is mainly meat, make one day mainly vegetables. You come out the same way in the end.

I am a devotee of food history, and as I've mentioned in these pages (is that right for a blog? Should I perhaps say "on these screens?) I spent many hours at formal dinner parties...and it was awful. You ate nothing but coffee and salad for a week afterwards. Hors d'oeuvre, soup, fish, meat, vegetables, savory, dessert...dear God. And that was in the 1950's and 1960's. Go look up some menus from the late 1800's...then gag.

Breakfast at our place in France is the best. Bread and butter and cheese and ham and hot cafe filtre...and maybe a leftover artichoke that's just sort of sitting there in the icebox, or the odd bit of pastry...

The point I'm trying to make here is that if you eat exactly and precisely what you want to eat, and it is completely satisfying because it IS exactly what you want to eat at that particular moment, then you will eat a great deal less than if you attempt to arrange your eating according to somebody else's rules. For instance, I am not a great liver eater. But every now and then I get a mad craving for it. At which point I go out and get myself a little slice or two of calf liver and saute it up with onions and bacon, because that is what I want. And this is quite probably because my body is telling me that I need iron. You have to learn to listen to what your body is saying - maybe, "I don't want another expensive sandwich. I want a big bag of cherries and a chunk of cheese." Or (and it's perfectly acceptable - it's your body), it's a Big Mac day! You have to listen. And the more you listen, I may add, the fewer those Big Mac days become.

You have to listen to your own needs. And yes, I do know that there are people whose needs include 16 chocolate eclairs a day, but that's abnormal, and they are trying to feed another need - probably MANY other needs - altogether. I'm talking about us - the normal people (although define normal).

Eat what you want. When (if it's possible) you want it. Forget counting calories, carbs, or any damn counting...unless you're timing an egg or your brownies. If it's the right thing - trust me. You will be full, in every possible sense of the word.

Love, Wendy


SaintTigerlily said...

Bacon, hash browns and a cupcake sized quiche stuffed with spinach and ham.

I can attest to it. It was exactly what I wanted and I feel terrific.

newatthis said...

"Breakfast at our place in France is the best. Bread and butter and cheese and ham and hot cafe filtre...and maybe a leftover artichoke that's just sort of sitting there in the icebox, or the odd bit of pastry..."

...And that wonderful creamy spready honey. You forgot the honey.

Tom H.