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5 days in food hell


torakris
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It is quite sad that we have such a poor opinion of the dining habits of people in our own country, and such an exalted notion of standards in other countries, Japan included. Kristin's experience, wretched as it was, does a lot to correct the balance.

I thing if we took an overall look at most cuisines that are represented as super-healthy, we would find that the foods most often used as examples represent a small part of what people actually eat, or that people who do eat that way are impoverished and would buy more meat and processed foods if they had more money.

If you look at the traditional American diet, it included more fruits and vegetables than are eaten today by many people who look down on it.

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I thing if we took an overall look at most cuisines that are represented as super-healthy, we would find that the foods most often used as examples represent a small part of what people actually eat, or that people who do eat that way are impoverished and would buy more meat and processed foods if they had more money.

If you look at the traditional American diet, it included more fruits and vegetables than are eaten today by many people who look down on it.

I agree that somebody in a Third World or peasant society will be happy to add more processed foods to his diet, and that processed foods are a high class marker. But that's not the case in the US (or, I presume, Japan).

I doubt you'll find many foodies disparaging the traditional American diet, if (as you seem to be implying) you mean the American diet pre-1950. Indeed, traditional cooking techniques are regularly romanticized and imported into upscale cooking. Using fresh products has become a high class marker; it's the poor folks who eat Big Macs and Wonderbread.

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I doubt you'll find many foodies disparaging the traditional American diet, if (as you seem to be implying) you mean the American diet pre-1950.  Indeed, traditional cooking techniques are regularly romanticized and imported into upscale cooking.  Using fresh products has become a high class marker; it's the poor folks who eat Big Macs and Wonderbread.

I must say that your choice of phrase is somewhat misleading... "traditional American diet". Maybe foodies won't disparage that... but traditional American preparation of the foods that compose that diet? I think lots of foodies will take issue with that.

Recognizing that there are a zillion American traditions, I'll pull examples from my own family's traditional cookery on the family farm in Princeton, NJ. The beautiful fresh vegetables are traditionally cooked until floppy and lifeless. Beef (also farm raised), both roasts and burgers, are cooked past well-done and into the crumbly stage. "Mayonaise", when homemade, contained neither eggs nor oil, but was a vinegar and flour and corn starch and god knows what else preparation. You've not spent much time eating the home cooking of nonagenarians who've been taught traditional American cooking in their youth if you believe that foodies wouldn't disparage some of it. Certainly some of it is great... mmmm clam pie... but lots of traditional american preparations are anathema to today's foodie.

For a much better treatment of the awful nature of traditional american cookery, see M. F. K. Fisher's With Bold Knife and Fork, particularly the bits about her grandmother's dietary predelictions. No Halcyon Days of Yore in the Great American Gastronomic Past, I'm afraid.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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"Mayonaise", when homemade, contained neither eggs nor oil, but was a vinegar and flour and corn starch and god knows what else preparation.

:blink:

I don't think I've ever heard of this before.

If I have, I must have blocked the memory.

Hm.

What was I writing about? :blink::blink:

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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I must say that your choice of phrase is somewhat misleading... "traditional American diet".  Maybe foodies won't disparage that... but traditional American preparation of the foods that compose that diet?  I think lots of foodies will take issue with that. 

As for the term "traditional American diet", I was just repeating what Katherine had used. You're right, of course, that there are lots of American food traditions, and diets would have varied considerably by region. And I agree that there was plenty of lousy food in the old days: certainly there was less variety in both kinds of food and methods of preparation.

My point is that, as I said, those days are often romanticized. It's not hard to find traditional or regional American foods and preparations (prominently, Southern food) on the menus of upscale restaurants. That wouldn't have been the case not so long ago. It's when people celebrate the good while forgetting the bad that romantization occurs.

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I thing if we took an overall look at most cuisines that are represented as super-healthy, we would find that the foods most often used as examples represent a small part of what people actually eat, or that people who do eat that way are impoverished and would buy more meat and processed foods if they had more money.

If you look at the traditional American diet, it included more fruits and vegetables than are eaten today by many people who look down on it.

I agree that somebody in a Third World or peasant society will be happy to add more processed foods to his diet, and that processed foods are a high class marker. But that's not the case in the US (or, I presume, Japan).

I doubt you'll find many foodies disparaging the traditional American diet, if (as you seem to be implying) you mean the American diet pre-1950. Indeed, traditional cooking techniques are regularly romanticized and imported into upscale cooking. Using fresh products has become a high class marker; it's the poor folks who eat Big Macs and Wonderbread.

Actually, when I say "traditional American diet", what I'm talking about is the traditional three square meals. Three meals with modest portions of meat, vegetables, starch, etc, fruit, small desserts, and no snacks except for the growing kids and the field workers.

People who packed a lunch took a sandwich on regular bread and an apple for lunch. They had eaten breakfast, so they were able to hold out for suppertime.

I grew up in an old-fashioned household that served meals like these.

The foodies glorify certain aspects of the American diet, while the nutrition police disparage it as having no redeeming value.

cdh, there have always been good cooks and bad cooks. That was homemade salad dressing you described, the predecessor to Miracle Whip. Food fashions change, and people no longer consider overcooked vegetables or meat to be properly cooked. Few of us nowadays would consider food seasoned as they did back then to be anything but bland and underseasoned.

These things--cooking time and seasoning level--are a function of style, and not a reflection of nutritional value.

You can't look at a few narrow examples to describe an entire cuisine. I went to a yoga resort where Indian cooking was idealized. They were convinced that their food was somehow an authentic representation of some aspect of Indian cooking, but nobody would have even guessed that.

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My point is that, as I said, those days are often romanticized.  It's not hard to find traditional or regional American foods and preparations (prominently, Southern food) on the menus of upscale restaurants.  That wouldn't have been the case not so long ago.  It's when people celebrate the good while forgetting the bad that romantization occurs.

And demonization.

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Actually, when I say "traditional American diet", what I'm talking about is the traditional three square meals. Three meals with modest portions of meat, vegetables, starch, etc, fruit, small desserts, and no snacks except for the growing kids and the field workers.

How did this idealized picture of how Americans ate come into your mind?

Again, personal experience (granted, from the agrarian perspective of my forbearers) didn't look at all like that. Breakfast was cereal followed by eggs and occasionally some fried meat, maybe toast. Fruit or other makings of a "square" meal didn't play that early in the morning. The next meal was "dinner", which was a large meal with lots of meat, veg, starch, etc, followed by a small late evening "supper", which was often a sandwich or such and a bowl of fruit sliced up and sprinkled with sugar.

If you can get me some reliable data that proves my anecdotal evidence about my farming ancestors is firmly outside the mainstream, and that most of America did, indeed, eat 3 squares a day at some point in the Halcyon Days of Yore, I'll gladly concede... 'til then, I'm still unconvinced of your position that there was a time, Back In The Day, when everybody ate more good-for-you-stuff and less bad-for-you-stuff.

The identity of the bad-for-you-stuff is a moving target over the years, but the bull's eye is firmly planted on processed foods right now, but that's immaterial... there has always been lots of bad-for-you-stuff out there, and people have always enjoyed eating it. High-fat and concentrated calories are, after all, evolutionarily favored foods... back when there were lean times those who ate bad-for-you-stuff survived and those who didn't starved.

Now, moving on to the assertion that preparation is immaterial to nutrition, and the old fashion of cooking the hell out of everything was fine, so long as the everything that got the hell cooked out of it was good-for-you-stuff, I don't believe a word of it. Vitamins are soluble. Boil anything with them in for a while, and they find their way into the water... which goes down the drain.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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cdh, you just described to me people eating what would average out to three square meals.

It's true that just-cooked vegetables are higher in certain vitamins than overcooked ones. But I think it's a mistake to raise the bar so high that you would judge no one ever to have eaten a nutritious diet anywhere before.

Edit. Sorry guys, if you missed that post, I'm putting it in the bad meals thread. That's what happens when you have two windows open. You post on the wrong thread.

Edited by Katherine (log)
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Yikes, Kris.

How did your kids cope?  Did the novelty, and snacks, make it fun or was there a lot of being polite?

The kids were in heaven at first, curry rice twice a day with lots of snacks in between.... what child wouldn't go crazy :biggrin:

They were really polite about the taste (or lack of) of the food and didn't care for any of the retort packaged stuff, the pasta sauces were just unpalatable.

I did notice that Mia (age 7) was sprinkling salt on everything and she even asked if there was pepper, of which there was none............

I had brought a couple new cooking magazines with me and as we were paging through them both my friend and her mother commented on the heavy use of spices used and how they had never cooked with spices before. This of course is the same friend who asked me a while back what I use garlic with as she had never cooked with it before.......... :blink:

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well we are back from our second (and last!) vacation of the summer. This was sort of the opposite of the first trip, this time the food was good (of course, I planned and cooked it myself :biggrin: ) but the scenery was bad, very very bad. It would have been gorgeous if we could actually see anything throught the rain and fog! :angry:

We took a cable car up to the top of a mountain where we should have been able to see Mount Fuji and the gorgeous lakes below but we couldn't even see our hands in front of our faces the fog was so thick!

It rained for 3 1/2 of the 4 days we went camping (again on the Izu penninsula, this time the ocean on the other side), the campsite we hand orginally planned to go to was inaccessible because of a road closed due to a landslide and to get to it we would have to take a 2 hour detour. Luckily I had my camp guide book with me and we found another that was close by but it was 4 times the price (depleting all the funds I had brought) and unbelievably crowded, I felt like I was living in a gypsy camp.

The rain got so bad on our last night there that our tent couldn't hold it anymore, puddles were forming on the floor and the sleeping bags were soaked through. At 4:00am we packed up everything in the car and drove home, we haven't been able to dry/air anything out because it is still raining! :angry:

The kids had a good time though!

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The best part about the camp site was that we set up under a chestnut tree and thus had roasted chestnuts every night!

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For the half a day it stopped raining we went to nearby "Monkey Island" (note the monkeys in the background)

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Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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Camping is for tourists.

Sorry about that, Kristin. :wink:

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Hotels are also for tourists.

I went on months long camping trips throughout Europe with my family when I was kidling.

Gah.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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