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Busboy

"The Woman Who Couldn't Boil Water"

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The article seemed to be a profile on a soulless human being.  :sad:

Soulless? Where does that come from?

Really, I think such responses are interesting. Maybe the most interesting thing about the article is that, since it doesn't seem to make any value judgements itself, the reader is left to do so him/herself. And since the most jarring thing about this woman seems to be that she does not cook, that is going to be the basis of our value judgements.

She seems to be portrayed as a very fortunate woman; she is successful in her business life, her family life, and her social life -- and these things are usually not accidents. So why soulless?

(Slow day at work today. :raz: )

I'm not ready to call anybody soulless on the basis of one article. But, if you looked at her as someone apparently without any contemplative habits or hobbies, lacking physical skills or interests, who moves compulsively from through careers, social engagements, volunteer positions and shopping sprees, you'd be tempted to wonder if she was shallow and dissatisfied on a fundamental level. Oh, add in the diet obsession.

On the flip side, maybe she's a bright, driven and productive human being, too creative to be caught up in one thing for long.

Bit of a Rorscharch Test, eh?

Personally, I don't trust anyone who can't survive without domestic help.

Busboy is right, I shouldn't make such a snap judgement. But it isn't so much the fact that she doesn't cook that bothers me, it has more to do with what she eats and why she eats it. Some of the sentences from that article sound as though they were written about a cyborg:

Francine Levinson's kitchen is spotless. The coffeemaker has no brown stains. The blender sparkles. The Cuisinart, though it is six years old, looks as if it has never been used.

"You work, then you eat it, and it's gone. There is nothing to show for it."

Look in Francine's refrigerator: It contains just about nothing that could rightly be called food. On the shelves are 33 bottles of Diet Dr Pepper for her and 10 Diet Pepsis for her husband, Mel.

And, nowadays, the only thing you could call a dish that she prepares is her annual kugel. She hates making it, but she bites the bullet and produces enough for 100 people because "I don't want it all to look so sterile." Even Francine admits, "It looks nice to have something homemade."

Some nights Francine consumes a dinner of several hard-boiled egg whites (she throws away the yolks).

For dinner she frequents Pines of Rome, where she likes the veal chop, but has been known to dine on just a Diet Coke.

The Levinsons typically dine with two other couples, and are booked six weeks ahead. Francine likes to dress up and go downtown, and she is very put out if their companions prevail upon the group to do otherwise. "I'm formal. I like that look," Francine says.

Francine likes restaurants that will prepare their dishes without sauce. "I don't get sauces," she says.

Here's what Francine likes about restaurants: "I like walking in and knowing people there." "I like to be greeted. I like to have a good table -- up front."

I just don't detect a hint of warmth in this article. That's my Rorscharch reading.


peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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I just don't detect a hint of warmth in this article. That's my Rorscharch reading.

right. food does not give her any joy whatsoever.


from overheard in new york:

Kid #1: Paper beats rock. BAM! Your rock is blowed up!

Kid #2: "Bam" doesn't blow up, "bam" makes it spicy. Now I got a SPICY ROCK! You can't defeat that!

--6 Train

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Yes, but the article also said that ol' Francine operated a lingerie shop for 9 years. Doesn't that bump her up a notch or two in the soul department?

For some bizarre reason, this story reminds me of an anecdote about John Lilly. In his biography, it talks about how he would lay in his sensory-deprivation tank for hours on end, only emerging periodically to eat a chicken leg and re-inject himself with ketamine, and return to the tank, where he would continue his telepathic communication with extraterrestrial dolphin beings. I don't know why this story reminder me of Lilly. I guess because he, like Francine, had better things to do with his time than cook.


"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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I finally got to read the article in its entirety. Unlike Lily, my mother can cook(and enjoys it though she is a busy professional - in all fairness though, she has a helper during the week); my siblings can cook; I don't know how I developed this particular cooking impairment. That's not true - I know, my father cannot cook to save his ass. Despite what I know - that I am(was, still somewhat) intimidated and afraid - my siblings use to think that this was because I thought it was "cute" not to be able to cook. While they are wrong, I get the distinct sense that Lily thinks its "cute", "de rigeur" or whatever not to cook. Note that her husband justifies his wife's inability to cook by suggesting that she is "enslaving" herself if she spends hours in the kitchen.

Another point, is that when I started to learn, I would not taste the food. I think this was partly due to the fact that I felt it would sabotage my fitness(you know what I mean). I had to force myself to do it or it would be a waste of time and money. Now I taste like a wine taster (I spit) and then enjoy my final meal, if one can call it that. Because of my experience, I feel that Lily may be victim of her own creation - if she doesn't cook, she'll stay slim. But this mindset is quite erroneous, don't you think? Most fitness people, prepare their own food because they know what they are eating. They also learn how to prepare different things so as not to make their diet montonous and thus limit the desire to stray from that diet.

I could go on and on but I will end by saying this article does not explicitly explore why people don't cook anymore (or maybe I am missing something). Sure it hints at it but the nagging feeling that you get is not that she is so busy or too afraid or that there are alternative sources for meals BUT that she thinks its "cool". Look at her comment at the end of the article about the turkey. It was not a contemplative statement, it was almost...umm...boastful. If my mother had not cooked for me and made holidays what they were, I would not have some of the memories that I do - she created these meals lovingly with her own hands. What if my mother didn't write to us at boarding school and ask what we wanted our first meal to be when we got home? And trust me, she would leave work early just to satisfy our requests and she was and still is a very busy woman.

Just my opinion. "Man cannot live by salad alone"

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Yes, but the article also said that ol' Francine operated a lingerie shop for 9 years. Doesn't that bump her up a notch or two in the soul department?

Not necessarily. There have been other threads on the parallels between good food and good sex. If she doesn't "get" sauce, chooses to dine on diet soda at Italian restaurants, and has boiled egg whites for dinner, I don't even want to imagine what she's like in the boudoir.


peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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I get the distinct sense that Lily thinks its "cute", "de rigeur" or whatever not to cook.. . . Sure it hints at it but the nagging feeling that you get is not that she is so busy or too afraid or that there are alternative sources for meals BUT that she thinks its "cool".  Look at her comment at the end of the article about the turkey. It was not a contemplative statement, it was almost...umm...boastful.

That's weird. I can't find a single quote where she boasts of her inability to cook. I think you're reading a Rorschach here.

I don't get it. What's so hard to understand about someone who doesn't like to cook? Is it any harder to understand than, say, someone who doesn't like to do their own auto repair or plumbing or painting or sewing or grass-cutting?


"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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I'm reading "Foul Matter" by Martha Grimes, and she has a scene that really made me laugh. Protagonist's wife is "cooking" dinner, and she is dressed for the part. Full apron, pot holders, etc., as she asks her husband how much longer he'll be working, dinner is just about ready and the girls are waiting at the table. And he wonders why she makes such a big deal of it, since "dinner" is always, always prepared food from Dean and DeLuca's down the street, and all she does is reheat it in the microwave.

I don't know why one thing reminded me of the other, except maybe for the oppositeness. (Is that a word?) The thing I like about the woman in the article is that there is no pretense about her. (At least there doesn't seem to be in the article; gotta remember that the article is the only thing we know about her, if she even exists at all.) She doesn't like to cook and doesn't do it.

In the fifties, when instant coffee was starting to become popular, there were all sorts of questionnaires etc. trying to see how people viewed women who used instant coffee instead of brewing fresh coffee for their husbands and families. (I distinctly remember reading about this for a class when I was in college many, many moons ago, and it comes to mind now.) People were given different women's "shopping lists," which were always exactly the same except for the coffee, and were asked to give their impressions of the type of woman they thought the shopping list portrayed. And guess what? The instant coffee users were deemed to be slovenly, lazy, didn't care about their families, selfish, etc. etc. The brewed coffee users were thought to be good wives and mothers, nurturing, etc. etc.

Now it's true, of course, that instant coffee users are useless boors ( :wink: ), but this woman, well, yes, I would like to have her as a dinner guest.

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I would like to have her as a dinner guest.

Better be stocked up on diet cokes and saltines! :raz:


peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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Sure, the article says that sometimes she eats junk food or some boiled egg whites (her and 100 million other people), but it also says that she eats real food as well. Just because she doesn't like to cook doesnt mean she doesn't like to eat. I like saltines and diet coke too, but don't invite me to dinner and serve that.

If they are going to the ballet or a concert at the Kennedy Center, they'll eat upstairs in the restaurant or cafeteria. If they have tickets for the National Theater, they'll dine at Chef Geoff's or Marcel's. They go to the Four Seasons, to the upstairs lounge, with its casual menu. Francine likes Cafe Milano, where she always orders the pasta with lobster -- always. At the Palm, she has Steak à la Stone, a tomato-onion salad and a taste of someone's cheesecake or Key lime pie. At the Prime Rib, the veal chop and a salad, a glass of pinot grigio (Mel, a nondrinker, orders "a 2005 Diet Coke"). She also samples the potato skins and hot fudge sundae that have been ordered for the table. Francine likes restaurants that will prepare their dishes without sauce.

Edited by Patrick S (log)

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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The woman needs therapy.

She's claiming creating a meal at home is inefficient and yet will spend two hours in a restaurant feeding her social needs. Different priorities, I guess.

She's a dieter and yet thinks nothing of eating junk food for her meal (the husband said they'd even "pig out" on just jelly beans for dinner).

It would have been a completely different (and much better) article if the author had provided more examples of people who don't cook than featuring just one highly dysfunctional woman and her family.

This woman isn't a symbol of the new trend of people not cooking anymore. This has been going on for DECADES with her and her family.

Her mother didn't know how to cook.

She doesn't know how to cook.

Two of her three daughters don't know how to cook and the one who does taught herself.

A poorly written article featuring a woman who "doesn't get sauces."

I don't get her.


 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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I don't get it. What's so hard to understand about someone who doesn't like to cook? Is it any harder to understand than, say, someone who doesn't like to do their own auto repair or plumbing or painting or sewing or grass-cutting?

I think its natural for foodies to be momentarily fascinated with people who don't care about food one iota, and to contemplate that for a bit. Its sorta like looking at a car accident. You just can't help it. :wink:

I would not like this woman as a dinner guest. These are the types that turn up their nose at something you've lovingly made, saying "oh, I'm not that hungry.." And let's face it, when WE cook, we want people at our table who will appreciate what we are offering. At least I do.


Born Free, Now Expensive

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I just think it is sad that there are people like that who truly "don't get" or miss out on the joy, creativity and art of cooking.

That does not mean they are bad people, just different and incomprehensible to me.

There are just some people like that. For example, I used to work with a man that ate nothing but tuna, out of a can. For every meal. He had no interest in food other than as fuel.

I truly feel that if I was told I could never cook again and had to eat every meal in a restaurant, I would feel as if a whole dimension to myself and my life would be gone.


If you can't act fit to eat like folks, you can just set here and eat in the kitchen - Calpurnia

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I don't get it. What's so hard to understand about someone who doesn't like to cook? Is it any harder to understand than, say, someone who doesn't like to do their own auto repair or plumbing or painting or sewing or grass-cutting?

I gave this some thought; I think it's a good question.

For me, the difference between cooking and the other activities is that people need to eat to live, so I think it would be in someone's best interests to learn how to prepare nutritious, balanced meals for themselves. You can live without painting or repairing your car or cutting your grass or sewing your own clothes. You can't live without eating. So why not learn the rudimentary skills of preparing things for yourself to eat?

The other issue here is that as a collective, we have gotten unhealthier the more processed and "instant" crap we've put into our diets. The rise in obesity and heart disease directly coincides with the popularity of fast and packaged food. At some point I think every person has to weigh their personal health against their wish for convenience and ease. This woman may or may not be thin, but I really question whether she is healthy. Based on the explanation of her eating habits, her diet seems to consist of a lot of low-nutrient foods. I wish people could realize that it's not just about the amount of food you eat, it's about the quality. Drinking Diet Cokes and eating Lean Cuisines may make you thin, but we don't know a lot about some of the chemicals in those foods and what they may be doing to human bodies long-term.

That article made me sad, because I know a lot of older women who are like this woman. Enjoyment of food is a bad thing, and they eat very little and what they do consume is horrible and processed, but they believe that since it's "diet" it's okay. I guess I just get sad about people who can't give themselves permission to eat something really delicious because they're so worried about their weight. Weight should be a concern, but so should eating nutritive things - and some things that are very nutritious have a lot of calories or fat (like nuts, for example). Again, I think it goes back to the pathological relationships Americans have with food, as far as more=better. It's better to drink 8 diet Cokes a day than to have one cappuccino and really enjoy that one drink.

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I think the article is blatantly sexist. The writer admits: "If their roles were reversed -- if Francine were a man of her generation -- she'd be perfectly unremarkable, of course. No one would make jokes, there'd be no blueberry sculpture or fake fur apron." But that's just lip service because it's still written as if she's a bizarre character, and they wouldn't be writing about a man that way.

I do feel sad because a lot of women that age (and considerably younger) were raised with screwed-up relationships with food, expected to stay unrealistically thin while spending an awful lot of time shopping and cooking. That combination makes some people crazy and I can well understand someone wanting to just get out from under the whole preoccupation with food. It does seem a pity to go to good restaurants and eat the same thing over and over, but a lot of people do that.

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The woman needs therapy. . . one highly dysfunctional woman and her family.

I'm gonna go waay out on a limb here, and hazard a guess that you're not really a trained psychologist after all, just a foodie mistaking a difference for a pathogy because you can't comprehend how someone could possibly have different tastes and interests. Indeed, she suffers from an acute case of Different-Than-You-osis.


Edited by Patrick S (log)

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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I don't get it. What's so hard to understand about someone who doesn't like to cook? Is it any harder to understand than, say, someone who doesn't like to do their own auto repair or plumbing or painting or sewing or grass-cutting?

I gave this some thought; I think it's a good question.

For me, the difference between cooking and the other activities is that people need to eat to live, so I think it would be in someone's best interests to learn how to prepare nutritious, balanced meals for themselves.

A non-sequiter. The whole point of the article is not that the woman doesn't like to eat, just that she doesn't like to cook. Granted, only a weirdo orders food with sauce. But in any event, its undeniable: you do not need to know how to cook anymore, so long as you have enough money and inclination to eat out/order out. You also do not need to know how to cook healthy in order to know how to eat healthy.


Edited by Patrick S (log)

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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I don't have a lot of patience to read stuff about the lives of people who have full-time domestic help. This woman's mother also had a cook. It kind of reminded me of the reporting when the Queen Mum, the daughter of an Earl, died. She lived to be over 100 and in that time never made a bed or washed a dish. What has that got to do with the rest of humanity?

This woman doesn't have a clue what to do if the money runs out and she has to rely on herself to provide nutritious food. Hey, it happens.

Knowing how to cook, whether you enjoy the process or not, is essential for everybody. I don't like cleaning the bathroom, either, but it has to be done. My FIL was in a world of hurt, in more ways than one, when my MIL died. She had always done all the cooking and he could hardly boil water. He couldn't eat most of the stuff Meals-on-Wheels delivered, because of dietary reasons; so , he wound up hiring a professional to come in once a week to make up a bunch a meals he could nuke in the microwave. I don't know what he would have done if he couldn't have afforded that.

It's just that this article didn't offer anything for the people who have to juggle work and child-raising without all that outside help.

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Patrick S, I'm going to go waaaayyy out on a limb and ask you why you seem so hostile/defensive about this subject. Do you know this woman or something?

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I don't have the negative reaction to this woman that some other posters have. I just realize that she and I live in 2 completely different worlds.

She's not into food. That isn't a crime. She doesn't seem to be food police - she's made her choices and doesn't enforce them on anyone else.

I wonder, when she has a meal catered, is the food lousy? After all, if she has no interest in it, does she do a good job of quality control for her guests' benefit?

As to having her over for dinner - why on earth would I want to do that? I'm going to work hard to ensure that my guests enjoy the food I serve and she seems, with her disinterest in food, to be a nightmare guest for me. To make up for her indifference to food, she'd have to be as witty, intelligent and charming as the entire Algonquin Round Table and I'm not sure she is. I would probably enjoy talking to her out at a restaurant - they could give me her sauce!

I do agree that this type of article perpetuates gender stereotypes. They can feature my husband in their next article "Men Who Don't Watch Sports" to even out the scales.


Stephanie Kay

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I really don't see what the fuss is about this article. So she doesn't cook and eats out all the time. She also sticks to diet foods and orders the same thing over and over again. Looking around at the people in my office I would say more people share food traits with her than with me, someone who loves to cook and try different things. Every time we have an office function it's at a "safe" chain, every time we go to the safe chain many people order the same thing, and a lot of people won't eat egg yolks or only order salads.

I also don't see the correlation between this and being soul-less. My husband is a eat to live kind of guy, really couldn't care less if we nuked dinner every night or ate out (as long as we could afford it). And he's very passionate and caring and wonderful in many other aspects. In fact, I think the main reason he loves that I cook is because I love it and it makes me happy, if I didn't he wouldn't want me to cook because my happiness is more important to him than food. To me that doesn't make him soul-less. Quite the opposite, in fact.

When we eat really amazing food (because food is my hobby and something I seek out) he likes it. But he likes more than we're out exploring a new city or restaurant together, and enjoying each other's company. Foodwise, he'd be just as happy eating at McDonalds (tastes pretty good to him - not to me though) as long as we were enjoying each other's company. What's wrong with getting your fulfillment from family and friends, as this woman seems to?

It doesn't even have to mean her health is bad. Frankly, if not for me my husband would eat total crap (and he did before we met). He's literally one of the skinniest people I've ever met in my life, his grandparents are all in their 90s (one turns 100 this year - and he still mows his own lawn) and all 4 are still alive and very mobile, and his family eats total crap. Processed everything. They eat because they have to, not because they like it. And they are wonderful people who happened to get really lucky in the genes department.

So this woman takes it to an extreme. She seems happy, active, and fulfilled. Live and let live, I say.

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I would have to agree with you Jujubee. I'm the odd woman out because I do cook where I live. Most people either eat out, order-in or pick up a salad on the way home. Recently we have had two new Whole Foods open in Manhattan and a third on the way. When a friend (another who cooks) asked if I'd been to the Union Square location because he wanted to know if he should start shopping there, I said, it's great, it's a fine blend for those who cook and those who don't. To clarify: to have a successful "supermarket" in this town, it helps to remember most don't cook or have kitchens equipped with more than a microwave. The only thing I think is odd about this woman is she does not know "how" to cook (I mean really, :unsure: boil an egg?). That is unique, but I guess if your parent didn't cook, it shouldn't be too surprising.

I agree with rosebud when she said, it's like a media article. I had an Architectural Digest of an apartment interior in New York where the designer was requested not to build a kitchen. In a 4x4 space he put a sink, a counter, a wine fridge and a cupbord, probably for glasses. The owner was so proud that they never cooked..."We eat out every night," she said.


Edited by emmapeel (log)

Emma Peel

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I feel sorry for her. In the article she said her mother was a workaholic who left the house at 7:00am and didn't return until after the housekeeper put the children to bed. With or without the issue of cooking, this is a sad way to live. It clearly shows the children where they are on the priority list. IMHO, this woman didn't do much better (skipping school for breakfasts out and shopping, just one small example), but she never had a mother to teach her. All in all, I found the article rather sad.

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Patrick S, I'm going to go waaaayyy out on a limb and ask you why you seem so hostile/defensive about this subject. Do you know this woman or something?

Well, you don't go 'way out on a limb' by asking a question. You go out on a limb by making an assumption. I'm not trying to be pedantic, but that's just how the simile works. But to answer your question, I guess I was taken aback by the multitude of mean-spirited things that were being said about the person in the article. For instance, she was called "a soulless human being" in post #14, "boastful" in post #29, and "highly dysfunctional" and in need of "therapy" in post #35. I don't know the woman profiled in the article, but I know a lot of people like her, who could probably boil water if they had to, but not much else. They just happen to value food much less than I do. Really, I think it takes an almost Herculean small-mindedness to muster contempt for someone based on their cooking/eating habits or food preferences. I would be just as defensive if the tables were turned, and the criticism was directed at obsessive-compulsive foodies like us, who spend most of their waking life cooking, reading about cooking, watching shows about cooking, talking to other foodies on the internet about cooking, and so on.

designchick88:

The other issue here is that as a collective, we have gotten unhealthier the more processed and "instant" crap we've put into our diets. The rise in obesity and heart disease directly coincides with the popularity of fast and packaged food. At some point I think every person has to weigh their personal health against their wish for convenience and ease.

That's a funny theory, because 90% of the foodies I know, including myself, are overweight (don't trust a skinny chef), despite the fact that they rarely, if ever, eat fast food. The woman's photo in the article, on the other hand, shows that she is fairly thin. Much of the food I see prepared on Egullet in the cooking forum is just as "unhealthy" as fast food, in terms of total calories, cholesterol, and fat. And it is these three dietary factors, after all, that are associated with obesity and heart disease.


Edited by Patrick S (log)

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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I find this story very sad, and I've only read half the story.

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That's a funny theory, because 90% of the foodies I know, including myself, are overweight (don't trust a skinny chef), despite the fact that they rarely, if ever, eat fast food. The woman's photo in the article, on the other hand, shows that she is fairly thin. Much of the food I see prepared on Egullet in the cooking forum is just as "unhealthy" as fast food, in terms of total calories, cholesterol, and fat. And it is these three dietary factors, after all, that are associated with obesity and heart disease.

90%? I would have to say that your experience is unusual, if that number is for real. I'm not sure what the term "foodie" means to you, but if you mean people who cook fairly seriously and go to restaurants for the food experience, the ones I know are not more overweight than the others, as a group. The nutritional content of any particular recipe someone may share here is less important than their overall food consumption of the day or the week. The chefs I know happen to look like they're normal weight; same with most of the people I see in cooking classes.

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