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Southern discomfort food: robbing the culture?


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I also agree that the rising obesity probably has more to do with rising consumption of soft drinks than the food people are eating.

the only place i've ever seen (or heard of) soft drinks being consumed at breakfast, is in the South.

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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My first reaction to this story was very similar to Anna N's reply.  Certainly, a lot of traditional southern food is very calorie-dense, but it evolved as fuel for people who participated in hard labor.  When many of us came in from the fields and sat down at a desk, our diets were slower to evolve than our lifestyles.

That said, though, I think that there may be an essential misunderstanding of what Southern food encompasses.  Sure, fried chicken and gravy and lard and pecan pie are "traditional," but so are fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, dark leafy greens, squash, sweet potatoes, fruits, etc.  And, as near as I can tell, that fried chicken was more the exceptional meal than the rule:  Sunday dinner, when the preacher came to visit.  Monday through Saturday, beans and rice were more likely to provide the main protein course.  And those fresh vegetables that were so readily available, along with some cornbread.  The other "mistranslation" I see of traditional rural diets versus modern:  As is typical today, "dinner" was the main meal of the day, but on the farm, "dinner" is that meal served at noontime.  "Supper" was/is generally a lighter meal of leftovers, served at the end of the day.  Thus, those farm meals were pretty much what doctors would prescribe today -- Filling breakfast, filling lunch, eat lightly at the end of the day, lots of fresh foods and veggies, lots of exercise. 

(And this is the point where I generally tell the story of my great-grandmother, a farmer who was warned by her doctor that she should give up pork for her health's sake.  Granny attended that doctor's funeral, outlived the next doctor, and settled on another before finally succumbing to heart disease.  At age 92.  Yes, she ate bacon or fatback or ham every day, but she also worked.  Every day.  Hard, physical, taxing labor.)

Yeah, we both know that. But the southern diet has been so stigmatized, by people who never ate it or even looked at it closely, that people just don't get it.

I guess they learn through repitition, and heard the same myths over and over again, and it is hard to get through to them.

Paula Dean is doing us no favors either. Although to be fair, she makes no bones about the fact that the food she is demonstrating is over the top. And it is. She is carrying some excess weight around, but to be fair so is Mario. Her sons are in great shape though, and judging by their size, it was probably a challenge over the years to keep those two fueled up. I have a son that size. When he went to fix a sandwich, it was a loaf of bread, not a couple of slices. It was also darn near a box of cereal as opposed to a bowl. But he is very active and always has been. When he wasn't racing bicycles, he was playing football or weight training.

I can see where he may have a weight issue as he gets older. In fact I am certain of it. He is going to have to struggle with reducing his intake according to his physical activity.

My husband is the biggest consumer of fats in the house. Three pints of ice cream a week, miracle whip or butter on his bread and lots of it, four or five eggs at a time, fishes the ham hock out of the vegatables and claims it all for himself. He has the lowest body fat ratio, lowest cholesterol and lowest blood pressure in the house. The man is 6' tall and weighs 150 wet. He also sits in a cubby at his computer all day long, the most exercise he gets is walking to the lunch room. Sometimes he cuts the grass on the weekend.

Go figure.

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I also agree that the rising obesity probably has more to do with rising consumption of soft drinks than the food people are eating.

the only place i've ever seen (or heard of) soft drinks being consumed at breakfast, is in the South.

Wow.

It was milk or juice or coffee for the grownups in our house. We were allowed a soft drink every once in a while. Sweet tea was always around (and is a pretty good source of folic acid, even though it is loaded with sugar), but the children in my family were not allowed to drink it other than at lunch. Mom said it would keep us up all night, and made us drink water.

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I live in the South. I am Southern, if nothing else. I have lived elsewhere, but chose to move back here, and stay here, based on the people and the food. This one discussion is something that I take seriously when it's a serious discussion, and one that I can take lightly in another. While these matters are important to me, I sometimes get very frustrated at the course this discussion often seems to take. I am frustrated now.

This whole argument, not just the discussion here, but the one that I seem to have been continuously involved in for the last several years-on eGullet, at Southern Foodways Alliance events, in my writing, and at countless dinners with folks since the hurricane-is that Southern Food, when deconstructed, is not what everyone seems to think that it is.

Last night, for example, my dinner for myself and my boys consisted of grilled pork loin, collard greens (cooked slowly, with nothing but a LITTLE salt, pepper sauce, garlic cloves, and water with a bit of chicken stock added, unsweet okra cornbread, and a salad that consisted of butter lettuce, grapefruit, avacado, and a thin vinegar dressing. This meal is damned healthy. Lots of greens, some lean pork, corn meal, okra, and fruit. This is, really, pretty damned healthy eating.

My point here is that it's not about the raw ingredients, but about the cooking methods. Collards are delicious (and I have to say, just for my own edification, that in terms of this discussion this term seems to represent a food that is somehow inherently evil. For God's sake, they are just greens-kale, cabbage, lettuce, turnip, mustard, whatever-collards are just green leafy vegetable matter. They're good and good for you. If you think that the only way that people eat these things is with a pound of ham and swimming in fat you are just plain wrong and it's a stupid argument. So stop it), easy to get most of the year, easy to grow, and cheap. You can't beat them. We eat either collards or mustard greens at least twice a week most of the year round. Rarely, if ever, do I cook them in fat (though I sautee them sometimes in butter and garlic-but even then, not so much).

We eat lots of pork, lots of chicken, and lots of fish-rarely fried-though I love it and would do it more often, likely, if it wasn't so much trouble. I am good at frying and enjoy doing it, and given the rest of my diet, don't feel like I am putting a gun to my head when I do it.

What I am saying is that this conversation, and many that I am involved in, is so full of stereotypes that it's hard to take it seriously. Fried twinkies? Fried snickers? What the hell? I have never seen this. Ever. And it's certainly not any mainstay of the Southern diet(though I will say that Jack Leonardi's invention, the deep fried roast beef poboy, is, really, a sublimely delicious invention and is probably-no, wait, it is-evil. But I still eat one every once in a while).

Peas, butterbeans, greens, okra, tomatoes, etc, etc, etc, are not bad things and we should be doing EVERYTHING THAT WE CAN to encourage school systems, parents, and whoever else is feeding our kids to serve these things. They are part of our culture and native to where we live. THese foods are not expensive, can be had virutally year round in many parts of the South, and are exactly the kind of thing that we should be promoting as eating choices. Have you looked at what your kids eat at school? Do you have any regional specialties on your menus? We used to. Red beans on Monday, Fish on Friday, etc. Today? Naaahh. We have, regardless of the school (my children go to a school that, in my opinion, should be able to serve anything that they want given the cost of the place-but they still serve the same old crap: chicken fingers, tacos, pizza, burgers, etc), developed a system where, mostly, lunch ladies who can cook and care about what they do are a thing of the past. They are just opening up boxes of highly fatty food service glop and plopping onto a tray. I can tell you that in 1969 Monroe, LA (it's a Southern as it gets, trust me) the lunches at Lexington Elementary School were seriously good. They were actually using local produce and putting it together in a way that was so good that parents actually came to school JUST to eat with the kids. All of the things mentioned above were served regularly-greens, corn bread, awesomely good yeast rolls, pork, tons of veg, etc. Why has this changed? Budget probably. But also I think that it's because the schools are cooking for so many more kids today and their kitchens are set up for reheating, not cooking. It just costs too much money to put in a real kitchen anymore. The result is that many children never see Southern food done well, they just see what happens to be, in my opinion, a charicature of the real thing-what most of us grew up eating and in many cases, still eat.

So, do I think that kids need to be weaned off of this stuff? Hell no. I think that they should be introduced to it in a healthy way and shown just how good it is and also, maybe more importantly, that they should be shown how local ingredients, their ingredients, can be eaten everyday and that eating locally and supporting the local economy is a damn good thing for them to do for the rest of their low cholesterol consuming lives.

That school principle should be shot. He has gotten a rediculous amount of press off of something that is, to me anyway, so wrongheaded and misguided that it doesn't deserve to see the light of day. What the guy should be saying is that his kids should be eating better and that he is going to take a serious look at what he is serving in his lunchroom and how it should be cooked. That's what the guy should be saying and in reality, that's what the press should be saying, as well. Too much time is being spent on a red herring when the real issue should be feeding our children well and educating them about local foods, the history of these foods, and why it's important to cook them well, in a healthy manner, and to eat them.

So that's what I think. Carry on.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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the real issue should be feeding our children well and educating them about local foods, the history of these foods, and why it's important to cook them well, in a healthy manner, and to eat them.

Thank you for reiterating this idea, Mayhaw Man ... it emphasizes the most important issues and faces the reality of what the article tends to dismiss... it is all about focusing ...

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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This touches on what my next project is gonna be, a Edible Schoolyard type project. Schools are the perfect opportunity to teach and enforce nutrition, health and cultural history in one big shebang, Lunch. Get the for- profit food sevice companies out of there, hire local folks(who probably will have kids in the schools), scource out to local farmers,if applicable have the school create its own garden (ties in with science ) and prepare fresh nutritious meals, maybe the only one the child recieves each day in some casses, and youv'e hopefully influenced them for the better.

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^^^ I think it's terrific what you're planning TimH....also hats off to you too Mayhaw Man for such an intelligent post. I wish so many more people had the same basic common sense as both of you. :smile:

I have no stake in this..... I live in Canada. When I was a kid you either packed your own lunch or you starved, and my nephew now goes to the same school district as I did and no free lunches for him either. Schools providing lunches for kids is such a foreign concept to me, and it's such an odd thing to read about all of your experiences here. Whether that food be paid for by government grants or through your own municipal taxes; I don't know. The bottom line is that any organisation's bottom line is always the almighty dollar, and that will, inevitably, always translate into providing the cheapest foods possible. Starch fillers and fake cheese powder and cheap quick fixes like fries will always be cheaper than vegetables, fruits and dairy. I can't see this type of system ever being effective in promoting nutritious eating habits or, for that matter, even providing a balanced meal ever at all, considering the fact that eating healthy does cost considerably more than eating poorly.

I have been reading eG for a few years now but only joined half a year ago.... and one prevelant thing I did notice time and again reading is that there seems to be this unnerving, true FEAR of food as a general culture in the US. I'm not talking about all of you on here, but as a general concensus. I don't buy US magazines, for example, but lately I've been looking at the leading lines and they are ALL about dieting and changing into a better person because you're not good enough the way you are, blah, blah, blah. It's not like that here. A little bit about image, yes, but we're not constantly inundated with "dieting" and "food is scary" and all that crap at every turn. Food is what we need as fuel 3 times a day every day just to keep living. It's not the enemy! At what point in US culture was that important point lost? Or was it lost at all, or am I completely misinterpreting or overexaggerating? But then again.... this original thread was about banning collards.... collards are vegetables! Vegetables will NEVER be BAD FOR YOU!! Do the rest of you feel as uneasy about this as I do, or do you just equate it with the likes of 1960's book-burning, in the sense it's just a handful of crackpots and that it'll also too just one day go away?

I'm curious..... school lunches. Are these for all kids or just elementary? Do secondary school kids get lunches too or do they have the option to buy or bring their own? Do parents actually pay for it or is this just a provided service? And how common is this in the US, anyways? The norm? Or just a few districts? Just wondering........

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Everyone in the US has an option to bring their own food. They are also supposed to have a nutritionally sound meal available to them at school (elementary, middle school, and high school), recently expanded to include breakfast as well as lunch, at little or no cost depending upon the family's financial position in all public schools. This program was conceived and designed in the beginning to both feed those that are underpriveledged, and support the farmer. Things change.

I brought my own. My kids usually brought their own, but two parents working at the time, it didn't always happen.

I think much of this comes down to personal choice. People can do whatever they want, put whatever they want in their bodies, and feed the kids whatever within reason.

Yep, the great collard war. There is no way collards are bad for you. You can do bad things to collards, and I can stand as witness to that, but they are fundamentally cheap, plentiful, and nutritionally dense. At least certainly in the rural south, where this story takes place. Big collard fan here. I have seen them get people through hard times, and they have gotten me through a hard time or two.

I still don't understand the cornbread is bad for you thing.

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School breakfasts aren't a new thing in these parts. I remember them at least as far back as when I was in high school, so we're talking some 28 years at least.

I love collard greens. and yes, that principal is silly for saying he'd like to tell students never to eat them.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I'm curious..... school lunches. Are these for all kids or just elementary? Do secondary school kids get lunches too or do they have the option to buy or bring their own? Do parents actually pay for it or is this just a provided service? And how common is this in the US, anyways? The norm? Or just a few districts? Just wondering........

In the district we're in now, we pay for the school lunches. My sons are in high school now and say the choices are okay -- but that the most godawful, tasteless, ugliest and nightmarish week of their lives was "Healthy Food Week!" when they were in middle school.

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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This touches on what my next project is gonna be, a Edible Schoolyard type project.  Schools are the perfect opportunity to teach and enforce nutrition, health and cultural history in one big shebang, Lunch. Get the for- profit food sevice companies out of there, hire local folks(who probably will have kids in the schools), scource out to local farmers,if applicable have the school create its own garden (ties in with science ) and prepare fresh nutritious meals, maybe the only one the child recieves each day in some casses, and youv'e hopefully influenced them for the better.

Yeah, what he said. I'd add a real nutrition and general-health slant to the curriculum. And for heaven's sake, more exercise, and less PTA-control! I do think that if the typical parent organizations were left OUT of things, or somehow circumvented (i.e., not allowed a majority vote or control), more might get done. Someone needs to be single-minded about this stuff and not worry about who was on what committee last year, and whether they deserve to get their name in the paper.

In the fabulous district lunch program overhaul here in our little burg, NO ONE thought that perhaps Stone Barns Center would be a good place to get kids involved. And the committee/"special coalition" that was put together ... yeesh.

timh, you've got your work cut out for you and I wish I could help you.

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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I'm curious..... school lunches. Are these for all kids or just elementary? Do secondary school kids get lunches too or do they have the option to buy or bring their own? Do parents actually pay for it or is this just a provided service? And how common is this in the US, anyways? The norm? Or just a few districts? Just wondering........

School lunches are universal at all U.S. public schools.

As far as cost, they tend to be a bureaucratic boondoggle. Low income students receive free lunches, but the administrative costs of determining who qualifies would often pay cover free lunches for every student.

My mother was an elementary school counselor who spent many hours administering the free lunch program when she would have prefer to be working with kids.

The percentage of students on the free lunch program is used as a proxy for a school's income level. I'd often hear administrators talk about how strong a school was academically, despite a high percentage of free lunch students (i.e lower income students excelled at that school).

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Expanding a bit on Todd's observations: The bureaucracy involved in the US school lunch (and breakfast) programs doesn't end with the administration of free or reduced-price meals. My mother worked (briefly) as a school lunch supervisor in a Georgia public school system about a decade ago. Her meal planning strategies were utterly hamstrung by ridiculous rules, and her resources included a vast amount of abysmal USDA commodities, which included quantities of processed foods (cheeses, peanut butter, canned vegetables and fruits, etc.) that she was required to use in her meal planning. Net result? High fat, high salt, icky meals that Mom was ashamed to serve.

Long-gone are the days when local school systems were allowed to oversee their own nutrition programs -- at least in my state. (Other states may be different, but I doubt it. I assume that many of us who are discussing this issue are old enough to remember the Reagan administration "catsup is a vegetable" brouhaha. I was a grade-schooler at the time, but I vividly recall my mother's outrage then! That episode leads me to believe, though, that the federal government - via funding and providing commodities - has held a large amount of sway over school lunch programs for at least a quarter-century.) IIRC, there were some improvements in nutrition programs in Georgia through the eighties -- choices were expanded to include salad bars and a few more fresh/unprocessed foods, we were offered the choice of reduced-fat milk, instead of only whole or 2% chocolate, and so forth. However, until a sea change takes place, and meals are planned around really healthy ingredients, the nation's school nutrition programs will remain a method of getting calories into kids instead of getting good meals into kids. (My humble opinion, your mileage may vary, and all that.)

Edited by R.E. Turner (log)

"Enchant, stay beautiful and graceful, but do this, eat well. Bring the same consideration to the preparation of your food as you devote to your appearance. Let your dinner be a poem, like your dress."

Charles Pierre Monselet, Letters to Emily

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This has been a frustrating read. Thankyou Mayhaw Man! People have such weird ideas about the south. The chitlin thing always makes me laugh. How many people eat them? And the few who do, how often? When I was young , if a kids mom was making them he'd spend the whole day outside. Heck, we wouldn't even play on his block. I guarantee none of those kids are eating them now. Black or white. And what about fruit, the south is all about fruit . Jeez.

Tony

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This has been a frustrating read. Thankyou Mayhaw Man! People have such weird ideas about the south. The chitlin thing always makes me laugh.  How many people eat them? And the few who do, how often? When I was young , if a kids mom was making them he'd spend the whole day outside. Heck, we wouldn't even play on his block. I guarantee none of those kids are eating them now. Black or white.

You mean to tell me after all these years that I don't lose Black Authenticity Points for hating chitlins?

While I'm at it:

Just had a deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelicious "soul food" lunch on Friday at a little hole in the wall (literally! There's only room inside for six people to dine, and most of the business is conducted at the sidewalk take-out window) in downtown Chester, Pa., called Cheryl's Southern Style.

The owner is the personification of charm, friendliness, optimism and energy, and she's a fine chef to boot.

Had I told anyone I was going there beforehand, I would probably have brought the wrath of the Fat Police down on me for my choices: Pork chops smothered in gravy and hot sauce, collard greens and macaroni and cheese.

The mac and cheese was creamy and smooth; I'm guessing she doesn't bake hers, as the cheese sauce uniformly covered everything.

The collards were nice and sweet, cooked with bacon rather than hamhocks--but I believe even bacon would be a Nutritional Violation according to the Guardians of Virtue cited upthread.

And then there are those pork chops! Thin and juicy chops (something I don't encounter too often) smothered in rich brown gravy made better by the tang of the hot sauce.

Now all I have to do is try to remember what I did with the two tickets she gave me (collect ten and the next meal is on Cheryl; she usually gives out one with each meal but gave me an extra as a first-time customer. It won't be my last time, either--the food is so good it's worth trekking through Chester's beat-up downtown to go there).

All her signage bears a reference to Psalms 34:8. It is actually a very appropriate verse for this establishment.

If you're ever in the area, it's at 513 Welsh Street, right across the street from the Chester train station on SEPTA's R2 Regional Rail line. Tell Cheryl that new guy from Widener University sent you.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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This has been a frustrating read. Thankyou Mayhaw Man! People have such weird ideas about the south. The chitlin thing always makes me laugh.  How many people eat them? And the few who do, how often? When I was young , if a kids mom was making them he'd spend the whole day outside. Heck, we wouldn't even play on his block. I guarantee none of those kids are eating them now. Black or white.  And what about fruit, the south is all about fruit . Jeez.

Tony

Pears, peaches, figs, plums, peaches, muscadines, watermelon, cantelope, blueberries, strawberries. Blackberries that grow wild on the fence row. Mom even went out into the woods and dug up two young mayhaw trees, took them home, and cultivated them in a low place in her yard so she wouldn't have to forage for them at jelly time.

I ate a lot more blackberry cobbler than I did chitlins, I can guarantee you that. I can only remember eating chitlins maybe three times, and that was because I was around when I was very young when they were slaughtering hogs, and my grandparents generation wasted nothing. Although grandaddy used natural casings for his sausage, and I never turned one of those down, it's a little different. That would have been in the late 60s, maybe as late as the early 70s. I still bake and eat blackberry cobbler two or three times a year.

Nope, now that they can and freeze during the growing season, southern families should have no problem eating that 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. I've had 5 to 9 servings at one meal a couple of times a week, now that I think about it. If we had peas or butterbeans, we always had okra. If there was a ripe tomato in the county, mom found it and sliced it and put it on the table in addition to the meal. Green onions or radishes on the side when they were in season, corn relish or pickles when they weren't. Mom didn't consider corn a vegetable. She categorized it as a starch and prepared other vegetables to go with it. Then, what ever was in the process of being frozen or canned got thrown on the table as well. At the end of the week, all the leftovers got tossed into a pot with some stewed tomatoes, a little salt pork and we had vegetable soup and cornbread. It was a very frugal, very healthy way to eat.

OK, now I'm hungry!

ETA: No problem, that is, if they aren't busted by the fat police, and convinced that southern food is bad for them by people who do not know or understand the culture.

Edited by annecros (log)
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Annecros - I agree with your assessment 100%, even if you have forgotten hush puppies and eggs cooked in 3 inches of bacon fat!

Now, who in their right mind would want a lifetime of so-called 'healthy' foods when a fatty flavor extravaganza will only cost one a few years? Personally, I opt for enjoying each and every day - including the food I eat. If I leave this world at the age of 80 instead of 85 I know I'll do so with chicken fat smeared over the smile on my face. My vision of heaven has always included a big never-empty vat of chopped liver.

No one can be exactly like me. Even I have trouble doing it. - T. Bankhead
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Hi bjones9942,

Yeah, we have a saying in our family. If we have nothing else, we eat good!

These were subsistance farmers, and running to the grocery store for a jug of vegetable shortening was just not an option. You made do with what you could produce yourself, until the cash crop came in and you could afford flour and rice, but you had to buy seed and feed as well.

The reason there was so much butter and cream in the diet was because you had a milk cow that you HAD to milk every day to keep producing. Even my father's dirt poor sharecropper family had a cow and a mule, some chickens and some pigs. You had to preserve your meat because you typically only butchered in the fall when the weather cooled off. Sure, if you had too many roosters, and you almost always did, you would butcher and fry them if the preacher was coming to visit or there was a community gathering planned. If you had a hen that was too old to lay anymore, you had some chicken and dumplings. That, wild game and preserved pork was pretty much it for meat in the diet. Every once in a while a cow got butchered, but you had to be pretty wealthy and have a lot of land to raise beef cows.

I contend that the high mortality rate in that population in the 1800s and early 1900s had more to do with lack of medical care than diet. Both of my parents were born at home, delivered by their grandmothers. Daddy had scarlet fever and malaria as a child. Sulfur was the only antibiotic available, and it was administered at home by your mother or granmother.

I contend that there is a direct correlation in those areas of the south that you find obesity increasing in since the 1970s, and the urbanization of the southern diet. Fast food and soft drinks.

The exceptional people of the rural south really pulled off minor miracles on a daily basis. Imagine cooking on a wood stove in August in South Georgia? And doing it well.

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I think the problem with obesity in the south has more to do with people moving away from the cuisine and into the fast food, soft drink, chip culture.

I'd have to second that one. Along with sedentary lifestyles, fast food culture is a major culprit. But I still consider lack of physical activity the biggest proglem. I think of Greece, where I first went in 1975, and rarely saw fat youngsters. Certainly Greece has its share of sweet foods, and they use olive oil like it's going out of style; fried foods are fairly common as well. But they didn't drink entire liters of Coke when they ate, and servings weren't gargantuan. A gyros was something small enough that you had to get two to fill up. Fast forward to 2000, a new fast-food place opening every week it seems, loads of prepared sweetened foods on the market, the dab of yogurt on a gyros is replaced by globs of mayonnaise-based sauces, and kids are all addicted to Nintendo and Game-boy. Greece now has the highest rate of childhood obesity in all of Europe.

Every time I go back to the US it seems there is a different food that has been declared evil. First it was sweets. Later it was fats and packages of things like maple syrup of all things, had big letters blaring "A FAT-FREE FOOD!" Last time back, it was carbs, and everyone was looking for "Atkins Safe" foods. But what sense does it make to eat all that stuff when you get into the car to go four blocks to the grocery store?

Another thing is the way our cities are being built. I live in an older section of Istanbul. I can do all my grocery shopping on foot - there are small groceries, bakeries, butchers, cheese shops, fruit-vegetable vendors all within a few minutes walk from my house, not to mention the weekly markets with loads of quality produce at good prices. There is a reason to walk. Unfortunately, American cities are also being built more and more to accomodate cars rather than people; and even if you don't want to drive, it seems in many neighborhoods there is no convenient place to walk to; there is no choice but to drive or take a bus; neither are exercise.

In light of this, finding yet another "culprit" food seems a bit absurd.

"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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All I know is that it is almost impossible now to get collard greens with ham hock instead of smoked turkey in a restaurant in NYC, and I am pissed as shit about that.

That would torque me pretty good as well. I've been there several times, however I wasn't looking for collards at the time.

:biggrin:

So, you can walk a couple of city blocks, buy enough straight up liquor to fry your liver out, eat a calzone, a conoli, a corned beef sandwich stacked high enough you can't get your mouth around it and enough salt in it to float an egg, and then that slice of quiche 3 inches tall just to top it off.

But god forbid somebody drop a hock into a pot full of green, leafy vegetables?

Somebody is not doing the math.

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I think the problem with obesity in the south has more to do with people moving away from the cuisine and into the fast food, soft drink, chip culture.

I'd have to second that one. Along with sedentary lifestyles, fast food culture is a major culprit. But I still consider lack of physical activity the biggest proglem. I think of Greece, where I first went in 1975, and rarely saw fat youngsters. Certainly Greece has its share of sweet foods, and they use olive oil like it's going out of style; fried foods are fairly common as well. But they didn't drink entire liters of Coke when they ate, and servings weren't gargantuan. A gyros was something small enough that you had to get two to fill up. Fast forward to 2000, a new fast-food place opening every week it seems, loads of prepared sweetened foods on the market, the dab of yogurt on a gyros is replaced by globs of mayonnaise-based sauces, and kids are all addicted to Nintendo and Game-boy. Greece now has the highest rate of childhood obesity in all of Europe.

Every time I go back to the US it seems there is a different food that has been declared evil. First it was sweets. Later it was fats and packages of things like maple syrup of all things, had big letters blaring "A FAT-FREE FOOD!" Last time back, it was carbs, and everyone was looking for "Atkins Safe" foods. But what sense does it make to eat all that stuff when you get into the car to go four blocks to the grocery store?

Another thing is the way our cities are being built. I live in an older section of Istanbul. I can do all my grocery shopping on foot - there are small groceries, bakeries, butchers, cheese shops, fruit-vegetable vendors all within a few minutes walk from my house, not to mention the weekly markets with loads of quality produce at good prices. There is a reason to walk. Unfortunately, American cities are also being built more and more to accomodate cars rather than people; and even if you don't want to drive, it seems in many neighborhoods there is no convenient place to walk to; there is no choice but to drive or take a bus; neither are exercise.

In light of this, finding yet another "culprit" food seems a bit absurd.

Honestly, the majority of cities I have experienced in the US have not been conducive to foot traffic at all, and that has been forever. I think it has to do with all the real estate in the states.

NYC is an obvious exception. I could probably get around in downtown Ft. Worth, TX without a car, if I could afford to live there. Key West is another city that comes to mind that you can walk and get what you need. I really can't afford to live there. I break myself on visits.

Other than that, it is unfortunately a fact of life that to get around you need a car in the US.

Yeah, it is kind of silly to blame this or that food. I guess it is just easier on the sensibilities to blame something outside oneself.

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Honestly, the majority of cities I have experienced in the US have not been conducive to foot traffic at all, and that has been forever.[...]

It has not been forever. It wasn't until the 1950s postwar boom that car ownership became really common in the US. Before that, people shopped in city and town centers, not shopping malls, and walked a lot. In the 1939 World's Fair, my parents remember seeing models of empty highways to Long Island in the "World of Tomorrow" tent (or some such). They were counting on all those empty roads providing efficient transportation. What they didn't figure on was that if you build a highway, people will move to locations along its length and turn it into a long parking lot. :laugh::raz:

By the way, New York is by no means the only large US city that's conducive to walking. The problem, for the most part, isn't that people who live in the centers of big cities need cars to go shopping; many of them don't. The problem is the number of people who live in suburbs and suburban-sprawl cities, where the built-up center(s) is (are) mostly for business and not residential (you know, LA and several cities I haven't visited, like Houston, Dallas, Phoenix -- correct me if I'm operating under a misimpression), and generally need to drive to the mall every time they go shopping.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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