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America's Food Neurosis


Busboy
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Yep, it's true. We Americans sit at the crossroads of irresponsible consumption and Puritan guilt and we're not to be trusted around dinner any more. "According to a new Pew Research Center survey, only 39 percent of Americans say they greatly enjoy eating -- a drop from the 48 percent who felt that way in a Gallup survey in 1989...." when, as we all know, cilantro had hardly been discovered and foams were not widely available.

To me, it puts the nation in the neurotic category, rendering every food jusdgement by our popular culture inherently suspect. This is like reading about a nation where only 39% of the people "greatly enjoy" sex.

"Want to get lucky?"

"Sounds great, but there's a Frasier rerun on I want to see. "

"How about dinner? My treat."

I told you, I'm watching Frasier!"

Article here.

Interesting, the core eGullet demograhic --those who eat out once a week, and enjoy both cooking and eating "a great deal" is only 13% of the poulation.

Pew release here.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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In a similar vein, ScienceFriday had an episode on 14 April 2006 about Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma".

Podcast here.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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What percentage "greatly enjoy" polls?

SB (doesn't) :wink:

But polls aren't supposed to be "greatly enjoyable"...though I do have friends who do love to crawl into the cross-tabs on a slow afternoon. :laugh:

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Wasn't there another survey in the media recently, indicating that Americans now seem to be transferring their neurosis from sex, onto food? It claimed that women tended to less guilty about cheating on someone, than eating a "sinful" desert.

Methinks there's an interesting parallel between these two fields, because Americans tends to have a rather Victorian attitude towards sex -- ie., upholding a puritan stance, while privately being quite obsessed by it. Same thing goes for food: insisting they don't enjoy it, while secretly consuming larger quanteties of cheap junk, instead of openly enjoying good stuff...

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What percentage "greatly enjoy" polls?

SB (doesn't) :wink:

But polls aren't supposed to be "greatly enjoyable"...though I do have friends who do love to crawl into the cross-tabs on a slow afternoon. :laugh:

We need for food for sustenance and sex for procreation. We share these needs with all other forms of life, including plants and bacteria. Where did the idea originate that either could or should be "greatly enjoyable"?

SB (not that I mind) :wink:

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What percentage "greatly enjoy" polls?

SB (doesn't) :wink:

But polls aren't supposed to be "greatly enjoyable"...though I do have friends who do love to crawl into the cross-tabs on a slow afternoon. :laugh:

We need for food for sustenance and sex for procreation. We share these needs with all other forms of life, including plants and bacteria. Where did the idea originate that either could or should be "greatly enjoyable"?

SB (not that I mind) :wink:

If these things were not meant to be delightful, why did we evolve (or why were we endowed by our creator) with the capacity -- indeed, the deep urge -- to enjoy them so, well, greatly? Not being able to do so strikes me as an indication that one's life is out of balance, a kind of culinary Koyaanisqatsi, if you will.

Moreover, the reason enjoyment seems to be declining is not because of a philosophical reorientation towards the stoic and ascetic -- not my style, but laudable, nonetheless -- but a psychological binge-purge cycle based on unwholesome food and unresolved guilt.

It's a sign of emotional decay, an inability to prioritize and and lack of intellectual discipline -- another sign of the apocalypse, another indication of Western Civilization's decline, another brick in the wall.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Guilt? I'm not sure I buy that. I've rarely felt a deep-seated guilt for eating a Whopper. Now, eating someone else's Whopper is a different story, but never one I purchased for myself.

I think it's more deeply involved with a self-image ennui than simple guilt.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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Guilt?  I'm not sure I buy that.  I've rarely felt a deep-seated guilt for eating a Whopper.  Now, eating someone else's Whopper is a different story, but never one I purchased for myself.

I think it's more deeply involved with a self-image ennui than simple guilt.

Fine line between body image ennui and guilt, no? Besides, I'm betting that you're in the shrinking minority who still "greatly enjoy" eating, whether it's a Whopper or something more traditionally "wholesome" and gourmet.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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If these things were not meant to be delightful, why did we evolve (or why were we endowed by our creator) with the capacity -- indeed, the deep urge -- to enjoy them so, well, greatly?  Not being able to do so strikes me as an indication that one's life is out of balance, a kind of culinary Koyaanisqatsi, if you will. 

Perhaps the prospect of enjoyment was either the intent or consequence of the need for stimulus? The carrot on the stick, to employ an edible metaphor and stay on-topic?

{I had to look up "Koyaanisqatsi". I must have missed it the first time around. I'll admit the "u"-less "q" gives the title itself some degree of exclusivity, but I found it somewhat ironic that copyright issues kept the film itself out of print for ten years}

Moreover, the reason enjoyment seems to be declining is not because of a philosophical reorientation towards the stoic and ascetic -- not my style, but laudable, nonetheless -- but a psychological binge-purge cycle based on unwholesome food and unresolved guilt.

Is enjoyment really declining, or just changing? While neither stoic/ascetic nor binge/purge are to my tastes either, I can accept that others might enjoy them, just as some might enjoy watching "Koyaanisqatsi", or Rachael Ray.

It's a sign of emotional decay, an inability to prioritize and and lack of intellectual discipline -- another sign of the apocalypse, another indication of Western Civilization's decline, another brick in the wall.

Oh dear! :huh:

SB (please don't tell Rachael Ray) :wink:

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How many folks hear have no problem saying

" I had the best food last night --- totally satisfying ect. ect" ... not caring if it was healthy , or "appropriate" ... just caring that it was damn good and enjoyable.

Same goes for sex-

how many folks admit to " wow- I had the best sex last night"...

At the end of the day I bet there are a lot of people that won't fess up but behind the doors they are enjoying their food and enjoying sex too.

Food is ok. sex is ok. It's ok to say you like 'em.

You won't go to hell for liking food or sex. ... even if it's bad for you or with your best friends wife.

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Hi. I like sex, and I like food. I am unafraid to say "I had the most satisfying sex/food last night."

Could someone tell me what the question "How often do you eat more junk food than you should?" really means?

I'm not really impressed by the design of the questions of that survey, and I think they lead people to lie about their self image and their food consumption habits.

It's similar to the study of women that found that on a 1500 Calorie diet, they maintained 180 pound bodies. It doesn't pass the sniff test. Thermodynamically impossible to maintain.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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What percentage "greatly enjoy" polls?

SB (doesn't) :wink:

But polls aren't supposed to be "greatly enjoyable"...though I do have friends who do love to crawl into the cross-tabs on a slow afternoon. :laugh:

We need for food for sustenance and sex for procreation. We share these needs with all other forms of life, including plants and bacteria. Where did the idea originate that either could or should be "greatly enjoyable"?

SB (not that I mind) :wink:

If these things were not meant to be delightful, why did we evolve (or why were we endowed by our creator) with the capacity -- indeed, the deep urge -- to enjoy them so, well, greatly? Not being able to do so strikes me as an indication that one's life is out of balance, a kind of culinary Koyaanisqatsi, if you will.

Moreover, the reason enjoyment seems to be declining is not because of a philosophical reorientation towards the stoic and ascetic -- not my style, but laudable, nonetheless -- but a psychological binge-purge cycle based on unwholesome food and unresolved guilt.

It's a sign of emotional decay, an inability to prioritize and and lack of intellectual discipline -- another sign of the apocalypse, another indication of Western Civilization's decline, another brick in the wall.

OMG. You mean the world is coming to an end right now because people don't want to screw and eat? I would remind you that there is nothing new under the sun. Its been done before, so chin up, don't slit your wrists, and yes, life is worth living as long as you can screw and eat.

I think too much is made of this. I must not allow myself to be distracted.

ETA: I can see why you are still bussing tables, grasshopper. Now try to catch this stone while I get dinner ready for my husband.

Edited by annecros (log)
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How many folks hear have no problem saying

" I had the best food last night --- totally satisfying ect. ect" ... not caring if it was healthy , or "appropriate" ... just caring that it was damn good and enjoyable.

Same goes for sex-

how many folks admit to " wow- I had the best sex last night"...

At the end of the day I bet there are a lot of people that won't fess up but behind the doors they are enjoying their food and enjoying sex too.

Food is ok. sex is ok. It's ok to say you like 'em.

You won't go to hell for liking food or sex. ... even if it's bad for you or with your best friends wife.

Me. In fact I have two rib steaks mariniating, hubby took a Cealice this AM (it isn't called the "weekender" for nothing) and I am proud and happy to report that I eat and have sex, and both are not just "good" or "satisfying" or whatever, they are what makes me get up in the AM and makeup probably at least 8 of the top ten wonderful things that have happened to me. I did give birth to two children.

There would be something wrong with me if I didn't feel that way.

The survey is incredibly slanted, in that it puts a negative connotation upon the question asked.

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This thread reminded me of something I heard recently, I think about the new food pyramid and eating recommendations. Instead of saying "Enjoy a wide variety of foods', it's now recommended that you 'Have a wide variety of foods', because 'enjoy' was thought to be too hedonistic! How's that for a food neurosis!

"Fat is money." (Per a cracklings maker shown on Dirty Jobs.)
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Can't we all give nihilism a chance?

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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Can't we all give nihilism a chance?

Sorry. Existential philosophies are good for a giggle, but please. Hedonism makes the world go around.

ETA: And I know for a fact that you are fond of a little fat in your food, and a certain lady named Becky rings your bells.

Edited by annecros (log)
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Eating does seem to become an increasingly guilty pleasure in our culture. More and more kids are being put on diets, more people are starving themselves to look like the trash that passes for celebrities these days. 10 years ago, anorexia was mostly a problem among young white females - now, the rate of anorexia among African-American females has doubled, and it is also increasing significantly with males. I see it all the time in the gay community - our obsession with body image can get to be ridiculous.

I was raised in a home that was ridiculously puritanical about sex. My parents backed Pat Robertson in 1988 and I had to sneak around to watch those sinful TV shows, the Golden Girls and Designing Women - they boycotted advertisers on those shows. Not to mention what I fantasized about in the bedroom, which was the ultimate sin! The guilt was so deep-down that it took me forever to get over it -- as a matter of fact, I still feel what some of my friends and I call the "Southern Baptist guilt" about a lot of things. It has been incredibly hard to get over that kind of guilt.

Increasingly I think this same kind of guilt is being transferred, not so much by family, but by our society, to food. People sneaking in snacks, worried that someone might be looking. Of course, they are enjoying it at the time, but then beating themselves up with guilt afterwards. I guess Americans gotta feel guilty about something! :rolleyes: Although our eating habits definitely aren't good, internalizing that kind of guilt is what leads to bigger problems down the road. I think removing the guilt attached to our eating habits, and being open and honest, is a good first step towards changing them.

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Eating does seem to become an increasingly guilty pleasure in our culture.  More and more kids are being put on diets, more people are starving themselves to look like the trash that passes for celebrities these days.  10 years ago, anorexia was mostly a problem among young white females - now, the rate of anorexia among African-American females has doubled, and it is also increasing significantly with males.  I see it all the time in the gay community - our obsession with body image can get to be ridiculous. 

I was raised in a home that was ridiculously puritanical about sex.  My parents backed Pat Robertson in 1988 and I had to sneak around to watch those sinful TV shows, the Golden Girls and Designing Women - they boycotted advertisers on those shows.  Not to mention what I fantasized about in the bedroom, which was the ultimate sin!  The guilt was so deep-down that it took me forever to get over it -- as a matter of fact, I still feel what some of my friends and I call the "Southern Baptist guilt" about a lot of things.  It has been incredibly hard to get over that kind of guilt.

Increasingly I think this same kind of guilt is being transferred, not so much by family, but by our society, to food.  People sneaking in snacks, worried that someone might be looking.  Of course, they are enjoying it at the time, but then beating themselves up with guilt afterwards.  I guess Americans gotta feel guilty about something!  :rolleyes:  Although our eating habits definitely aren't good, internalizing that kind of guilt is what leads to bigger problems down the road.  I think removing the guilt attached to our eating habits, and being open and honest, is a good first step towards changing them.

The medical profession has added to this. Although you cannot blame them. Patients lie to them about eating habits just like the respondants to this survey did.

My stepdaughter is a nurse practitioner. Whenever they ask the cigarette or alcohol question, they automatically double the response in the clinical notes.

I know all about the Southern Baptist Guilt, honey. But any woman who is a good church going member and still managed to give birth to seven children (my mother) probably had sex from time to time.

:biggrin:

She actually recently told me that "I can't say I didn't enjoy it."

Funny.

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It's so funny...I was just talking to my Australian colleague about this. I ordered a bagel with peanut butter for breakfast yesterday, and they put, like, half a jar of peanut butter on the thing. I had to scrape most of it off before I could even begin to eat it.

He made some comment along the lines of "America, it's always bigger is better..." And I replied that it's not always the case, and started talking about the puritanical values that are at the core of American society (especially prevalent in the WASPy world I grew up in, where frugality clashed with the desire to golf every weekend) and how they fuel the fire - by making us feel guilty about our desires, those values feed a fire of guilt that just drives the behavior underground.

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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"Southern Baptist Guilt" -- :laugh::laugh::laugh: First time I visited my husband's family, I was amazed at how elaborate the table settings, how his mother plated everything on lettuce leaves, how much time they spent ironing linens (again) and running around to get it all ready at a certain time, and then prayed over it for what seemed like 15 minutes ... but no one, NO ONE, ate much. They discussed it a lot, and talked about it, and cut it into tiny bites so their mouths didn't open far, and pushed it around their plate. People who do eat are considered "gluttonous" and "low class" and -- the ultimate jab -- "Yankee" by them! :laugh:

My family ... whew, that's a different story and equally weird. Out of this, I've managed to make my sons un-loony about food.

I personally would only feel guilty about eating, if I was tucking into a third helping of foie gras or steak or nice roasted chicken, with a tableful of starving kids sitting right there. Starving adults can fend for themselves. :smile:

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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In a move to spite the spirit that started the Pew research behind this thread, for lunch I did one whole line

Of lasagne from a 9x13 pan.

Oy, I think I shall bust...

Lasagne.... :wub:

Now, to set up a tryst with Becky...

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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"Southern Baptist Guilt" --  :laugh:  :laugh:  :laugh:   First time I visited my husband's family, I was amazed at how elaborate the table settings, how his mother plated everything on lettuce leaves, how much time they spent ironing linens (again) and running around to get it all ready at a certain time, and then prayed over it for what seemed like 15 minutes ... but no one, NO ONE, ate much.  They discussed it a lot, and talked about it, and cut it into tiny bites so their mouths didn't open far, and pushed it around their plate.  People who do eat are considered "gluttonous" and "low class" and -- the ultimate jab -- "Yankee" by them!   :laugh:

My family ... whew, that's a different story and equally weird.  Out of this, I've managed to make my sons un-loony about food.  

I personally would only feel guilty about eating, if I was tucking into a third helping of foie gras or steak or nice roasted chicken, with a tableful of starving kids sitting right there.  Starving adults can fend for themselves. :smile:

That's a great story, FFB! As a fellow Yankee, I'm proud to be gluttonous...though my very Yankee grandparents have always frowned on gluttony. Hmmmm... :wink:

As to your second point about foie gras/starving children induced guilt: I agree.

However, I do think it's reasonable for someone whose health is in jeopardy to feel a little guilty about not taking good care of themselves, food-wise. Sort of like my mom, who always felt guilty about smoking (Until she quit - good work, Mom!) because it might have meant that she would be around and with us for a shorter period of time. But that's a guilt that has a genuine cause, rather than one that's manufactured just to make you feel bad about yourself or keep you "in line."

But it doesn't follow, by any means, that folks who need to watch what they eat (which, really, is all of us, if to varying extents) can't still enjoy their food.

Edited by Megan Blocker (log)

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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The medical profession has added to this. Although you cannot blame them. Patients lie to them about eating habits just like the respondants to this survey did.

My stepdaughter is a nurse practitioner. Whenever they ask the cigarette or alcohol question, they automatically double the response in the clinical notes.

I know all about the Southern Baptist Guilt, honey. But any woman who is a good church going member and still managed to give birth to seven children (my mother) probably had sex from time to time.

:biggrin:

She actually recently told me that "I can't say I didn't enjoy it."

Funny.

They double it? I really think they should triple it! You're totally right about the medical profession, and also I think it's the media which constantly chides us about our vices and the damage they cause us... Of course, we live in a culture where "binge drinking" is considered more than 3 drinks in one sitting. I'll admit I'm a binge drinker, several times over, and quite a few people that won't admit it are too - a lot of people worry about being "lectured" instead of facing their problems and their guilt. I'll readily admit that I can't drink, at all (not even one glass of wine or a beer - they always lead to another), without binge drinking. Not a good thing, but I do my best to avoid drinking too often, and do my best to avoid it, but try not to feel guilty about it. I believe the guilt (self-placed and from external sources) is what makes so many people take things to extremes.

Fortunately my doctor is someone I see out pretty frequently, so he knows exactly what I'm doing, and I know what he's doing, and he doesn't make me feel guilty, and I don't make him feel guilty. Nobody should have to impress anybody! If we'd all be open about our eating (and drinking, smoking, etc.) habits, and realize that nobody, even the doctor, is perfect, it would help... If people could just listen to advice realizing that many people who are giving it are only trying to help -- they aren't perfect and often need to listen to their own advice!! -- they'd get rid of these neuroses.

Bringing this back to food -- I think the puritanical streak that comes in us as Americans is the fact that we always need an ideal to live up to -- whether it is the ideal of those at the pulpet, or celebrities in Hollywood -- there's always an ideal image of perfection. If we can stop idealizing others, we can start seeing ourselves, and not feeling guilt about the fact that we aren't perfect...

You sure your mom wasn't a closet Catholic? :raz:

Edited by deibu (log)
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