I made a pie yesterday. (Yes, yesterday was a busy day in my kitchen.) Baking this pie, however, got me thinking about us Westerners and our dumbness when it comes to food. I’m guilty of some of this lame-brainery, too, but at least we’re trying to change that in our house. We’re trying, anyway.
First off, we Americans eat too much. Go to a restaurant, and – unless it is really classy joint – you will probably see some reference, somewhere, to their bountiful serving portions. There will be an “all you can eat”, “free refills”, “bottomless pot”, or “super-size” mentioned somewhere. We patrons seem to think that’s a good thing. Yikes, people. Can’t we just pass on the seconds?
Speaking of seconds, I do believe our food comes to us too easily. Maybe that’s why we eat too much- because we don’t really think about where it comes from, how we got it, or (most importantly) what’s in it. Most of us eat out more than we cook in, which reduces our mealtime mindfulness even further. And even when we do fire up the kitchen, it’s often to heat up something someone else made. (think Sandra Lee, anyone?) Scratch cooking is quite a rarity these days, more’s the pity. And so we tend to eat way too much, and all the wrong things. (I say this munching on my second donut from a local bakery. *Sigh*.)
Third, we have some absolutely bizarre notions when it comes to food. My favorite, which I’ve heard more than once since becoming a parent, is the idea that my children need to stop nursing so they can drink cow milk. Um…. can I just say, WTF? Why would the milk of a four-legged, four-stomached, ruminant animal be more suitable for them than the milk of, I don’t know, ANOTHER HUMAN? Their MOTHER?? Milk is species-specific, after all. But I’m veering off again.
Back to big-people food. For a time, there was a joke about how we Americans will go into a McRestaurant and order ten cheeseburgers and a diet soda. This is, sadly, not all that far-fetched. Americans do think this way. We eat tons of food, crap food at that- and then do drastic things like eat chemicals to spare ourselves a couple of calories. For what? Guilt? Shame? We also have this strange notion that we are somehow entitled to eat all we can stand, so if we are worried about our physique, we should eat “diet” foods to ward off the pounds. I remember a health class in college – college – where the instructor spent an entire hour discoursing about how it was healthy to drink diet sodas, eat artificially-sweetened desserts, and consume products with unpronounceable ingredients- because they wouldn’t add to your waistline. People, please! Don’t we give a thought to what the long-term effects of this caloric abuse might be on our bodies– aside from what the scale might say? Why don’t cancer, or diabetes, or a host of other degenerative diseases frighten us into eating quality instead of quantity?
This neatly brings me to my all-time favorite Food Oxymoron: the low-fat dessert. And this is precisely what I was pondering as I gently moistened the piecrust dough with a fork. My pie crust, you see, is anything but low-fat. I make it with lard. Yes, you heard me. Lard. Rendered pig fat. Sounds gross, doesn’t it? But how is that any more disgusting than partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening?? We think that pies should be made with Crisco(R) instead of butter or lard because someone, somewhere, drilled it into our heads that vegetable fats are “healthier” than animal ones. (And, just possibly, we think it’s better because of the word “vegetable”, which just smacks of health.) I will argue that veggie shortening is not natural, particularly not when it has been hydrogenated. Lard, while it might be an animal fat, is at least a natural fat. It contains stuff that your body needs, unlike that poisonous fake stuff. The trick is to just not overdo it. One slice of lard crust pie is (a) tastier and (b) far “healthier” than a slice of that toxic hydrogenated oil pie. If you’re watching your waistline, make it a small slice. Remember: PIES ARE NOT HEALTH FOODS. THEY ARE A DESSERT.
Therefore, finally, and in summation, I offer my own simple suggestion for healthy eating:
Eat Less Food. But make it Real (Good) Food.
And I will get right to it, just as soon as I finish this pastry.