Tuesday, July 3, 2012

horrible American food and dietary habits!!!

I'm in San Francisco for another visit this week.  It ain't N'Orleans, but we haven't had a bad meal yet. This is part of why i get a little annoyed with sweeping statements about how bad "American" food is, and how it's no wonder so many people are fat, seeing as how we eat fastfood all the time.

HUH?  News to me....

The Americas, in fact, have an awe-inspiring culinary heritage as a result of being the "melting pot of the world."  That statement may sound like a piece of self-important fatuousness, but like most banal truisms it has a basis in fact.  When people came here from all over the globe, they brought their food traditions -- and recipes -- with them.  The magic happened when old-world dishes couldn't be made exactly as they were before, and new-world ingredients were added in an attempt to replace the unobtainable.

Can ANYONE deplore the addition of pumpkins ... tomatoes ... CHOCOLATE to the world's collective cuisine?  I even stand staunchly behind potatoes and maize (if it's properly nixtamalized...).  Stevia.  Turkeys.  Why fixate on Dr. Pemberton's contribution to international culture and forget the rest?  And why conflate greedy businessmen trying to make a fortune off a cheap product, with creative purveyors of outstanding cuisine?

Jokes (and prejudices) aside, there's a wealth of great food here.  If you can't find it, you don't know how to look.  In some of the most out-of-the-way, unlikely places one may find a jewel, and some of the shabbiest dives serve the best food -- i could tell you stories....  Customers flock to our farmers' markets, which are packed with beautiful locally-produced foods of every variety.  Grass-fed beef, pastured pork, poultry and eggs, raw milk (where legal) are eagerly sought by people in-the-know, who impatiently sit on waiting-lists for an opportunity to buy.

Yes, a LOT of people eat McDonald's "food."  Most people don't eat it often, though.  They grab a burger or some doughnuts when they're on the highway or vacationing in a strange place, because they know what they'll be getting, and these places are EVERYWHERE.  Pizza becomes a "treat," when you don't allow yourself to eat it but once a year.  Ditto for Kentucky Fried Chicken.  These are things we picnicked on when we skipped classes and went to the park instead; we sat on the grass and listened to Chicago or Crosby, Stills & Nash on transistor radios, and "made out" in public to the shocked disbelief of our elders....

The only "people" i know who really seem to LIKE fastfoods are children of a certain stage of development, and i suspect it has a lot to do with the rarity of their visits, the fact that they don't get to drink soda with meals at home, the especially-enticing playground equipment, and the collectible toys that come with the "meals."  My grandchildren have the same enthusiasm for McD's that my own kids did; none of them has ever eaten like this regularly, because responsible parents (and there ARE a lot of them here, despite the poor advice they get about childrearing) don't allow it as a generality.  This stuff is designed to entice kids, and SOME kids (far from all) bullyrag their parents into going there SOMETIMES.  Especially when vacationing.

But "bad American food"?  It's out there, but it's pretty easy to avoid, too.  Next time you're in St. Louis, go to Billie's Fine Foods -- it's an old-school diner, and it has one of the best omelettes i've ever tasted, the Supreme.  Highly reminiscent of a supreme pizza, as a matter of fact.  At the Deja Vu in New Orleans, get the Deja Vu omelette (not available during Mardi Gras week, though).  These are not places you'll find in touristy areas -- you actually have to look for them, google-search good restaurants in strange towns and read the reviews.  Of course, if your bus is leaving in 20 minutes and you're ravenous, McDonald's and Cici's Pizza IS right there, and you know what you're getting....


  1. Downtown Denver is food truck land. If you want it, there's probably a food truck that serves it.

    There's not always a food truck around when I need one, though. In that case, I go to the dreaded Golden Arches for a reason you mentioned: I know what they serve. I know the sausage won't give me a headache, the burgers are reasonably fatty, the scrambled eggs aren't laced with pancake batter, and I won't end up ordering something that sounds innocent but comes out rolled in flour, dipped in batter, or it's a tiny piece of meat on a pile of starch.

    This is one reason I wish they'd stop taking us out to lunch at work. (The other reason is that my job satisfaction depends greatly on being left alone. I had to laugh at a movie where the new chief of police didn't go to his own welcoming ceremony. "Let's just say we had it and get back to work.")

  2. yep! i hate to be ungracious when offered something that is offered "for free" but i'd MUCH rather pay my own freight than be given something that i just don't want. :-)

    when on my trip back east in the spring, i ended up eating several compromise meals -- you go to McD or BK or Hardees and order the biggest burger they have sans bun. much rather have that than a theoretically-innocent meal that's been fried up in industrial seed oils!