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Big-time problems…

8 January, 2007

Just watched Supersize Me last night, on glorious CBC Newsworld. Yeah, I know, behind the times, much?

If nothing else, it allows me to consider the effects, or lack thereof, of Mr. Spurlock’s shock-documentary coverage of a truly inflammatory subject: the grease-, starch-, and sugar-addicted locust that is North America’s new average citizen. The documentary also touched on the franchise-laden nature of the contemporary retail and consumer-level service industries; a corporate culture of mediocrity and endless up-selling.

Are we so incapable of control that we cannot turn down another grease-laden serving of near-food? You should be able to walk into any three-meal-service, for a month, and live off of its product, rather than killing yourself with the “food!” The level of personal laziness, lack of personal responsibility, and near-unbelievable apathy suggested by a culture seemingly too stupid to control its own feeding does not bode well for North America’s future.

For the past several years, previous to the official realization of the “obesity epidemic,” I remember hearing that North Americans (generally, citizens of the USA being surveyed) “ate out” more often than their ancestors. All well and good, thought I. Not overly economic (in fact, horribly expensive), but surely no worse, as far as nutrition, than eating at home.

What I failed to realize was that, for the people surveyed, “eating out” meant fast food, most of the time. Backwards type that I am, “eating out” suggested something entirely different – a well-prepared meal at a sit-down venue, far, far away from the plastic world of the fast-food outlet.

I admit I have, at times, made use of fast food: generally under great duress and time constraints, as an incredibly occasional indulgence, or with friends. The concept of eating even the best of the lot (around here, A&W and, even more so, Tim Hortons) on anything even approaching a routine basis is unimaginable, more so when you consider the incredible profits being made on even the cheapest fast food item.

Seguing to a related subject, one also wonders at the incredible ignorance of the “average North American,” an ignorance so intense as to seem purposeful. It would seem impossible to be unaware of the incredible drain the North American consumer orgy imposes on the world – including the acres of what would otherwise be untouched land ruined for the sake of food production: a case in point is the growing South American cattle industry, which, to supply the North American market, is ruining not just the lifestyle of the low-impact, low-output Pantanero cattle-herders of the Amazon delta, but the great delta, the Pantanal, itself.

All this to provide amounts of food so great as to pose a health hazard by their consumption.

The big fast-food chains have, of late, been offering allegedly healthy, or at least healthier, options – salads, baked potatoes, and the like. However, most of these are as over-processed as the more usual burgers and fries, and generally tasteless to boot; unless, of course, you use a dressing, in which case you might as well just have a burger. The only thing you are likely to sidestep by eating a salad is the hormone-riddled burger patty.

So, what to do? Follow the fine North American tradition of sticking it to the Man and eat at home. Pay, essentially, bulk prices. Not fast enough, you say? The human species has been scratch-preparing its food for millennia; this need for speed is a recent introduction. If your life is so overloaded that you can’t throw some lettuce, bread, cheese, and meat together for your lunch the next day, you need to slow down. Also, stews, soups, and pasta dishes are your friends. The dozen-serving (scratch) dish is the gift that keeps on giving, for the single person – add some veg or fruit, and you’ve got lunch and dinner for almost a week. Eating only one dish for a week is bloody boring, but you get the drift, regardless.

As a note, preparation costs money. Repeat that to yourself when you next reach for anything prepared by someone else, whether a Big Mac, a box of KD, or a fruit cup. Do it yourself, buy fresh, and live longer.

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