Thursday, March 02, 2017

You are what you eat, peasant

Here is my shocked face: Adults who never watch TV during family meals and eat mostly home-cooked food are much less likely than others to be obese, according to a study.

They managed to get more than 12,000 Ohio residents to participate, which tells you something about how exciting it is to live in Ohio. Those who ate at home, rather than out, and without the television on, had a lower risk for obesity. However, they were at higher risk for dying of boredom.

However, the delightful writer Megan McArdle is trying to ruin the eat natural at home thing for you. Here she is:
Americans of a certain social class love nothing more than an “authentic” food experience. It is the highest praise that they can heap on a restaurant. The ideal food is one that was perfected by honest local peasants in some picturesque locale, then served the same way for centuries, the traditions passed down from mother to daughter (less occasionally, from father to son), with stern admonitions not to dishonor their ancestry by making it wrong.
She has you figured out, right? Well:
In fact, authenticity is an illusion, and a highly overrated one. Most of the foods we think of as “authentic” are of relatively recent vintage. take artisanal breads, like that crusty, moist peasant bread that most of us eat too much of at restaurants: Nathan Myhrvold, the mad genius of the cookbook world, says that this is a new invention. Our peasant ancestors, who got a large portion of their calories from bread, did not make these richly hydrated doughs, because they’re a pain in the butt to work with. Ciabatta, another bread that America likes because it sounds very authentic, was invented in the 1980s to compete with the baguette. (Itself a product of Industrial Revolution bakeries, not the proud local peasant.)
I should have known. My local Stop & Shop, which I imagine is what hell is like, sells this bread stuff, putting it on a shelf that requires me to bend over and sort out various loaves with indecipherable labels. They do this so that they can charge a lot more.

You wouldn't really want to eat like a peasant, McArdle says.
We must remember that not everyone was a good cook. Cooking was a job, not an absorbing hobby, and as with any other job, many people did it badly. Every farm wife could produce enough calories to feed her family (at least, if the raw materials were available). Not all of them could produce anything you’d want to eat. Modern food-processing technology has relieved us of that most “authentic” culinary experience: boring ingredients processed by an indifferent cook into something that you’d only voluntarily consume if you were pretty hungry. Even the memory of these cooks has fallen away, though you’ll encounter a lot of them if you read old novels.
And I love this:
I ate at an Olive Garden once and did not like it. I have never eaten Taco Bell and have no plans to start. But these are today’s everyday peasant foods -- cheap, available year-round, readily satisfying. And for all I know, in 200 years, some fancy restaurant will be packing in the crowds in search of an “authentic” naked chicken chalupa, just like Great-Grandma used to eat.
Want fries with that?

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