Sunday, November 28, 2010

In the Spirit of "Stuff White People Like."

A Newsweek story about What Food Says About Class in America, tells us that the problem of obesity in America can be placed mostly upon the lower-class who ruin their bodies with fast food and pre-packaged groceries because of social policy that makes farmer's market foods too expensive to be purchased by the underprivileged.

(To fully understand what Newsweek is trying to say, see Stuff White People Like categories #132, #119, #112, #94, #90, #63, #59, #48, #6, #5, #1).

Why would I write something about eating habits in a blog about the law?

Well, many of the people who hang around these blogs are on public assistance, or those who come home after a day of work and shove that Little Debbie chocolate round into their guzzle before watching some TV and surfing dating websites for their latest 3-month long relationship (it takes some people that long to figure out that you are neither a millionaire, nor that simply changing what area of law you want to practice is going to turn you into a millionaire. Some might take longer to dump you and the relationship will last until shortly after you start meeting their family and the feedback from Aunt Sally start flowing in as she can't figure out why their niece is dating an attorney that drives a beater), I felt I would share my big "what the f**K?" reaction that I got from reading the content of the article.

I have to give a hand to the author of the article. They go for the kill and start with the absolute first thing on the list of "Stuff White People Like" in less than 10 words into the blog.

That's right. Coffee. And not just coffee. Cappucino. It's the kind of coffee-based beverage that normally needs a $700 machine that snobs insist is absolutely essential to bring out the "true" flavor of the bean. However, in this case, the author settles for a $200 Alessi Pot which apparently works just fine for a morning cup o'joe.

As this author describes the world, the Maxwell House krewe, who are denied Quinoa and macrobiotic cooking classes, are forced to either choose between the stinking, rotten piles of fruit foisted upon them by Walmart, or must go to McDonald's. Apparently, inner city grocery stores only take the reject fruit that is "too good" for its other customers and do not have a frozen food aisle. Therefore, the solution is to bring farmer's markets to the inner city, as their 9am-1pm hours on every other Saturday morning are convenient for all, and will provide enough sustenance to get the hapless through the next two weeks.

Ok, I might be hung for bagging on a good idea. Yes, to give everyone access to locally-grown organic materials is wonderful, but its the faulty logic of the article that gets to me.

In essence, the article says, "We can save [certain people] from themselves by trucking in organic bananas, and suggesting in a sensitive, but non-controlling, way that they should stop eating at McDonald's and start eating like the high-minded Europeans."

Yes, that's right. Obesity will be a thing of the past if only we brought farmer's markets to the inner city.

There is something interesting missing from this article.

Some of you who watch The Travel Channel or the Food Network might know what's missing in this article.

Yes, turn on either of those channels and see shows to see smiling faces hovered over two-foot long hot dogs from Mel's Greasy Spoon that are filled with a 1/2 lb weiner, chili, 4 kinds of cheese, and onion rings that are coated in Panko, deep fried in bacon grease, then coated in graham crackers and topped with marshmallows and chocolate. To make it a meal, you can ask for a bloom onion that is coated in honey barbeque sauce and served with blue cheese and ranch dipping sauce, and a the superfunkalicious malted milk shake, specially poured so that there are layers of caramel and whipped cream between layers of homemade ice cream.

Competing for bragging rights are chain restaurants. Yes, drink a soda or couple of mixed drinks to wash down about half of a loaf of bread and a plate of fried pickles and cheese sticks before the 1,000 calorie main entree rolls out.

Yes, hold up a McDonald's cheeseburger and marvel at the cracker-thin wafer of a patty held between buns smaller than a dwarf's ass, and ask yourself, "is this truly the cause of obesity?"

Yet, nobody bags on chain restaurants. Why is that?

Is it because this food perceived as "special occasion food" earned by a d a privileged and deserving group who worked hard all week? Is it because it's owned by Mr. and Mrs. Geezer and not a faceless corporation? Is it because those sorts of places conjure up good memories for the target demographic where they spent many afternoons or evenings going with their friends at least twice a week and seeing other faces like theirs around the restaurant that were bespecaled by black rims and that were hashing out "serious" topics like why aren't there more dog parks in the neighborhood?

You'll never see McDonald's on an episode of "Man vs. Food" because, chances are, the portion is still small enough that the majority of people could finish it, and that its cheap enough that you won't feel as bad leaving half of your french fries on the tray. It's not like spending $12 on a sandwhich that will, at best, only remain half-eaten by a reasonable person who will be in pain for the rest of the eveningm, or will cause gawps of disbelief at those with guts huge enough to hold the entire monstrosity.

Yes, in spite of the fact that fast food restaurants were brow-beaten into giving up frying things in lard or super-sizing french fries and drinks because of one too many news segments showing exhausted 30 year olds lugging their massive, jiggly bellies covered in sweatsuits and muu-muu's down the street, it is a bit curious that barbeque huts and diners are absolutely ignored when applying this standard because asking them to make healthier choices such as cutting portion size or doing away with the 7 lb quintuple meat barbeque sandwich smothered in Swiss and topped with beer battered jalapenos, and served with an over-flowing plate of steak fries and a 10 scoop of Kahlua ice cream banana split that measures a foot tall robs the consumer of an "authentic" eating experience.

Ok, maybe you're not exactly convinced that there are just some really bad eating habits out there, so let's forget restaurants for a minute. If you went to a Thanksgiving potluck, did you see many dishes that consisted of just "plain old" green beans, or "plain old" vegetables? No. That dish was magically morphed with the aid of Velveeta, mushroom soup, and a stick of butter into a magical dish that friends smacked their lips over.

Not that I'm any better when it comes to cooking habits, but it makes the point of the pointlessness of why San Francisco feels the need to remove toys from Happy Meals. Even if you watched Super Size Me, and rightfully feel that over-consumption of McDonald's can destroy your liver, would Morgan Spurlock's argument carry the same weight if he decided to go on a 30 day food bender of renowned dives across the US that had "infamous dishes" on their menu?

It's easy to hold your nose in the air when it's a place you already don't go to, and is associated with clientele that you tend not to hold in high regard. The fact that a city like San Francisco thinks it is their business to eliminate toys from Happy Meals implicitly says something about the way they think about the people they think they are trying to protect.

However, it is an admittedly complex issue because we all end up paying for our food choices. If a person has to get thousands of dollars in health care because of knee surgeries, complications of diabetes, and heart attacks, that cost is spread amongst everyone, whether it be private insurance or Medicaid or Medicare. Admittedly, there is a temptation to go through the restaurants and make them cull their menu of nasty offenders because its hard to watch sluggish people who don't have any energy because of obesity lug around. But what can you do? Nutrition classes?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Merry Christmas! And a Highly-Indebted 30 Years!

This lucky lady is going to have to pay back $200,000 for an undergraduate degree!

What $200,000 in Student Loans Looks Like.

She's asking for donations from the public. Ummmm....yeah. I can't get that excited over sending someone a dime for an undergraduate degree. Is Northeastern University worth that much? Even if it was OK, something tells me that I would be sending money to cover the cost of 4+ years of jello shots and pizza. It's a lot easier to manage your costs for undergraduate degrees simply because that person can knock out course credits at community college or arrange their schedule so they can work.