I will be 50 this year. This news will shock some of you who think I can’t be a day over 48, but it’s true. I am aging, and I wonder the extent to which my senescence is coloring my attitude towards eating?
I don’t like to brag but I’m comfortable with self-aggrandizement, so I’ll tell you that I’ve been eating a healthy diet for years now. I was eating whole grains when it was hard to find them outside of a store that didn’t smell of patchouli, and I was smitten with the idea of trying foods that are staples in other parts of the world but not appreciated here.
So, I didn’t set out to eat quinoa because it’s healthy; I tried it because it was exotic. The same is true for millet, taro, amaranth, tofu and lots of other things. I don’t eat kale because it’s popular in Brooklyn; I eat kale because I like kale. I also like mustard, collard and turnip greens. These are very good for you and if you throw a little bacon or salt pork in the pot they’re delicious, too.
Yesterday I saw a recipe for pasta with cream and pepper that substitutes quickly-cooked and paper-thin slices of rutabaga in place of pasta and while most of you are thinking either: "oh hell no," or: "ruta-what now?" I was just picturing how it would taste. I haven’t tried that one out yet, but there’s rutabaga in the grocery now and it’s only a matter of time.
The key is moderation, which is usually the case. I mean, I agree that meat – and particularly processed meats – should be a flavoring and not the main component of a meal. But I’m not giving up pasta, white rice and refined sugar. I’m not going to forbid my kids from eating Popeye’s. Hell, I was there on Monday night buying dinner for our daughters while my wife was still out of town, and I ate at least two of Georgia’s chicken tenders.
I am not telling you this because I am proud of it, but I’m also not ashamed in the least. I eat a relatively healthy diet because that’s what I want to eat. I wish I could bottle the desire to eat better and sell it to people whose inner voice runs more towards the “MUST GET TO THE BUFFET FIRST OR THE BREAD STICKS AND RANCH DRESSING WILL BE GONE”. I am conducting studies, but as of now, I cannot.
But then there’s the article that came out in the Lancet recently. You may know the Lancet because whenever you hear about the Lancet it is usually in the context of the phrase, “prestigious British medical Journal the Lancet…” I’m sure it’s still a wonderful journal but I have to wonder how practical their recommendation that people eat no more than 3.5 ounces of red meat a week will be for most residents of developed nations.
It’s undoubtedly good advice for one’s health, and almost certainly better for the planet, too, but if even I see that number and balk… good luck selling the average person on being limited to a small burger per week.
There are lots of folks who are quite content with that amount of meat, and lots of people who don’t eat animal protein at all. But “lots” doesn’t translate to anything like a majority of people, and until that happens we can expect cheap hamburgers, fried chicken and other fast foods whenever we like.
Part of the reason is because that’s what people want. Part of the reason is that the price at scale to produce a lot of fast food actually makes it very competitive if not cheaper than healthier options, particularly when those healthier options require one to cook rather than drive through an open window.
If I had a solution, I’d be marketing it all over the place. All I can really do is suggest you try some quinoa in the near future and see if you don’t want to add it to your meal rotation. If you do, let me know in the comments or by email, including how you like to prepare it.