Here’s what I don’t understand, Vol. 1

Tomorrow: Cupcakes and more . . .

One of my favorite old Southern sayings, courtesy of my Mississippi paternal relatives is. . . “Ain’t but one or two things I know for sure.”

In contrast, the things I don’t understand could populate Kaho’olawe faster than a pack of wild goats.
From time to time, I’ll share some food-related (to me) puzzlers.

Here’s one thing I really don’t understand: the Costco food lanai. Why, if your objective is to stock up on paper towels and giant boxes of cereal, to oggle TV screens the size of Volkswagens and pig out on free samples do you also have to have pizza, hot dogs, Mexican wraps, gelato and a noisy, crowded, uncomfortable place to eat them in? When did it become imperative that Americans never be out of range of fast food wherever they go? (Don’t be offended, Costco friends, I don’t understand the Ala Moana food court — or ANY food court — either.)

I’ve got nothing against eating. But I would so much rather go somewhere decent to sit at a table and be waited on, or take some that too-much-to-carry load of groceries home and — I don’t know, just a thought — cook something?

Lately, we’ve heard a lot about eating deliberately, eating consciously. But in America, we eat opportunistically — whenever we can, the “see food” diet (“I see food and I eat it”). It’s as though we’d hypnotized ourselves into believing that we still live in a time when it’s hard to get enough calories. As though rickets were right around the corner. You can pare a lot of fat, salt and sugar from your day by abandoning that kind of thinking.

I lost a bunch of weight the year I decided not to EVER eat anything in the office at The Advertiser unless it was my own home lunch — no birthday cakes, retirement malassadas, Girls’ Day mochi, food critic leftovers. I’d attend the gatherings, sing the birthday song, sign the card, shake the hand and go back to my desk. Three hundred calories easy, off my plate.

Beyond that, most food that we encounter opportunistically is bad food (CocoPuffs being a notable exception), by which I mean poorly prepared, made from second-class ingredients by people who don’t care, packed with phony ingredients designed to give the stuff the shelf life of a fruitcake.

You can eat well. You can even eat often. But everything I know about good food and good nutrition conspires to support the argument that your body does best when you eat regular meals and snacks, serve yourself reasonable portions, involve yourself in the selection and preparation of your own food and enjoy the food in a relaxing, congenial atmosphere — sitting down, slowly savoring the flavors and textures.

Food courts, food concessions, fast food windows represent the polar opposite of healthful, enjoyable, civilized eating. Even years after having lost 112 pounds, I’d still specify rice and gravy as my last meal on earth, preferably in a mixed plate with garlic chicken, two scoops white rice and a the all-important mac salad. But I’d make sure that everything on that final plate was the absolute epitome of its kind. The gravy would be made by my grandmother from real beef drippings. The garlic fried chicken with sweet sauce would come from Mitsu-Ken. The mac salad would be the work of the chatty Chinese lady at the deli that used to be across the street from The Advertiser.

And I’d never come close to finishing even normal size servings, because I’d eat slowly and appreciatively enough to feel the sense of fullness when it came (and, yes, I’ve had bariatric surgery, so that sense of fullness comes with the speed of a locomotive).

Don’t you want to eat like that all the time? I do.

Tomorrow: Cupcakes and more . . .

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