Size and Other Weighty Matters

On October 25, 2009, CBS Sunday Morning tackled the multifaceted issue of obesity. Here I look at some of the topics covered.

Leda And The Swan by Peter Paul Rubens-1600

The corpulent image in art:

In the time of Rubens and other artists of the voluptuous, death by starvation was far more common while food far less processed than today.

From a drawing of André Castaigne. The starvin...

In those days it would have been unwise for anyone to flirt with such a death, because famines and other changes of fortune could easily push one over the edge. Someone attractively lean by current standards would have been considered impoverished or otherwise out of control: an unattractive reminder of death itself.

Furthermore, because food was then of higher quality (a term I equate more with healthiness) than now, being full-figured was indeed less of a health risk. Today the reverse is more often true.

The value of money:

Why is financial strength so important to us? Isn’t it because money is negotiable for things in the marketplace that are important to us? If we go there without money, we come away with nothing. Unfortunately, it is possible to go there with money, but end up with even less than that with which we had started. Drug addicts do it; but when the effects are slow and more subtle, we do it anyways, eating ourselves into a state that we had never chosen, or at least whose choosing we had never realized.

Yes, financial strength is all about the value of the currency in its exchange with other currencies, in its exchange for what we want, but most of all in its exchange for what we actually get.

The origins of taste:

Enjoying food is important and should not be disowned or ignored, but it has never been precise and would have needed far more than a paltry hundred thousand years to adjust to this new world of ours; it would have needed the human mind to notice a dramatic shift in food’s context. In what follows I refer to that in the environment which instinct recognizes as its mark and that around whose importance the instinct developed as its benefit.

Our instinctive sense of taste is definitely tuned into the life-giving nourishment of food, but of food as it existed during that instinct’s formation. When the mark and nourishing benefit are one in the same, the value of that instinctive taste transcends time; and as long as the mark with its enticing molecular angles is consumed juxtaposed to the nutritional component, its value is still there. Our taste for food and our well-being were allies until, not that long ago, some providers mistook the mark for the essence, stripping and throwing away the nourishing latter.

Passing for taste in the hereafter:

I won’t enter the complex arena of foods available since I am more concerned with what has been lost to a de facto deceit of our inherent sense of taste: to the splitting offs, adding ons and other processing. For years my wife and I have eaten healthy, at-home meals that stand up well to those of some of the finest restaurants. How can the perception be so different from the reality?

On Sunday Morning, Michael Gibbons, of the National Restaurant Association’s board of directors noted that if customers weren’t served what they wanted, restaurants would go out of business. Have we forgotten when Toyota served up the Prius to a public hungry for SUVs? He further noted that he exercises a certain amount of personal restraint and expects that customers can do likewise. Yes, they can and so can restaurateurs in the design and marketing of their menus. A mixed fare works well at allowing a greater awareness of the enjoyment available from healthy cuisine: not only in taste but also in an after-feel that often bubbles up pleasure for hours.

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