It’s probably a good thing I don’t need to wear coats very often—where would I put them?
Forty years ago we moved into our 1923 California bungalow style home. At the time it was a good-sized parcel of property with a very small house we knew we could expand. We have added to it over the years, but we will always be very short on closet space.
Apparently 90 years ago people weren’t nearly as devoted to accumulating “stuff.” We Americans love to super-size–even closets.
I’ve been sorting and cleaning, and somewhat painfully relinquishing a large accumulation of books.
Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef Jackie Olden was a very popular Southern California radio and television host in the 70’s and 80’s, long before Cooking Channels or the almost unlimited number of culinary personalities we all know today.
At least in our SoCal market Jackie was definitely a pioneer.
Thumbing through this 1980′s cookbook really takes me back. And it also illustrates some of the differences between “then” and “now.”
While enjoying the Stephen Frears’ directed movie, Philomena, starring Judi Dench as Philomena Lee and Steve Coogan as Martin Sixsmith, there was a low rumble of barely suppressed laughter in the audience when Philomena makes an honest remark about American obesity.
When Martin questions her about why the concern, she responds, “Because of the portions, Martin.”
This week as I looked through Jackie Oldham’s cookbook I noticed hundreds of recipes and not a one was labeled heart-healthy or fat-free. There wasn’t an overt concern with salt or gluten, and many were what we’d now call “heavy,” with plenty of beef, cheese and sour cream.
I even spied a few that proudly headlined American Cheese.
What is American cheese? There’s a whole history to the introduction of a processed “cheese” product that is best known because it melts well. Food value? I’m still looking for it.
After looking closely at a recipe for a tortilla casserole I noticed the ingredients: beef—with no mention of it being lean, corn tortillas, packaged taco seasoning, 3 full cups of Monterey Jack Cheese, sour cream and added salt and spices. Oh yes, spinach was added, too, but not enough to counterbalance all the fat in this casserole.
Now remember…this recipe was published thirty years ago.
And how many servings were in this recipe?
That translates to:
- 3.2 ounces of meat per person
- 1 corn tortilla
- 2.4 ounces of cheese and a rather meager dollop of sour cream.
In today’s plate-FULL economy, that’s a very small portion per person.
I’m not saying that this is a particularly well-balanced meal option. But I was fascinated to recall that we did eat this way, routinely, at one time, yet obesity rates were substantially lower than they are today.
Of course, we were more active, I suppose, and we didn’t snack as regularly as we seem to now.
But probably number one on the list of what “used to be”–we ate smaller portions!
I’m not convinced the average American adult is going to change, but if we have input into the lives of little people, it’s in our best interest to be informed.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, for the first time in 200 years the current generation of American children may have shorter life expectancies than their parents!
It is important to me to stay on top of current and relevant food and health-related information, and one way I do that is to closely follow some very influential pioneers in food matters.
If you’re as interested as I am in food-related, health and obesity issues, I’d like to recommend a series of TED talks: Chew on This.
The fourteen somewhat random episodes run from four to fifteen minutes, and I found each one tremendously interesting, particularly because Mark Bittman, Jamie Oliver, Ann Cooper and many others are passionate about developing healthy, sustainable food systems.
Just to get you started, I’ll offer Mark Bittman’s, “What’s Wrong with What We Eat?”
Your thoughts on this broad topic always interest me, so don’t hold back–or I’ll have to get started on my rant about how the pharmaceutical companies are making out like bandits with our poor diet.
Oh my…I need to stop and take a cleansing breath!
That’s better…I’m breathing lighter again.