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You Are What You Eat?


I know I’ve mentioned that Spain is a good place to eat. This is a particularly good thing for me personally, since I’ve moved here with two young children. Children can be difficult. Moving can be difficult. Moving to a new country is rather more difficult. Moving to a new country with two young children is…well, you get the idea.
But in the midst of this difficulty, there’s a fine cup of coffee. Or a good meal. Can we talk about lunch? At midday (actually 2 p.m., but that’s a Spanish midday), it’s as easy to find a three-course meal with wine and bread for under $10 as it is to find a sandwich. And I’m talking good home-cooking and drinkable wine. This does not make the settling in easier or faster, or the bureaucrats less interested in paperwork, or the public utilities more efficient, but it puts it in perspective. That perspective being: oh well, is the flan homemade?
The eating culture is of course one of the things that has always seduced Americans in Europe. (M.F.K. Fisher is one food writer who was inspired by living there.) Although if you go on about it you do sound like some starry-eyed Euro-trash-talking undergrad. But hey, it really is good stuff, dude.
At Son the Elder’s California elementary school, lunch every Friday was a choice of a burrito or corn dog. Friday was naturally a popular day to buy lunch. The burrito was a pre-packaged thing that got nuked into overheated mush and the corn dog was your standard frozen variety. Made with a turkey hot dog for better nutrition. Both have a certain appeal, and there are worse lunches, but their relation to real food is like that of Michael Jackson’s nose to a real nose. Or like Mickey Mouse to real mice.
At his school here on Monday, Son the Elder was served pasta spirals with Bolognese sauce and grilled fish with mayonnaise and lemon; on Tuesday, a rice with vegetable dish and assorted cold cuts; on Wednesday, noodle soup and grilled chicken breast with fried potatoes. Everything is made in-house and every meal ends with fruit and yogurt. I am seriously considering pulling on a Star Wars t-shirt and trying to disguise myself as a sixth grader at lunch time.
I’ve made some of the same dishes here as I made in California, and they taste better here. Chicken tastes more like chicken, eggs and milk are better, you can get really authentic tasting fruits and vegetables, and so on. Which is surprising, because California is what? The vegetable stand of the U.S.? The kitchen garden of America? (Please, no fruit and nuts jokes.) Something. I know I’ve seen real food growing no more than a few miles from my old home. And yet. Meat and produce must get frozen, shot up with preservatives and sling-shot around Mars before it lands in the local “natural foods” store, because the flavor is simply washed out compared to what I’ve been eating here.
What’s all this abuse we heap on the food we eat doing to us? Making us stupid of course. Look at the last paragraph here about a study of New York schoolkids. I’ll buy it; preservatives and chemicals and all the stuff we add to things we eat lowers IQ’s. And does who knows what else.
So while Americans are getting dumber from what they eat, Europeans are staying thin on their good chow and more mindful eating. Or at least the French are, as we now all know. (Don’t tell, but the Gauloise don’t hurt either.) (OK, so it’s Marlboro Lights these days.) Is that fair? They won’t fight in senseless wars with us, they won’t join in mindlessly getting fat with us. What is the point of being a superpower these days?
I don’t know.
Oh yeah – we kick butt in the Olympics, just like Norway. U-S-A, U-S-A.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 4:58 PM | Permalink

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