Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Confessions of the Stomach

Let’s be honest . . . we are all finicky eaters . . . none of us likes everything that is called food . . . when it comes to the culinary results placed on our plates we DO draw lines on our plates as to what we are willing to eat and what we wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot fork.  When it comes to food and eating . . . we all have our likes and dislikes. 

The wife likes to tell me (and others) that I am a picky eater . . . and, there may be some truth to that; but, at the age of 56 years old, I can admit that I have tried a lot of different varieties of food as I will try anything once.  Once is usually enough for my taste buds and stomach to make a decision that will typically last a lifetime.  That includes any attempts of trying to mask the food or present it to me in a different form.  From childhood I have always tried to at least give new foods one chance . . . or, as I have always said to my wife and others, I will try anything once.  If it fails to win over the taste buds or stomach . . . well, it is out and no amount of prodding is going to change my mind (or the mind of my stomach).  I know what I like.  Yet, the wife calls me a picky eater.  I like to think of my eating habits as being quite refined and sophisticated . . . besides, why waste time and money on something that doesn’t taste good?

If we are going to be honest . . . we are all picky eaters.

Knowing this I was surprised to see the weekly Parade magazine that comes in the Sunday paper broadcasting its lead story as being What America Eats.  According to the article the magazine shares research that shows the eating trends of the typical American.  As usual no one I know took part in the research and its survey . . . including me.  No one called me up and asked any questions about my eating habits . . . no one sent me a questionnaire through the snail mail . . . not even a digital survey in the email accounts.  No one came up to my house, knocked on the door, and asked if I could spare a few minutes to answer questions about my eating habits to be included in research on the eating habits of typical Americans.  Nope, I was not one of the lucky one thousand from all the regions of the United States to be included in the research.  There are over 313 million people living in the United States and they are presenting research based on only one thousand people to represent the other 99.9999999999 percent of the rest of us!

It is no wonder I found so much to disagree with in their research finding.

One of the first findings that I disagreed with is that the researchers stated that adults eat 1,128 snacks each year . . . 1,128!  That is a little over three snacks per day each day for a whole year!  That is a lot of snacking.  That is a lot of food.  Who would have time to work . . . to play . . . to do anything except stuff the ol’ pie hole?  If this is true . . . well, then I am way, way behind in the snack department!  I am lucky if I have one or two snacks a week, and usually on the weekend.  Who are these Americans who eat 1,128 snacks a year . . . three snacks a day?  They must weigh a billion pounds!

According to the research those snacks fall into three categories: savory, sweet, and healthy.  I am taking that by “savory” they mean spicy and salty.  Savory comes in at 405, while sweet comes in at 366, and in third place is whatever is healthy at 357.  Of course, everything that is bad for us is what we seem to crave the most as they are what we Americans eat two-thirds of the time we have the opportunity to snack.  Now, if I was a logical person—and one who is actually eating three snacks a day, I would probably try to eat one snack in each category for a healthier and more balance diet.  But, in all honesty, I would probably focus on the “savory” snacks over everything else.  Yeah, I know, it keeps my heart doctor in business.

Now one of the reasons that the researchers came up with such a high number of snacks might be for the fact that 40 percent of the snacks we consume are eaten with—or instead of—a main meal.  I call those appetizers, not snacks.  Still, that is a heck of a lot of snacks . . . 1,128!

One of the questions researchers wanted to know an answer to was: which famous person would you like to invite over for dinner?  The number one answer might shock you . . . it did me.  Ellen DeGeneres.  Yes, you read that correctly . . . Ellen DeGeneres.  She was followed by Pope Francis, Stephen King, Bill Clinton, Mark Cuban, and Beyonce Knowles.  For those over the age of 55 the number one choice was Pope Francis.  Outside of Pope Francis I am not sure that I would want to have a meal with any of the others.  Ellen DeGeneres is funny, but I don’t think I want to spend a whole meal with her.  I don’t horror novelists or anything that Stephen King wrote in that genre . . . though he did write a pretty cool book on baseball once . . . he still is not someone I would want to entertain at a meal.  I never did like Bill Clinton . . . and, besides the new Bill Clinton cleaned up his eating habits and wouldn’t be as much fun as the Bill Clinton of twenty or thirty years ago.  Mark Cuban . . . well, he is jerk.  Beyonce, well she could come and grace the table, but I don’t think the wife would want me drooling on my plate.  The Pope . . . well, since I did not see Jesus on the list, would be an acceptable substitute for Jesus.  As I said, I was shocked that Jesus didn’t make the list.  Personally, I like my family and that is good enough for me around the table for any meal.

I guess having the Pope as a dinner guest would sort of make the meal a “holy” meal.  Meals are not as “holy” as they used to be.  Only about half of Americans say grace before a meal.  The people in the South region (56%) of the United States are the most apt to say grace before a meal, then the Central section (51%) of the United States, followed by the Northeast and West (both at 47%).  At our house we say grace . . . we are thankful for the food we have, thankful for those who produced it, and thankful that we are not hungry like so many others.  And, when the wife cooks some new concoction, I am thankful that . . . well, thankful that I have something to eat, even if it is a box of cereal from the cabinet.

The researchers also took on the “five-second rule” . . . you know the rule: if an item of food falls on the floor it is acceptable to eat it if it has been on the floor less than five seconds.  Fifty-three percent of Americans says that the rule depends on what fall on the floor.  If the fried egg plant falls on the floor it can stay and the floor . . .let the dogs have it if they will eat it.  Seven percent stated that if food fell on the floor—and it doesn’t matter what the food is, it would not matter . . . they would pick it up and eat . . . unless it was fried egg plant.  Eight percent said that if no one stepped on it that they would eat it.  This would never work at our house as I always step on food that falls on the floor to keep it from escaping . . . adds a little texture and variety to it for presentation sake.  Eleven percent had no clue what the “five-second rule” even was . . . of course these are the people who eat the beans right out of the can.  And, lastly, 21 percent of the people asked the question: What am I, a dog?  I assume that no matter how short of a time the food laid on the ground they would never eat it.  How sad, variety is the spice of life and if food hits the floor it is pretty difficult to avoid picking up some sort of “spice”.

One of the great debates at our house is on expiration dates on food.  The wife throws things away before or on the expiration date.  I, on the other hand, is a little more adventurous . . . and, cheap.  Food is expensive and throwing it away just creates a sharp pain on my backside where my wallet is kept . . . I want to get the most bang for my buck.  I am also adventurous and willing to try something once it has journeyed pasted its expiration date.  That is why you throw it on the grill and cook it until is good and crisp . . . cook all that bad stuff that could make you sick out of it.  Of course, I also believe that when I do this I should definitely make sure that I say grace before eating it . . . oh Lord, keep me safe.  According to the research . . . I am in good company.  Sixty-nine percent of the people in the United States consume food and beverages past their expiration date . . . most serve it as snacks and appetizers . . . sort of killing two birds with one food.

Apparently the chicken sandwich is the new burger.  Research is showing that it is ordered more often than burgers.  This is blasphemous.  Chicken . . . unless it is deep fat fried with the skin on to a golden crisp . . . is a choke down food for me.  For years the wife served chicken three to four times a week until my stomach rebelled.  Despite the wife’s politically correct and researched based argument that chicken is better for a person’s health, my stomach said it had had enough . . . bring on the cow!  Hey, I live in Montana where the cows out-number the people by six to one . . . someone has to support those ranchers!

I guess because people are eating three snacks a day . . . 1,128 snacks a year . . . it should come as no surprise that 41 percent of Americans stated that they have been on a diet in the last year.  You think!  Thirty percent say they have never been on a diet . . . they are liars . . . or they have no issues with their body image after eating 1,128 snacks a year.

I am also assuming that since snacks are still more on the unhealthy side of the scale that Americans are attempting to make themselves healthy through other means . . . like with health supplements.  The researchers discovered that 71 percent of Americans takes some sort of supplement for their diets.  Multivitamins were number one at 43 percent . . . fiber was at the bottom of the list at six percent.  That surprised me considering what most people eat for snacks . . . I would have thought fiber would have been a bigger percentage.  After all, regularity would be necessary after all of those savory and sweet snack.  The rest were all vitamins.  I was taught that if I eat a healthy and balance diet, exercise regularly, and got my body out into the great outdoors that I would never ever need to take vitamins . . . that most vitamins are like throwing money down the drain.

And, the last interesting research that I want to share from this study has to do with the five treats that people would like to be magically calorie-free.  Ice cream and shakes . . . of course my favorite flavor of ice cream is Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia . . . good luck in getting the calories out of that!  Number two was chocolate . . . I am a dark chocolate fan.  Pizza . . . the food of the gods.  Soda . . . I have about three a week.  And, alcoholic beverages . . . oh no, my microbrews!  The truth of the matter is that the only two I probably imbibe in on a regular basis is the pizza and beer . . . can’t have one without the other.  Of course, a little Cherry Garcia after a few pieces of pizza and a couple of beers sure does top off an excellent meal.

There you have it . . . What America Eats . . . a research survey on what Americans are eating, drinking, and craving.  Or so they thought.  When actually taking the time to peruse the survey and results it actually says nothing about what Americans are actually eating, drinking, or craving.  Nothing!  What does any of this research have to do with what we Americans actually eat?  What does having a guest over for supper—famous or not, have to do with the eating habits of Americans?  What does taking a dietary supplement have to do with eating habits?  What does food falling on the ground and being scarfed down after five seconds have to do with what Americans like or dislike when it comes to eating . . . all that tells us is that we are willing to eat anything if we like it, even if it falls on the floor.  Very little of what was presented as “fact” about the eating, drinking, and craving had anything to do with the actual eating habits of Americans.  Besides, when did a thousand people out of over 313 million people speak for everyone?

My stomach and I have an agreement . . . I give it what it wants and it let me get by with little discomfort.  We also agree that life is short . . . that everything can kill you . . . so you might as well eat what you like and want and enjoy it.  Neither I nor my stomach need anyone else to tell us what we like . . . so, please don’t tell us to “try it because you will like it”.  My name is not Mikey . . . nor is my stomach’s name Mikey.  We know what we like.  As the writer of Ecclesiastes said: “Eat, drink, and be merry!”  Or was it the founder of Dairy Queen?  Either way, they were both wise in their advice.

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