What do I mean by culinary narcissism? What I don’t mean is the French insisting that theirs is the best cuisine bar none or the Japanese insisting that you can only get good sushi in ol’ Edo. Every culture is justly proud of their cuisine.
No, I’m referring to a little thing called “the Mediterranean diet”…the one, the only, the how-dare-you-eat-anything-else menu all good cardiologists press on their American patients through a mixture of shame, blame and guilt to the exclusion of EVERY other cuisine on the planet.
Tsk, tsk, tsk
Dismissing the native cuisine of every culture, region and ethnicity worldwide, cardiologists hone in on one and only one supposedly “heart healthy” cuisine: Mediterranean. With the mind-boggling variety of fresh and local cuisines worldwide, it seems to me the height of narcissism (and a slap in God’s face) to label one, and only one, cuisine as “healthy.”
What about the cuisine of Japan? Brazil? Hong Kong? Egypt? Uruguay? Romania? South Africa? England? Iceland? If I were them, I’d be very offended at being excluded!
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Are those cultures also supposed to abandon their native menus for Mediterranean, Mediterranean, Mediterranean???
Or is it only American cuisine that is suicide-on-a-stick?
That’s racist! And what is “American” food anyways? Are we not a melting pot of all peoples and all their wonderful cuisines? So exactly which one is “evil”? Beef? I have one word for you: Wagyu.
If I sound like Anthony Bourdain, thank you! I’ve watched an awful lot of No Reservations lately and yes! Anthony informed this article. Not by what he said but by what he ate. He ate things I had no idea were even things, let alone food. Vegetables, fruit, sea creatures that shocked and fascinated me.
What struck me forcefully is that there wasn’t one molecule of fake food served anywhere in Anthony Bourdain’s travels. Everything that passed his lips, was real, real, real food. Conspicuous by their absence from cuisines on far off distant shores, is the so-called “healthy” replacement foods sicced on all American heart-and-vascular patients.
I know because I’ve see the breakfast trays that come up from the hospital kitchen. Trays that magically appeared when I ordered Michael’s meals from the “Heart Smart” section of the hospital menu.
In place of the whole egg, there is merely watery egg white, its native lecithin balancing out nothing because the delicious, proteiny, sulphur-and-iron-rich egg yolk is conspicuous by its absence. Not a speck of the building block of our brains, cholesterol, anywhere in sight.
In place of proper cream, dried corn syrup solids for mellowing coffee.
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In place of butter, that travesty known as margarine.
But it’s perfectly fine if you have sugar (fake or real), corn-syrupy jam and white bread. Those won’t hurt your newly mended, prone-to-inflammation heart in the least.
Cheese! The most perfect of foods! My fondest childhood sandwich. I never met a cheese I didn’t like (except Swiss, sorry.)
Given access to milk, every single culture worldwide preserves milk in cheese form. Each cheese more delightful than the next.
Do the French feel that tastebud-killing gnawing guilt when a morsel of Camembert completes a perfect meal? Or is it only us Americans who are supposed to feel guilty when we eat anything except broccoli?
Are other cultures supposed to abandon their local cuisines for salt-free, fat-free, joy-free lives!?! Or only us?
How is that every culture uses dairy while every health problem in the USA is blamed on dairy.
Or wheat! Bread is eaten universally so why is it only Americans who are shamed for eating bread. Naughty, naughty gluten. But I hear tell some Celiac sufferers can scarf pasta and bread in Europe with nary an ill effect. Waz up with that, Doc?
I’ll tell you another dirty little secret: Every single culture worldwide fries and deep-fries food. In fat! Oh yes! Every. Single. Culture. Bar. None. Including the centenarian Japanese! Whaddya think tempura is???
But it gets even worse. These idealistic cardiologists shame old ladies whose Social Security checks can’t stretch to olive oil and expensive wild-caught ocean fish flash frozen and flown at great expense to the middle of the North American continent.
I know this for a fact because my doctor recently told me one of his elderly patients came to him, in tears, because she couldn’t afford the foods her cardiologist insisted she eat. He was as appalled at the insensitivity of her cardiologist as I am.
Now that, my friends, is the height of culinary narcissism.
If I sound pissed off, maybe that’s because I am. Because what I don’t enjoy is the constant side-order of guilt that accompanies every morsel I cook for Michael and every bite I put in my own mouth. Guilt, guilt, guilt, effing guilt!
When I was twenty-two, my father was diagnosed with cancer. He was forty-eight. Never smoked. Never drank. Never even drank coffee.
For twenty-five years, Dad had eaten my mother’s ultra-healthy, very low fat, mostly-vegetarian cuisine. Legumes. Chicken and turkey. Olive oil. Fish. We even experimented with fat-free cheese (gag!) and scarfed way too many, low-fat cookies because they didn’t satisfy.
Suddenly, seemingly overnight, Dad was at death’s door. Chemotherapy saved his life but it was Hell on steroids (and the steroids were Hell too!). And the cancer just kept a-coming back.
That was when I decided, Hell with this. I was sick of lentils, sick of fat-free, sick of that tasteless, pointless non-existent scraping of butter on toast.
If cancer is my genetics, I thought, I’m going to enjoy my life and design the death of my choice. I was starved for unctuous, rich foods that actually satisfied. So I started to eat fats. Cream cheese. Thick Unsalted Butter. Real cream in my coffee. Full fat ice cream. Crab. Cheeses. I figured a quick, massive heart attack was a much easier death than lingering with cancer.
And I started to feel good. Damned good!!! I actually shed a few pounds. I learned that if I started my day with cottage cheese and kept the protein coming all day, I never got the shakes.
In an episode of The Big Bang Theory, Howard says, “I’m gonna die the way God intended, in my late 50s, with a heart full of pastrami.” That’s my philosophy too. If the Hell of cancer is my fate, I thought, I will tailor the death of my choice and it’ll be a very delicious demise indeed.
That may be the wrong thing to do but there’s no going back after you fall in love with real food. (Oddly enough, given the choice of “chicken, beef or fish” I’ll choose the fish every time.)
“But, but, but,” I hear you say, “What about science!”
Yeah. What about it?
I lost my respect for “science” when I saw a study blaming women who drink coffee while pregnant for their children’s autism. I lost all respect for “science” that day.
Yesterday the DailyMail reported that too much sleep causes dementia.
Next week, they’ll publish a report saying exactly the opposite.
I’m sorry. You were saying what about science?
It was a certain Dr. Ancel Keys who gave us that gift that just keeps on a-giving, the Mediterranean Diet.
But wait! Look again. He also headed up a study in starvation during World War II. Using conscientious objectors, mostly men of faith, as his subjects, this paragon of science proceeded to deprive them of food and then make them go on long runs, past bakeries. Luckily, the end of the war ended thus also stopping Dr. Ancel Keys (atheist) from torturing these men of faith in the name of science even longer.
So you’ll forgive me if I cast a very jaded eye on his so-called heart-healthy Mediterranean Diet!? I don’t trust him.
So, In Conclusion…
In every culture there are curvaceous people who live long healthy lives and skinny people who pop off early. And vice versa. I betcha they all eat, pretty much, the same way.
Every culture except Americans prize the especially cholesterol-laden parts of the animals. The offal. The chicken skins. The crunchy, brown yummy bits.
Every culture has mystery meat in a tube. Sausage. Bratwurst. Kielbasa.
Something is deeply wrong when shrimp and lobster are put on the “naughty” food list and heart patients are deprived of their sweet, oceany goodness…only to have cardiologist, ye gods of medicine, take them off the “naughty” list later, with no apology or humility for their apparent error. That’s years and years of shrimpy delight obedient heart patients have missed as they nibbled on dry chicken breast.
Y’know what? We’re all terminal. We’re not getting off this planet alive. So enjoy the incredible flavors the good Lord has so richly blessed us with. Bask in flavor. Enjoy gastronomic bliss.
But please! Spare me the narcissistic culinary bullshit. One cuisine is not superior to any other. Fake food is not “healthy.” I’m just not buying it. And I’m darn tired of the side-order of guilt served with every meal.
If the Good Lord made it, I’m certainly going to eat it!
Thanks for reading! To learn more about what I’m writing these days, please visit my website: www.lenorathompsonwriter.com