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Beef with Nigella

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I just read an article in Health magazine where Nigella Lawson talks about how she stays healthy with and food. I've always enjoyed her cooking but she said something that struck me as odd. She said Americans have large portion sizes because this country was built by starving people. I'm not sure what she means but read it and maybe someone else can make sense of it. It doesn't sound accurate to me.
http://www.health.com/health/m/gallery/0,,20698876,00.html

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #2 of 8

Pioneers usually ate only 2 meals a day, with maybe a snack in the fields if the women had time to bring it.

 

They worked from sun-up to sun-down.  The hours obviously vary but in summer they were very long 15+ and the winter much shorter but you burned up so many calories just keeping warm.

 

She didn't mean that people were 'starving' in the famine sense of things - she means that people needed huge amounts of calories, just to be able to do their daily chores / duties.

 

While she doesn't explain it well she is quite right.

 

Combine this with the fact that for 10+ million years we've been running around trying to put as many calories in our belly as possible just to survive and grow our massive brains!  It has only been in the last 200 years that we have been able to actually put too many calories into our bellies and essentially anti-starve ourselves to death. (first it was the royalty - then the rich - now everyone can be a glutton!!!)

 

We're eating like cave-men only to find out we can't climb a flight of stairs, let alone bend over and put on our socks and shoes without effort.  Fighting physically for something has long been out of fashion, much better to get someone else to do that hard stuff.

 

We're hard-wired to put down the fat-salt-protein as fast as we can (thus the umami taste receptor that overides all the others) and now we're so damn successful it is killing us. (research Doritos, you'll be amazed)

 

I guess one can get too good at something!

 

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PS - I originally left out calorie counts because i felt that they would likely lead to much bickering and flames etc. but now I feel compelled to add them just to provide further references and a better understanding.

 

Our daily calorie count is now supposed to be 2,000.

 

Health nuts say it should be around 1500 for the average modern person (not firefighter, cop, soldier, construction worker, heavy labour etc.) maybe even less for the House-bus-office-bus-house worker.

 

fwiw

Modern soldiers in active combat are served 1200 calorie meals 3x a day.  These meals are way more balanced than those of the past and the majority of the calories are not from fat.  There is an additional combat ration that is given out freely for use anytime during the day and it is 800 calories.  This makes for a 4400 calorie intake.

Which is appropriate for their level of activity.  

 

Soldiers that are known to be going into intense combat for several days are given different rations.   They are issued with First Strike Rations - highly digestible, fast energy food that is high in protein and electrolytes, each meal is about 3000 calories.  Combat rations (snacks) are still freely available, planned 2 per person per day.  

All this number counting amounts to the following - ever seen an overweight combat soldier?  NOPE didn't think so, and if you think you did - he'd probably pound you into the ground without thinking about it.

 

Calories in per day is simply a function of what you do per day.

 

What is enlightening is that ...

 

In the 1800's the average daily was 4500 for men and 3000 for women.  Remember they had to work - we're not talking about the royalty here.

 

Courrier du-bois and other inland explorers planned for provisions that amounted to around 6000-8000 calories per day - these were hard men... paddle and or traveled on foot all day with loads of up to 120lbs per person!

 

Mariners were in the 5000 - 7000 range depending on being freemen or impressed.

 

Before the  1800's records are scant but they show that people ate way more than now.

 

For instance a bit about Japan - 


The current annual per capita rice production (internal to Japan) stands at about 60 kg.  (60kg per person annually)  (pretty much all imported rice to japan is immediately exported as humanitarian aid - mostly to avoid the massive tarrifs, but more absolutely to protect the local farmers) 

 

This is in great contrast to the Edo Period (between 1603 and 1868), when a man was supposed to eat 150kg  (ik-koku 一石 or one koku) of rice in a year.  (and they did...)

 

The rice paddy area needed to produce one koku of rice was it-tan 一反 (one tan), which is approximately 1,000 m2.

 

Due to advances in agriculture, 420 to 500 kg of rice can be harvested from the same area today.

 

One more thing: Ichi-gou 一合 or one gou (= 180 ml) of rice was the amount of rice that a man was supposed to have in one meal.  (this refers to uncooked rice)

 

The rice paddy area needed to produce one gou of rice was hito tsubo 一坪 one tsubo (3.3 m2), which is equivalent to two 6-foot square tatami mats.
 

Now  you know why japanese rice cookers are calibrated in 180ml cups!   

 

(I stole a bunch of this from other places - but I can't remember them all - sorry, I'll try harder next time!)


Edited by MichaelGA - 7/12/13 at 6:10pm

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"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold

 

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"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold

 

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post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 
To me it sounded like she was saying that the people who built this country were poor hard working people who ultimately achieved glory. And a reflection of that glory is abundance or in our case, over abundance. But I don't see why Americans should be singled out about that, weren't all nations built this way??

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #4 of 8

My first thought when i read your original post was that america was populated with people who had been starving where they came from and when they found the abundance of cheap food they increased their intake and adapted their traditional recipes.  Thus americans think Italian food is heavy and caloric (people think lasagne, ravioli, melanzane alla parmigiana, and people actually talk about wondering if there are any vegetarian pizzas or pasta dishes, when pizza and pasta is almost always vegetarian here, rarely has meat, and never had chunks of meat like in the states. 

 

I imagine the same was true of other immigrant groups.  Most people who voluntarily leave home to be stowed in packed boats for two to four weeks, to go far from family and friends to a place where they don;t know the language are usually driven by starvation!

 

All these rich italian dinners with meat in every course is very different from even today's italian eating.  When I got here in the 70s it was normal to have about an etto per person of meat per day - that's 100 grams, 3 1/2 ounces!  If there was meat in the pasta there was no meat in the second course.  all meals began with pasta or soup (they fill you up) and followed by a dish mainly filled with vegetables.  At night  usually leftovers, but no more meat was cooked.  And this was not in a period of economic crisis, it was just traditional italian eating for people who were not poor.  My inlaws were fairly well off in their towns and that's how they ate. 

 

Once going skiing from my inlaws' house, my mother in law made us sandwiches - she said would you like frittata, ham or cheese.  I said what about ham and cheese and she said "in the same sandwich!!??"  The submarine sandwich with prosciutto, mortadella, salame, cheese and tomatoes, peppers, onions and pickles is completely american. 

 

Getting to America meant eating meat.  One thing is a diet based on pasta and bread, with a little meat.  But take pasta and bread and then add large quantities of meat, and you have overabundance and way too many calories. 

 

Not sure if that's what she meant, i didn;t read the link, but certainly this is the key to understanding american eating.  Pioneers, yes, farmers etc, but italy was a farming country too, but no meat, little of anything, and peasants brought a half a loaf of bread with onions to the fields or their wives carried them a pot of soup and bread at lunch time.  Pasta was for holidays. 

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 

Well, it's a very short article in which she speaks about how she satisfies cravings etc, all pretty regular stuff like "eat real food" and "use good olive oil" and "eat whole grains which keep you full" remember this is a health magazine so it's about staying healthy.  In one paragraph she talks about portion control.  Oh here it is:

 

Don't obsess over portion control

"It's so difficult to give portion sizes, because it depends on who is eating, what else you had to eat that day, and if you're having anything else at the same time. I feel that as much possible, people need to make their own choices. No, we don't always make good choices. But being forced against our will never works. People castigate Americans for eating a lot, but I think it comes from the fact that America is a country built by people who came from starvation, so of course success means too much to eat! Any social historian would see how these patterns evolve."

I never thought to correlate success with overeating, although it makes sense.  It's true that Americans do eat a lot, portion sizes are rather large in restaurants here compared to other countries I've visited.  And as we often talk about, Italian food is vastly different here than it is in Italy especially when it comes to portions.  When my friend visited here from Greece we went to a restaurant and she ordered a coke.  They brought her a glass of it, and to her eyes it was so large she actually exclaimed "is this for drinking or for bathing in?"  Americans do lean towards a "bigger is better" and "more is more" style of living.  And in NY I have met a lot of greek immigrants who came here in such large boats with nothing in their pockets and I can vouch that they do in fact eat more food than you can imagine, they are completely out of tune with how greeks in Greece eat.  And the food has to be big here, the cake has to be very tall, the pasticcio very tall in a huge pan, the spanakopita very tall, the roast has to barely fit in the oven, it's all very overwhelming if you're not used that.  In Greece we never actually eat food like that at all.  Mostly salads, cheese, a little bread, some weeds, a little sweet biscuit with afternoon coffee, and a very light dinner, most of the time yogurt and fruit if you're home, or meze (tapas) if you're out.  Vastly different from the continental greek cuisine found in homes here that never excludes meat.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #6 of 8

The origins of our current population and turning points in US history are really too diverse to lend any credibility to such generalized statements.

 

Is Nigella talking about the pilgrims? In that case, they certainly weren't starving until they got here-just motivated by such strong religious zealotry that no one wanted them around. 

 

Or is she talking about the wave of immigration from Ireland in the early to mid 19th century? In that case, yes, they were starving.

 

Which part of the country is she talking about? and when? If she's talking about the east coast and original colonies, they were built by slaves, who again, were probably pretty hungry most of the time. 

 

If she's talking about the modern (late 20th and early 21st centuries) American diet, the rise in obesity can be graphed in an almost parallel line with the history of governmental farm subsidies for corn and wheat. Obesity stems from the over-abundance and -consumption of cheap, processed food based on corn and wheat. Until the market was flooded with manufactured foods, obesity was rather rare and mostly found in the wealthier classes. Now it occurs in every socio-economic strata, but most often in the poor who suffer poor access to healthy foods due to food deserts. 

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www.foodandphoto.com

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

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post #7 of 8

Caveat : I am not bashing America when I say this - I don't think it has anything to do with a country built by starving people  i.e. slaves and poor immigrants. It has to do with pride, avarice, and hubris. America has always thought of itself as exceptional and the supposed beacon on the hill - able to provide everything for everybody - in abundance. It's a large country and Americans believe that they have all the resources, and then some. I believe this attitude started post WW2. Another huge factor is the advent of automated food production and marketing.  This was emphasized in the 70's when the dept of agriculture wanted farmers to ramp up production of produce (corn) and factory farm pork, chicken, and beef. More is better, because we can, and why get a 12 oz slurpie when you can have 32 oz for fifty cents more? More bang for your buck, and you'd feel cheated if overabundance isn't sitting on your plate even though you can't finish it. Most do.

 

 

"According to the CDC, over the last 50 years right here in America “The size of a hamburger has tripled, a basket of fries more than doubled, and the average soda has grown from a modest 7 ounces to a jumbo 42 ounces.” And some wonder why “The average American is 26 pounds heavier than in 1950. [And] about one-third of us are overweight or obese and that number is projected to hit nearly 50% by 2030.”

 

From here : http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2013/01/23/portion-size-matters/

 

I think this attitude has been transferred to fine dining as well since most complain if they get a 2 oz piece of tuna on a huge plate. It's not "cost effective" to spend $10 per oz. regardless of the labor and experience behind it. I once had dinner with a relative who proclaimed they would never pay more than $12 -$15 for pasta in a restaurant. Needless to say they've never made pasta or understand what it takes to run a restaurant. 

post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jake t buds View Post

...More is better, because we can, and why get a 12 oz slurpie when you can have 32 oz for fifty cents more? More bang for your buck, and you'd feel cheated if overabundance isn't sitting on your plate even though you can't finish it.

We've learned to push beyond fullness and finish that food.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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