I am a food snob. I am aware of this flaw of mine and am not particularly proud. I do my best to hide it in public but I cannot be made to eat a $1 meal of any kind because, let’s think about this, what kind of meat could you possibly get for a buck?? Luckily, the Golden Arches, all those chicken places and Taco Bell don’t need my business to thrive but I can’t help wishing we were educating people a bit more as to the relation between what goes into our mouths and our overall well-being. Or are we? Even Mrs. Obama got involved, with her organic garden in the back of the White House. And what about Jamie Oliver and his Fox show on how to change the diet of the most unhealthy town in America? And all those Biggest Losers, shedding pounds on tv? Obviously one would have to have been travelling through the Amazon jungle for the last 10 years not to know that America has an obesity problem and that we are eating ourselves silly with no self-control.
As a working member of the food industry though, I have to cast the first stone and accept responsibility for the rampant miseducation. Luckily I work for a company who cares not only about where the food is sourced from but also puts quite some thought into portion control and avoiding the most glaring kitchen culprits. But in case you have always wondered why restaurant food invariably tastes better than the home cooked replicas, the answer is: butter and salt. You would literally be amazed at seeing how much of both, and salt especially, goes into even the tamest of dishes on any given menu. Amounts we would not consider using when cooking at home.
If I am dining at a fine restaurant, which only happens occasionally anyway, I will enjoy the food guilt free. Yesterday though, I was invited to brunch at the Cheesecake Factory, one of those unremarkable chains where I must have eaten at some point before. Being Sunday and a food snob and attached to my rituals like an old person should (remember the $20 a pound coffee?) I actually fed myself before going. I know, bad manners for which I will not apologize. It was an interesting experience. The menus were as thick as an encyclopedia and read as one – always be suspicious of menus who offer more items that can fit on one page and ask yourself “How high is this restaurant turnover and how can they possibly keep all these ingredients fresh all the time?”
When the food came to the table, I was positively horrified. And not because the poached eggs looked boiled and were laden with hollandaise or because the nutritional value of the mac and cheese had been increased by forming it into balls, rolling it in bread and then deep-frying it but because each portion could have comfortably fed a family of four. I am not exaggerating to be cute. No person of average weight and stomach size could have possibly finished any of those dishes without gorging.
The food in front of my eyes led me to think about the irresponsibility of the food industry that, instead of engaging in the good business practice of feeding customers well prepared food, prefers to attract people by overfeeding them and making them perceive of having received great value for their money. While all they are getting is a heart attack in the making.