31 October 2010

Rich Man’s Disease on a Poor Man’s Diet

Posted in Dining, Products at 11:39 am by undercovermillionaire

I have no qualms about admitting my addiction to historic romance novels.

Not the cheesy, unrealistic ones with titles like “The Highlander’s Feisty Wench” and “A Pirate’s Ransomed Duchess”. The covers of my favorites are not decorated with swooning women and bare-chested, long-haired men. There are no handsome vampires claiming to have personally modeled for Da Vinci, no witches with supernatural powers being hunted by rival clans… no improbably factual liberties that twist what actually happened to suit the author’s purposes.

I do, after all, have some standards.

The historical romance novels I prefer must be historically accurate, beautifully written, and guaranteed to have a happy ending. There is little or no hint of anything supernatural, and there is certainly no violence. Neither is there contrived bickering between the hero and heroine – a ploy used by far too many authors to create ‘romantic tension’, but which I find tedious, and a sure indicator that our happy couple will start throwing dishes at each other as soon as the last page has been read. There is too much stress in real life for us to seek it out in our spare time. My mental escape must be a comforting visual treat, filled with images of mansions, gorgeous ball gowns, and gentlemen who open doors for ladies while offering them their coats in the cold.

Lisa Kleypas is my current favourite, if that provides any context. 🙂

In reading these novels, I realized that the dietary mainstays once considered affordable only to the upper classes – meats, highly sweetened drinks and desserts, etc. – are now, thanks to the fast food industry, a staple in many low-income diets. Ailments such as gout, diabetes, and heart disease were once ‘Rich Man’s Diseases’, afflicting only those able to buy the foods that frequently trigger these problems in the first place. Who hasn’t heard the story of one baron or another who succumbed to diabetes and went blind, ultimately dying of heart failure?

As so often happens, the tables have now been turned. Rich, fatty foods are now recognized not just for their flavourful decadence, but for the damage they wreak upon the human body. Simpler foods like whole grains, vegetables, and fruits are the modern status symbol, and the more organic they are, the wealthier their connoisseur must surely be. Several acquaintances of mine are actually embarrassed to be seen in fast food restaurants, much less consuming a single crumb of food from such a “dirty” (direct quote) place. This is, of course, a reflection of American fast food, and not necessarily of its overseas counterparts, where food safety standards are generally higher.

The problem we are now faced with is that the minority has become the majority. A hundred and fifty years ago, only a small minority of elite aristocrats could indulge themselves in the rich foods that we all adore. Now, it is only the upper class that can afford not to. As I’ve more or less tiraded in past articles, certain financial circumstances can unfairly force families to choose between a fast food meal, or not eating at all. As a result, our upper classes are more easily able to maintain their health and their weight, splurging on special diets and exclusive gym memberships instead of on an extra-large value meal and an instant dessert. They sniff in disdain at the overweight woman quietly restocking the shelves at their imported foods grocery store.

Is it any wonder so much of the world views America as vulgarly wealthy?

~KV

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