Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Food for Thought

The exciting news that Burger King had broken the hamburger size barrier with their new Double Whopper, took the gastronomic world by storm this week. This advanced technological development should be hailed by all those that feel that the world is grossly overpopulated, and Burger King are at the forefront of the move to reduce this overabundance by increasing the frequency of heart attacks and similar diseases caused by obesity and over eating.

The NHS should be eager to embrace this outstanding product, perhaps offering discount coupons to those who would regularly indulge in this obscenity of food. There would have to be, of course, a caveat that the discount would only apply in the case of instant death and not from one of those lingering diseases that would occupy a hospital bed (if one could be found) for any length of time. I appreciate that this would be difficult to administer but, given the cost of their new computer, surely it should be possible? And of course, since, apparently, it would take a grown man nine miles of walking to dissipate the calories from one of these blockbusters, those who regularly set out on a tramp of this distance after consumption, would have to be invalidated. But I think it would be a pretty small number and would not significantly affect the statistics so beloved of government.

The advertising slogan is “Are you man enough?” and, as an old advertising man, I feel that any interrogative slogan is liable to be abused by the wits who delight in thinking up derogatory answers to the question.

The introduction of such a weapon into the armoury of food retailing is about the equivalent of the Atomic Bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima – all other standards are rendered obsolete. It could also, if widely adopted, have a similar casualty rate.

Now much paper and ink have been expended by the dietary pundits on the mystery of why the French, with their love of rich food, wind up with a lower casualty rate in the cardiac department than other nations. After all, their basic food groups are butter, cream and alcohol. A neighbour of mine says that she always assembles these ingredients before deciding just what dish to prepare. Many theories have been advanced for the disappointing results that they seem to obtain from such lethal ingredients (lethal according to the dietary pundits). Some point to the consumption of red wine, others to the more generally held opinion that it is just like the French to be so bloody minded and that they probably do it just to be awkward.

Sitting, so to speak, gastronomically athwart The Channel, I think I have the answer.

In wartime Britain, food was rationed and the amount and quality was controlled by a certain Lord Woolton. Although tending toward pomposity, he did an exemplary job. The rich became healthier, as did the poor, who now were more likely to be eating better quality food. They were also eating less. But since then, the British have gorged themselves on the goodies that are now available to them. When I eat out in Britain, other than at one of the outrageously expensive restaurants, I am appalled at the quantity that appears on my plate. It’s piled high as though this is the hallmark of a good eating spot. Unfortunately, it’s not often piled high with good food, more likely with a filler of fat and soggy chips. As one English expat complained, having visited a local restaurant here in France, “My Fred would have had that (the main course) just for a starter!”

Not only do the French eat more frugally but they still take far longer over their meals. Although the two hour lunch is disappearing from the major cities, it is still current in the country, where everything stops for, what many are surprised to find, is a very modest meal in terms of quantity. It’s the quality that counts. Some years ago I was going to a truck stop outside Paris for lunch, when I was accosted by an irate driver, just leaving.. “Don’t eat here,” he said, “They use canned mushrooms.” I took his advice, French truck drivers know their onions as well as their mushrooms.

And even when in France, the expatriates tend to look for quantity. The other day we were invited to the home of an English couple for lunch. Now in our establishment, lunch will consist of bread, pate, perhaps a salad of some sort and some cheese. Rarely much more.

On arriving chez Britannia, we found the equivalent of Belshazzar’s Feast in preparation. The starter of shrimp was more than enough for me, but it was followed by gigantic portions of rather fat pork, with various vegetable trimmings, piled high on my plate. I’m not a great lover of the pig, unless it is sausaged, pied or baconed, and my murmurings that I had, only this week, converted to Islam, were dismissed with an airy laugh. This gargantuan portion was followed by cherry pie and a cheese course. Weakly, I enquired if this was their normal lunch? Puzzled, they said yes, but they normally had only small portions at dinner time as they were trying to lose weight.

Here I should point out, as my friends undoubtedly will, given half a chance, that I am far from anorexic. Portly is an adjective that springs to mind (their minds), although in my defence I can honestly claim that my weight has barely increased over the years. I prefer well-built as being more realistic.

And I love my food, cooking is one of my hobbies, but not too much please. The French enjoy an occasional blow-out, usually in the form of a “fête” of moules, grenouille or escargot with French fries, but these are exceptions rather than the rule and are primarily the excuse for a social gathering.

But Britain is overpopulated as well as generally overstuffed, and here is a chance for the government to shine by mandating that every man, woman and child should consume at least two Double Whoppers (with cheese) each week, plus an extra one or two over the Christmas period. The reduction in the indigenous population created by this would allow more room for immigrants.

And, for those non-fatal but lingering diseases caused by this policy, they could always be shipped across to let the French Health Care Services handle it.

That would teach ‘em not to be so snotty about their eating habits.


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