By: J. Justin Wilson
Thanks to a combination of economic hardship and a proliferation of cooking shows, home cooking is back. A Harris poll found that 71 percent of Americans are cooking at home more. That would surely cheer famed chef Julia Child, who would have turned 100 last week and who brought the art of French cooking to America’s televisions and dinner tables.
She was legendary in part for proclaiming the virtues of enjoying, rather than fearing, food. Her recipes, heavy with butter, cream and sugar, offered the common household a taste of the good life. They would also offend the nation’s growing class of government worrywarts.
Throughout her life, Child stood against neo-puritans who demanded universal adherence to one view of the perfect diet. Whether she was arguing against organic evangelists with their “endless talk of pollutants and toxins” that played on “the country’s ingrained fear of pleasure” or telling the Associated Press that scolds and nags “see no beauty in food,” Child had no time for overblown hype in the kitchen.
Some would say we suffer because we enjoy the taste of the good life that Child provided. After all, we seem to read constantly that we’re fat, even as we pay more attention to carb-counts, calories and food rules than ever. But despite trying out Child’s rich recipes, our grandparents’ waistlines weren’t ballooning to anywhere near what they are now. Clearly, blaming food hasn’t slimmed a nation down.
That hasn’t stopped the nags and scolds, and now they’ve brought the government to do their dirty work. We’ve even seen them claim that food is addictive like illegal drugs.
Former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration David Kessler told 60 Minutes last November that food companies are making “super palatable” foods that are “fat on fat on sugar on fat with flavor” and “hijack our brain.” Of course, that’s exactly what Child was doing on television 40 years ago, and waistlines weren’t bulging.
Now some argue that this so-called “addiction” should prompt governments to adopt food taxes or even forbid letting a kid buy a cookie. But Cambridge University scientists found that “The vast majority of overweight individuals have not shown a convincing behavioral or neurobiological profile that resembles addiction.” And the claim gets more ridiculous. The purported evidence for food’s addictiveness is that it makes our brains’ pleasure centers light up. Newsflash: Everything pleasurable lights up our pleasure centers, whether it’s your favorite music or exercise.
Mixing uncertain science with activist agendas to target ingredients or foods hasn’t ever proved a path to good health. Rather than following the blame-a-food-any-food crowd, Child preached a different message: moderation.
If we want to slim down, we’d be wise to follow that advice not only at the table but also in the rest of our lives. CDC figures show that only about 20 percent of American adults get the recommended amount of physical activity.
When she passed, Child was two days short of 92 years old. Not bad for a woman who wrote, “With enough butter, everything is good.” Moderation served her well, and it could serve us all well if we give it the chance.