I was recently pointed to a New York Times Magazine article on fats, carbohydrates, and the much-reviled Dr. Atkins (free registration required), which, as these articles tend to do, left me skimming the last few pages and wondering what in the world I'm supposed to do with all this information.

And what I did was cook three pounds of pork sausage. Really. Not so much in response to the possibility that meat may be better for me than pastas and breads, but because the recipe called for it.

I suppose I should do a better job of reviewing a recipe before I go out like some sort of culinary robot and buy the exact quantities of foodstuffs that the recipe calls for.

I mean, it'll take me quite a while to get through eight "Ballycastle sausage rolls" of [attempts to mentally figure amount, gives up and pulls out HP programmable graphing calculator reduced to doing division] almost a third of a pound of sausage each.

Not that I really follow recipes all that strictly, but for some reason I can't find it in myself to halve the given proportions, even if those proportions come from a restaurant recipe obviously meant to serve a gaggle of frat boys.

I should also mention that it's rather unusual for me to cook meat at all, much less three pounds of sausage. It's probably safe to say that the amount of meat I cooked tonight is equal to the amount of meat I purchased in the past, oh, six months. Usually, if I want meat, I go out to a decent restaurant. But I wanted to cook sausage, dangit.

So now I have a tub full of sausage in my refrigerator, waiting to be lovingly rolled into puff pastry pockets and baked. The tub is sitting next to an equally large tub of gazpacho. You can almost feel the meat voltage between the two tubs.

But that's not the point. The point is that there is yet more data out there in the world that conflicts with other data about what it is we're supposed to eat to live longer, or happier, or smarter or something.

And in this zany postmodern world we live in, when we feel overwhelmed by conflicting data, when we feel that we are no longer in control of our lives, what do we do? That's right, we try to find some petty way to make fun of the whole situation, thereby failing to address the big issue, but nonetheless making ourselves feel as if we've done, well, something.

In this particular situation, our fun is had in reading the online transcript of two CNN talking heads discussing the whole fat/carbohydrate flap, which reads, in part, more like a poorly translated Japanese screenplay than a serious discussion of medical science, as in this exchange:

PHILLIPS: Yes, I know. It's like, how do you find the right kind?

COHEN: You know, it is saturated -- I will tell you the technical answer. Then I tell you the easy answer.

PHILLIPS: OK, please.

And in this Shakespeare-esque dialogue:

PHILLIPS: All right, Dr. Atkins is totally anti-carbs.


PHILLIPS: So, these influential researchers with whom you spoke, what do they say about that?

COHEN: They are not anti-carb.

It also contains the following wonderful paragraph, in which people who have earned doctorates are paraphrased to sound like idiots. More importantly, it contains an aside that would make a junior high student giggle. Can you find it?

And they all said: "Oh, no. We do not suggest that to our patients." They said: "What we think is that maybe Atkins is on to something when he says fat is not that bad. But" -- and here is the big but -- "but we tell our patients to eat 'good fats.'"

And there you have it. So what should I eat to be happier? More fats? More carbohydrates? Absent any overwhelming scientific consensus, the answer is sausage. And gazpacho. And really good bread. And whatever else I was planning on cooking before I read that article.

3 comments so far

1 Jul 10 '02 10:05pm:

amar replied:

i also have been obsessively thinking about that article. i mean i'm veggie, i can't start eating frickin sausage. but i think he has a point with the less carbs thing. i've been eating more soy products. mmm soyrizo"

2 Jul 11 '02 3:16pm:

Xy replied:

"Soyrizo? {shudder}

I could insert the obligatory "my father lost 50 pounds on a low-carb diet" commercial here (just did -- ha ha!), but the fact of the matter is that the real key in any diet is portion control. Honestly, I just like all food too much to limit myself to any subset of it... and I think the emotional satisfaction of a well prepared, varied and interesting, moderately sized meal is more important than sadly and woefully eating Just Meat or Just Salad.

But the challenge of such a limited diet is weirdly compelling. And for Atkins, anyway, the anecdotal (if not empirical) evidence is compelling."

3 Jul 12 '02 9:26am:

tODD replied:

"Christy, I totally agree with you. Eating less and moderate exercise (e.g. I walk to and from work, which takes about 25 minutes) will get you all sorts of places.

For instance, under said diet, I now weigh less than I did throughout college. You could even call me skinny.

Mind you, the small portion part was enforced by my being unemployed and trying to stretch my meals out. But hey, it works.

Which is why I split just one sausage roll with Julia in our dinner last night of sausage rolls and gazpacho (subtitled "tension on the dinner plate").

Of course, when your sausage roll is the size of a medium potato, it's okay to split one.

But my real point is this: how many bastardized food names are employed in selling soy (or otherwise "healthy") versions of the same food?

You've got your Tofurkey, your tuNO (fake tuna), your soysauge, and your soyrizo. What else is there?"

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