Gluttons, unite and fill plates

November 27, 2003|by TIM ROWLAND

Abe Lincoln once said "It is altogether fitting and proper that we do this," and I echo that sentiment.

But while the great president was speaking of dedicating ground to the brave soldiers who fought to save our nation, I am speaking of writing about food on Thanksgiving. A less noble purpose, you may argue, but an important one nonetheless.

Each year, The Herald-Mail Lifestyle department hosts the Cookie Exchange, a contest that usually attracts between 40 and 60 excellent bakers who submit their best efforts for a shot at glory.

The cookies are evaluated in early afternoon, and I'm usually tapped as a judge because by that time of day I'm usually sitting here firing off angry letters to the inventors of voice mail and they figure I can spare the time.


I also, and I say this proudly, have the capacity. I refuse to just take one bite from each cookie. I think that to "give it a fair trial," I must eat the whole enchilada, sometimes two.

It's a duty, and it's also a political statement as I battle mightily against this national obsession with fighting obesity.

Everyone these days is trying to get everyone else to eat less. What? Eat less? Did we lose a war? What is being an American if not to possess the right to be a glutton for gluttony?

I find this a disturbing trend and it shocks me that our young people are buying into it. (Not enough to stop overeating, of course, but as a theoretical thing.)

After last year's Cookie Exchange, a young woman came up to me at the South Pointe gym. I could see something was troubling her. "Uncle Tim," she said, "I read the article about the cookies and ... and..."

She was having trouble going on. A bit ashamed, I surmised. She clasped her hands behind her back and hung her head. She pointed a foot to the floor and twisted it slowly back and forth as she tried to gather courage.

"Don't get me wrong. It sounded like judging would be fun and all, it's just that, well, I don't know."

"Go on," I urged softly. Finally, she blurted out what was on her mind.

"It's just that I don't think I could eat 56 cookies at one sitting."

Well, naturally as a seasoned journalist, I am aware that there are disturbing opinions like this one floating out there in the community, but it still comes as a shock when someone says it right out in the open, in a public place.

I struggled to maintain my composure, and glanced nervously around to see if anyone had overheard. Fortunately, no one had.

"Look, it's OK, even I've felt that way at times," I lied. "But think of it this way. If each cookie had 100 calories, that's still only three times the recommended caloric intake the average individual should have for an entire day. Five hours on the treadmill set at its highest setting and you've burned it all off. What's the problem?"

Still, this conversation disturbed me greatly and I could see that I might be fighting a losing battle. People want to be thin, even to the extreme point of depriving themselves of eating 56 cookies.

I notice this year that South Pointe is open on Thanksgiving morning. Thanksgiving. "Work out in the morning, pig out at night," they say.

I agree, up to a point. Eat a lot, exercise a lot. It works for me. But Thanksgiving? That's the one holiday dedicated to the proposition that all men and women can for a day be unrepentant pigs. It's like a church advertising "Hit the brothels in the morning, repent at night," which, come to think of it, may not be such a terrible idea either.

But now, heretofore stalwarts of the obesity mill are coming over to the dark side. I'm seeing commercials for the Colonel and Miller and Amstel that show skinny people and ripped abs. I was born too late. Who knew that beer and fried chicken were diet foods?

Everywhere you look, trial lawyers are suing restaurants that commit the atrocity of selling products that taste good. You have to wonder how the people of drought-stricken African nations feel about Americans suing people who provide food.

Look, if you want to watch what you eat, I'm not going to try to stop you. If you wish to fret the rest of the year, that's fine. But today at least, try to relax. After all, it's impolite to worry with your mouth full.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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