Saturday, May 12, 2007

Eating Old School

Old School is a trendy term (does using the word, ‘trendy’ imply that I am indeed, not? Thought so…) which essentially means to do things the old fashioned way, the way our parents, grandparents or even great-grandparents did. In this case I am applying the term to the way we eat. Eating old school is something that the past two generations of Americans have moved away from (to my mind, starting in the mid 1970’s).

There is, of course the Slow Food movement, books like The Omnivore's Dilemma and Fast Food Nation and some fine individuals who are fighting to get people to rethink the way we produce and eat food in America, but the vast majority of people in this grand country seem to be a bit confused about how to eat healthy, consistently.

It seems to be feast or famine. Either chemically-altered fat-free foods, or super-sized fast food—the stratification is immense and confounding.

We don’t need fad diets, we don’t need fat-free anything, but we also don’t need Mickey D’s or even Outback Steakhouse take-away three times a week.

Take the Swiss, for instance. With the exception of McDonald’s, fast food chains have no presence in Switzerland—and the golden arches have only a very few locations, about one for every four or five (or more) towns. Prepared foods are uncommon. And there is no such thing as fat-free anything.

The Swiss do however, as a culture, indulge in a fantastic array of tasty, juicy sausages—the sausage griller is absolutely ubiquitous throughout the Swiss landscape. And dairy, are you kidding? This is the land of cows (so beloved, the creatures are practically worshipped). Cheeses, milk, butter, yogurt, eggs and this stuff called quark which is actually fresh cheese that is flavored with fruits (I haven’t yet acquired a taste for that one). They love their potatoes and crunchy loaves of bread or brötlis (rolls).

Despite all this sinful eating, after living here for four years, I have seen only two obese people, and they were British tourists.

How is this possible? Two reasons: First, the Swiss love to walk. They walk to get places, they walk to exercise their dogs (another worshiped animal here) and they walk to take in the gorgeous scenery. There are more ‘wanderwegs’ (walking paths), here than there are roads. I have personally seen, very old ladies with walkers strolling the wanderwegs in the surrounding Alps—no joke.
Second, the Swiss enjoy all these delicious, fat-laden foods in moderation. Yes, that word is hard for me, too. If something tastes really good I want six pounds of it. Now.

Women here are rarely reed-thin, but they are never over-weight. They are healthy with rosy cheeks—the way I hope my four daughters will look as women.
And they would never think of eating fat-free sour cream (it’s just wrong).

Most Swiss eat the way our forefathers and mothers did; They stop eating when they feel full, eat their biggest meal at lunchtime with a much smaller ‘snack’ for dinner, drink moderately and walk as a way of life—to get places, not just as an activity. They remain staunchly, old school.

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