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From Time magazine:


Time magazine has a lame piece today on why there is more obesity in the South than in the rest of the country. They’re right about some things, for example the correlation of health and weight to income. But they trot out all the old stereotypes about biscuits, fried chicken, and pie. Southerners have always been poor, but they have not always been fat, as an examination of any collection of old photos will show you.

As a Southerner, a foodie, and a person who takes careful note of what people have in their carts in the grocery store line, I claim the standing to comment knowledgeably on this question.

1. Southerners have stopped cooking from scratch. This is clear from the contents of their grocery carts.

2. Southerners have too little color in their diets. Pretty much everything in their grocery cart will be meat or something white.

3. Southerners consume astonishing quantities of canned and bottled sweet drinks. By weight, sweet drinks are probably the main items in their grocery carts. Few even seem to make fresh iced tea at home anymore.

4. Southerners eat too much meat. They seem to have cut way back on pinto beans, which, in my childhood, you were guaranteed to get at least twice a week.

5. Southerners eat too much cheap white bread and too many chips.

6. Southerners buy very few fresh foods, not even fresh potatoes. It took me a while to realize that people aren’t interested in starting gardens because they aren’t interested in what comes out of gardens.

7. When Southerners eat out, whether at fast food places or not, they eat even more calories than they eat at home. Restaurants compete on price and the size of the portions.

If Southerners could go back to the era of homemade biscuits, all would be well. People made biscuits because it was hard to get white bread, or the white bread cost more. Biscuits come from an era in which everything came from the kitchen, from scratch.

Michael Pollen’s rule of thumb is the best I’ve ever heard: It’s about remembering and honoring what our great-grandmothers cooked. Many Southerners seem to have forgotten.

One Comment

  1. brother doc wrote:


    Have not looked at your page for a while and I like the new look. As for the food critique, you got that right, but you should know that many Southern great-grandmothers also cooked rather unhealthily (such a word?). My grandmother, who grew up in Asheville NC, used to say (only half-jokingly) that green beans had to cook at least an hour or were poisonous…! In other words, even when people had healthy foods back in the day, they often cooked them incorrectly.

    PS: try going to some farmers markets now that summer is here. I don’t know where yours is but the one here in Watauga County (Boone) on Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons has some fabulous veggie selections and the market is very well attended. Beautiful greens of all kinds are in now–and this is proof of what I said above: if you are going to take perfectly healthy mustard greens or collards and boil them for hours with salty ol’ fatback, as in the old days, you are not getting their proper nutritional value. Many Southern great-grandmothers were not the best cooks!

    Sunday, July 12, 2009 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

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