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Vertrees: Facing our need to feed

Carrol Vertrees

Carrol Vertrees

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Updated: March 10, 2014 6:24AM



I cannot define “caloric conundrum” but I believe I see one in the way we Americans and food come together. Or don’t ever meet.

This smiling woman says in an ad that she has lost more than 80 pounds. She may find it. Maybe not. But the fattening of America makes it likely.

Anyway, the way we eat and don’t eat is a real puzzle.

Americans throw away about 40 percent of the food produced in the U.S., about 20 pounds per person every month. I read that in the Christian Science Monitor, so it surely is true.

Chew on this from the U.S. Department of Agriculture: About 49 million Americans spend at least part of the year wondering where their food will come from.

I did not grow up being hungry and never have been except for one day on a hike during basic training. People like me who have not been hungry have a hard time understanding what it is like.

I don’t always clean up my plate, and some picky friends ask something like “What would your mom say?”

Eating in restaurants (older folks don’t cook much) is revealing.

Some of these places try to overfeed us and we love it. We pretend that we don’t approve, but are we serious? I still believe deep in my old heart that some restaurants and the food take-home-box business people are in cahoots.

One day at a breakfast I ordered one egg and a piece of toast. Nothing else. The helpful server who called me honey (that always excites me) whispered that “It’s cheaper with potatoes and some sausage.” That nice place has either a surplus of spuds and meat or it thinks that old folks always love bargains. Why do they do this to us innocent people, loyal Americans? Why do I always get three sausage links when I want only one or two?

I have studied the potluck habits of my fellow Methodists and I wonder what the Wesley brothers would think if they saw many of my friends ogling the dessert table even before the whistle blows for the real action.

I watch my friends not just ogling but taking cake, cookies and other high calorie stuff back to their tables. I mingle with them, participating only in the name of research.

They still have room for meat and potatoes, even broccoli, and there is some waste, and maybe some waist.

I wonder what the lady who lost those 80 pounds would think if she saw this display.

Many people cannot help it if they are obese, but many can. I have never been obese, so I can only guess. I try to stay under 125, but it is hard when stores tempt us with bargains on sweet stuff. One day I saw a sign at the doughnut table “2 for $5!” Almost irrestible, like the call of Loreli luring sailors. Then I saw the price tag on one box of doughnuts: “$2.50.”

Oh, the games stores play with our minds and weak powers of resistance.

We do waste food, and in this land of plenty (for some) we do it innocently, not thinking much about it. I often wonder, but am afraid to ask, what happens to the big dinner rolls servers bring to our tables. They don’t fit well in normal-sized purses. Are they served again? Are they tossed out?

It is a riddle — so much food, so much being wasted, so many hungry people.

The Monitor reports that the percentage of households reporting insufficient food is up from 11.2 percent 10 years ago to about 14.5 percent.

Will we find a way to even out the food supply? To eat less and waste less? I say “fat chance” but I hope that is wrong.



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