• Dr. Patricia A. Farrell

Dessert Me Not: Incredible escapism in the kitchen

Photo by Brenda Godinez at Unsplash

Lobster-filled doughnuts for breakfast is a staple, and a desirable one at that, for anyone visiting Maine. At least that’s what a TV commentator would have us believe.

Of course, he at an age where everything is still wonderous and possible has years to go before realizing, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep…”

The doughnut statement leaves me somewhat aghast as I consider those who could not afford a simple biscuit for breakfast today. I think about the kids who will go to school hungry without that lobster-filled biscuit and who will sit in class waiting for the teacher to distribute a free breakfast, if that's available. Will the government be distributing those free apples and awful cheese that passes for cheddar? Who can exist on that? It reminds me of the scandal in China where people were filling dumplings with cardboard and selling them on the street.

Food insecurity in America is such an important and hidden aspect of our culture that it should be a painfully evident fact to anyone with the ability to read. Excuses are not acceptable in a society that does not care for its own or those who come, wishing to be one of our own.

Bread and circus has obviously become the everyday fare of the American TV-watching audience. Count the number of shows that are devoted to food or food-related contests which may even include children under the age of 16. Then, of course, you have, in turn, the shows where grotesquely obese people are pummeled and pushed to lose weight or have surgery to lop it off.

Why Food or Jackpots?

Rushing to create ever-more-extravagant food items or gorging oneself on over-the-top desserts is becoming the new normal. Perhaps all of this is a reaction to our attempting to dumb ourselves down in order to deny the political and cultural realities currently in force.

Of course, learning about food and nutrition is essential if we wish to lead a healthy lifestyle. But considering placing gold flakes on top of a calorie-busting muffin or cake or some other form of dessert has to be questioned. There is no dodging the fact that we are trying escapism in a new form; desserts and foods.

Photo by Caroline Attwood at Unsplash

The examples remind me of state lotteries in states that then have gamblers’ anonymous programs to help compulsive gamblers they helped incubate through TV ads.

Go to any food-related or candy store or liquor store in many states and there you’ll see at least four different varieties of lotteries promising incredible sums to the winners. Flashing neon signs increase the tension of wanting to win and they are, after all, so affordable and look at the return. This is an example of the “jackpot mentality” psychologists know.

TV gambling now raises the incentive to addiction by offering to give you a certain amount of money to begin your gambling. Don’t drug dealers do this with their free “little tastes” of their product? Yes, they sure do.

The lure is used in stocks, gold and coin sales, too. Please note the “limited edition” coins being offered. They’re “clad” not solid gold as they would lead you to believe. P. T. Barnum knew what to do.

Gods of Gluttony?

Who are the foodie people that are accruing inordinate amounts of TV time and shows where they are propelled to exotic locations to prepare yet-more exotic fare? Of course, they are not the scientists who have made miracle breakthroughs but those who have experimented in their technologically advanced kitchens.

Dry ice is the new stuff of kitchen equipment as are small torches and anything that will catch a viewer’s eye. Rather than cooking or preparation, it is in the service of food styling.

Would could survive without an asparagus peeler or a wonderful polenta maker? Perish the thought. Buy it and then toss them into a junk drawer in your kitchen. Better yet, don’t buy them and make a contribution to a food pantry.

We have become a society of chef-loving consumers. What do they provide? Yes, it's absolute distraction in some form of pleasure, if only through our eyes. The only chef who earned distinction beyond the salamander was Anthony Bourdain in my eyes

Not only did Bourdain raise street food to a level of gastronomic appeal, he engaged the culture and illustrated how simple foods were as elegant as the most exotic from a Michelin restaurant. Gone too soon, Bourdain and his books will remain in the pantheon of chefs that includes Julia Child, Jacque Pepin and Alain Ducasse. Of course there are others, but I am not an expert on gourmet foods or the people who prepare them. These three stand out.

Photo by Michael Longmire at Unsplash

What to Do?

Watch any of the shows you wish, but understand that you are being lured into a mindlessness that will be difficult to break. Critical thinking falls by the wayside when all you are stuffing your brain with is how to roll that dough out correctly or what flavorings go well with lamb or beef or a stuffed breast of veal.

Or maybe you prefer watching business resurrection shows. They’re gaining in favor or staying alive while naked in a wilderness full of real dangers. What will those people face in five or 10 years after their misadventures? Ah, yes, another TV show on exotic ailments and the wizards who treat them.

How much is too much? Well, it’s like rehab. How many weeks do you need as opposed to how many weeks your insurances covers. Here you get to decide and I think Bourdain would agree with me that balance is the answer.

Gluttony remains one of the seven deadly sins.

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