I think it was last week when I came across an AP story detailing the efforts of the San Antonio Restaurant Association to encourage healthier cooking at the city's Tex-Mex and Mexican eateries. Seems the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed San Antonio behind only Detroit, Memphis and Martinsburg, West Virginia, in terms of obesity percentage.
Not very pretty company.
Obviously there's nothing wrong with healthy dishes. And any effort to educate a population on the joys of the food pyramid or the evils of, well, fried butter is a positive step. What bothers me is the implied threat of regulation.
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A number of cities have banned trans fats. Many require or are considering laws requiring restaurants to publish calorie counts. Some go further, attempting to outlaw fatty delicacies, such as foie gras (although that's generally due to animal cruelty concerns). In this case, the SARA is pushing for voluntary menu changes in order to forestall such impositions. The article pointed out that mayor Julian Castro "hasn't ruled out regulations in the future," although he's willing to see if the association's program works.
But there's something out of whack here--and its not just our willingness to sacrifice flavor. A number of Mexican dishes are prepared with lard and taste better that way. Hell, good Southern biscuits taste so much better when made with lard. French fries cooked in beef tallow are memorable. Prime beef is far superior to lean. Not that we should be shoveling down spoonfuls of trans fats (or even good farmstead butter, for that matter)--but don't you think it odd that we fight recent growing obesity problems by changing the way food has been prepared for centuries?
To me this is like cutting shotgun blasts from Bugs Bunny cartoons because they might cause violent behavior or pulling G.I. Joe's from store shelves for the same reason. I owned plastic soldiers and a Joe with kung fu grip, but I'm a casual pacifist (which means I'm opposed to pointless warfare--not all war--and abhor general violence). I grew up with shortening, too. My parents used it in biscuits and fried chicken and dozens of other dishes. By college, I had a 32-inch waist.
In other words, it's not always the food at fault. Maybe its a lack of discipline or a refusal to exercise regularly or whatever. There are health issues that need to be dealt with, of course. That's not the point. I'm just worried about the possible spread of legislated tastelessness.