Friday, July 04, 2008

The Cheesecake-to-Chard Challenge

And now, another installment in our continuing series on the Rienstra family table. Deb's three years of researching the politics of food for her English 101 classes continues to incur collateral damage at home. That is to say, the Rienstra children are suffering from a more and more severe shortage of hot dogs, pop-tarts, and cheez-its. Meanwhile, they are opening the fridge to find it stuffed with things like kohlrabi and organically raised eggs.

So today we will address directly the commonly perceived relationship between the yumminess and health benefits of food. Everybody knows that the better something tastes, the worse it is for you. Scientifically speaking, as yumminess increases, mortal danger also increases. Likewise, as nutritional benefits increase, alas, so does yuckiness.

This is the perception. But is this really the case? A close examination of the following chart reveals a couple of outliers:

Blueberries, for example, rank high on the yummy scale and have also recently been proven to cure major diseases and promote the development of superpowers. On the other end of the scale, lots of fast food products are both disgusting and fatal.

It is possible, of course, to strike a strategic balance. Note, for example, the dish at the precise center of the chart. The classic American tuna casserole with broccoli has been shown in scientific studies at major research universities to balance taste and health in perfect equilibrium. The tasty cheesy sauce, though a little fatty, can be counter-balanced by whole-wheat pasta; the health benefits of the omega-3 oils in the tuna and the roughage in the broccoli can be yummied up with crumbled potato chips or fried onions layered on top of the dish.

Nevertheless, perhaps we need to change our misconception about yumminess and health. In an effort to do that at our house (and also to promote the development of the local foodshed, know our farmer, and build community with crunchy granola types), we have purchased a share in a CSA farm. That means we paid in February for a share of a local farm's harvest from June through October. So now, every week, we bring home several grocery bags (the re-usable kind, of course) full of green stuff like this:

We're trying to eat, in other words, as much as possible in the upper left quadrant of our chart. And perhaps to coax some things in the lower left quadrant into inching upwards. It turns out, for example, that Swiss chard, if prepared correctly, falls higher on the yumminess scale than we thought.

So Rienstra children, take heart. You may dip your kohlrabi in some standard American super-processed, corn-byproduct-infested, overpackaged ranch dressing. At least, for now...