Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.

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Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Fat kids on a Hungry Planet

I work in academia. Fall semester began last week, giving me my first look at this year's batch of incoming freshmen. I know I've mentioned this before, but these kids are overweight. Many are fat; most are carrying the roll of fat around their middles indicative of high junk-food intake.

The girls are amazingly tall and naturally busty, making me wonder about synthesized hormone levels in food. At 5'2" and 120 pounds, I would describe myself as a medium-sized woman, leaning toward the small side. Amidst these amazons, many well over 150 pounds, walking on size nine feet, I felt postively tiny. The sensation was an unnerving one.

There is a campus cafeteria close to my office. Though I try to bring lunches from home, I couldn't get my act together last week and dashed over a few times to grab a quick meal.

A few years ago this cafeteria served truly unpalatable food. In response to student complaints, they upgraded many of their offerings. You may now purchase a variety of sandwiches, salads, fresh fruits, yogurt, sushi, and Indian foods provided by local caterers. The grill station and bakery shelves carrying donuts and muffins remain, as do the potato chips. Still, it is possible to get a healthy, reasonably decent meal.

Curious, I watched what the students were selecting for lunch. My extremely unscientific survey method consisted of peering into the plates of those in line with me, then standing around the condiment station staring (discreetly) at what people were eating. I'd say ninety percent had made their selection at the grill station, and were tucking into Sysco-provided burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, and fries. All of them had fries. I've had those fries myself a couple times, and let me tell you, even a shower of salt and a bath of catsup cannot alter the immutable fact of their awfulness.

The question, then, is why these kids opted for the worst-tasting items. Forgetting health concerns for a moment, I really wonder at the appeal of bad-tasting food. Familiarity? The final childish vestiges of a limited palate? I have no idea. All I do know is these people are our future doctors, lawyers, and businesspeople. And far too many of them will face--sooner rather than later-- health problems associated with poor nutrition. Amazingly, these problems will stem not from too little, but from too much.

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