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Maudie’s Tex-Mex

Posted: April 30th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Restaurant Reviews | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Maudie’s Tex-Mex

For my birthday, we finally tried Maudie’s Tex-Mex. I’ve heard about Maudie’s for years, of course, but with all the excellent Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants across Austin, had never actually been. Now that my younger kids and I are diagnosed with celiac disease, our options for Mexican food are somewhat more constrained. Some places, like Chuy’s, use beer to marinade all their meat. Other places make flour and corn tortillas on the same surfaces at pretty much the same time. And some use flour to thicken their sauces. As with most other sorts of restaurants, it’s become a minefield.

Maudie’s, though, stands out from the crowd with its gluten free options. It started as soon as we walked in and my daughter and I said we needed a gluten free menu. The waitress immediately told us the tortilla chips weren’t safe as they were fried in the same oil as gluten containing dishes. She brought us gluten free tortilla chips (still in a sealed plastic bag) and our own salsa so there would be no cross-contamination from dipping in the same dish. I was impressed that she did all that without any questions or requests from us. That’s a level of knowledge and care we don’t often encounter.

Their gluten free menu is also a pleasant change. Often, the gluten free menu at a restaurant is really a cross-reference to their main menu listing the dishes (often with modifications) from the main menu that are safe to eat. In order to get a full description of the dish and the price, you have to jump back and forth between the regular menu and the gluten free menu. At Maudie’s, the gluten free menu is self-contained. It describes the dishes and gives the price. It’s a complete menu and you don’t have to refer back to the regular menu at all. That may seem like a small thing, but it really means a lot.

The food was outstanding. My daughter got her usual cheese enchiladas. My wife got some taco plate with gluten-filled flour tortilla tacos. It was my birthday, so I got the grilled chipotle shrimp. They were served fajita style with corn tortillas and were absolutely delicious! I loved the sliced serrano peppers sauteed along with the onions and bell peppers. That was a nice touch.

Maudie’s goes on our relatively short list of safe and fun places to eat — places where you don’t have to think too much about having celiac disease or worry about the food.

Weekend Update 04-28-2012

Posted: April 28th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 04-28-2012

From now until May 20 the proceeds from sales of Second Mile Band’s CD, my friend Tom Cottar’s worship band, benefits Rafiki Africa Ministries, an orphanage in Uganda established and run by another friend. I’ve enjoyed their music both on the CD and in person. Love Wins is particularly good.

The Amnesia Candidate. How stupid does the Romney campaign think Americans are? Pretty stupid, actually. Hopefully we aren’t really as stupid as they believe we are.

We’re on course to follow Europe into a double dip recession. It’s not just that economic theory tells us that government austerity during periods of economic contraction is bad. We developed those economic models based on the experience of the Great Depression and have seen them confirmed in multiple smaller contractions. And the principles aren’t even hard to understand. They seem pretty obvious to me, at least. The current European and American insanity is so contrary to reason and reality, it’s hard to grasp.

Bullying the Nuns. I went to a Catholic school for three years and I’ve known a pretty fair number of nuns in different contexts throughout my life. With only a few exceptions, they have all seemed like pretty amazing women to me. I wouldn’t bet against the nuns. 😉 Moreover, they are really part of the heart and soul of Catholicism.

Here’s the graph comparing the results of Cameron’s austerity campaign in Britain to Britain during the Great Depression. The picture is pretty clear. And this is a graph showing the collapse in American public employment during the GOP austerity campaign here which Obama has largely failed to counter. As the graph indicates, normally public employment grows during a crisis and recovery compensating for private sector weakness. In economic peak times, public employment tends to wane as the private sector offers higher compensation. We’re running counter to that trend, especially at the state and local level, and there was no rational reason for the public sector contraction. If we had followed the trend from past recoveries, we would be a whole lot better off as a nation right now than we are. The GOP platform across the board at all levels is to double down on the damage they’ve already caused. As a nation, are we really stupid enough to let them do it? I guess we’ll find out.

Of course, the GOP seems to be going out of its way to alienate key influential and growing segments of our population. I guess once you lose touch with reality, it’s hard to respond to its cues in any venue, even when the failure to respond is self-destructive.

Death of the confidence fairy. Zombie economic policies. Reign of error. Three great phrases in this Krugman column.

The last blurb in this post about Ayn Rand is hilarious and so spot on! “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

The rich are different from you and me. Being wealthy and raised in privilege does not necessarily mean you are so utterly clueless about the lives of others and so completely lacking in empathy. FDR and Kennedy were certainly children of privilege and wealth. But Mitt seems absolutely tone deaf.

Really? Genetically modified insecticide containing corn is bad for the soil? Who da thunk?

I remember in the 80s the “assumption” among the young that SS wouldn’t be there when we got older. But guess what? It’s doing pretty good. The Greenspan Commission fixed the basic structural flaws and even now it only needs a small tweak to maintain full solvency. (Even without that tweak it’s a very long-term problem in which the fund could only pay three-quarters of expected benefits, not insolvency.) When you’re healthy and twenty-something, you might think less about health insurance and retirement. I know. I’ve been there. Wait a couple of decades. Reality will kick you in the teeth. I was never as caught up in that hubris as some of my friends. I had already learned a lot of hard lessons by that age. And I’m pretty decent at math. I’ve discovered that helps. A lot.

Elizabeth Esther mentions her Myers-Briggs personality type a fair amount in her writing. I don’t as much. In fact, I doubt I’ve every mentioned it on my blog. But I first took the test back in the early nineties in a work context — so it was the full test, not an abridged version. And each time I’ve taken it since I’ve come up the same type, INFP. I’m practically off-the-chart N and P. I’m relatively strongly I. And I’m borderline F. (That’s perhaps not surprising given my strong mathematical bent and the fact that my profession leans heavily to the T side.) I’ve found a site with descriptions of the various personality types and this description of INFP is not bad and pretty accurate in places.


End of Overeating 5 – The Culture of Overeating

Posted: April 27th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: End of Overeating | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

End of OvereatingBefore I move on to the next section of the End of Overeating, I wanted to explore one underlying contributing factor to conditioned hypereating that I had not thought much about, namely our culture of eating in general. Dr. Kessler devotes a chapter to the topic. He opens with an intriguing observation.

The question “Is food available?” once had social and economic implications. We were really asking “Are we facing famine?” “Can we afford food?” That framework has changed in Western societies. Now we usually mean “Can I buy food nearby?” “Can I eat it anywhere?” In today’s America, the answer to these questions is usually yes.

An important change in our culture of eating in the United States is that we now believe it is okay to eat almost anywhere and everywhere. Eating while walking down the street, in class, in a meeting, or while conducting business is no longer considered rude. I’ve grown up in that environment and had never even thought about it before. Dr. Kessler shares the impressions of people from other cultures in a way that really drives the point home.

Of course, our culture of eating is beginning to infiltrate even anti-snacking cultures with extremely strong meal patterns. The French pattern of eating only at set mealtimes was once so strong that restaurants wouldn’t even serve food outside those traditional periods. As that cultural norm weakens, we are seeing a rise in weight in France, though not yet anywhere near the scale we see in America.

With hyperpalatable food readily available everywhere we go and few cultural restrictions on when and where we eat, those susceptible to conditioned hypereating live in an almost constant state of stimulation. It’s little wonder we’re suffering from an obesity epidemic.

Four Hundred Texts on Love (Third Century) 35

Posted: April 26th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Third Century) 35

74.  It is not always for the same reason that sinners commit the same sin. The reasons vary. For example, it is one thing to sin through force of habit and another to sin through being carried away by a sudden impulse. In the latter case the man did not deliberately choose the sin either before committing it, or afterwards;  on the contrary, he is deeply distressed that the sin has occurred. It is quite different with the man who sins through force of habit. Prior to the act itself he was already sinning in thought, and after it he is still in the same state of mind.

There is a common way of speaking in my strand of Christianity that holds that all sin is the same. Of course that’s nonsense. We don’t even live or act as though that’s true. I think it’s even a dangerous attitude. It can hide the more dangerous things that rule us. All sin is not the same. St. Maximos has warned us elsewhere that the more spiritual sins like greed and pride are much more destructive than the baser passions. Here he warns us that even when the sin is the same, it’s merely the outward symptom. In and of itself, it tells us nothing about the inner state driving the act. And that inner state is extremely important. An impulsive action for which we are distressed is more easily and readily healed than a deeply engrained passion.

End of Overeating 4 – Conditioned Hypereating

Posted: April 25th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: End of Overeating | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on End of Overeating 4 – Conditioned Hypereating

End of OvereatingNext the End of Overeating explores why the syndrome Dr. Kessler calls conditioned hypereating is an emerging threat in our modern world. For centuries, homeostasis kept our consumption of food as a population more or less in balance. That balance has now been overturned. In large part that’s because our brains are actually being rewired. Dr. Kessler notes this phenomenon in his book.

I began to develop an overarching theory about eating for reward: Chronic exposure to highly palatable foods changes our brains, conditioning us to seek continued stimulation. Over time, a powerful drive for a combination of sugar, fat, and salt competes with our conscious capacity to say no.

So, how do we become trapped in this cycle of conditioned hypereating? When the chemical reward from eating a hyperpalatable food has made us feel better in the past, we become conditioned to associate that feeling with the food. And it tends to work. We crave that Butterfinger because we have felt good when we’ve eaten them in the past. So when we obtain one and take that first bite, we tend to feel that same sensation.

In many ways, conditioned hypereating is like many afflictions with both a genetic and environmental component. That’s similar to celiac disease. Some people never suffer from conditioned hypereating, just like a third of the population lacks the genes necessary for celiac disease. But even among those with the genetic predisposition for hyperconditioned eating, like those with the genes for celiac disease, not everyone will manifest the condition. For the rest of us, again like celiac disease, conditioned hypereating could be triggered at any time.

However, it’s certainly clear that a significant portion of the global population is susceptible and as we import the highly processed and hyperpalatable American diet into other parts of the world, the obesity epidemic begins to take root in those countries as well.

Four Hundred Texts on Love (Third Century) 34

Posted: April 24th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

73.  He who speaks dispassionately of his brother’s sins does so either to correct him or to benefit another. If he speaks for any other reason, either to the brother himself or to another person, he speaks to abuse him or ridicule him. In this case he will not escape being abandoned by God. On the contrary, he will fall into the same sin or other sins and, censured and reproached by other men, will be put to shame.

Of course, we see, hear about, and experience cases of spiritual abuse all the time today, it seems. We need to speak from love, that is actively willing the good of the other, or we should not speak at all. Our New Testament has an awful lot to say about how we should speak and the danger that lies in our tongue — ever ready to trap us. I think it almost has as much to say about that as it does about the dangers of wealth and the passions riches and power stir.

Gluten Free Chili and Cornbread

Posted: April 23rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac, Personal | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Gluten Free Chili and Cornbread

Gluten Free Chili and Cornbread

This isn’t a recipe site and I don’t plan to turn it into one. But as I was cooking this past weekend, it occurred to me that this would make a good dish through which I could explore the way I approach meals and cooking in general and some of the specific ways we’ve adapted dishes to be gluten free. So I’m not going to write this up as a recipe, but there will be a couple of pretty decent recipes embedded in this post if you care to extract them from the text and write them down on recipes cards yourself. If not, I hope you’ll enjoy the post anyway.

Chili, of course, is everywhere in Texas and everyone has their own recipe. It’s also a dish that’s easy to make gluten free. Many chili recipes are gluten free without any adaptation. Many others only require slight adaptation.

I started developing my own chili recipe in my early twenties. I used a fusion of techniques and spicing, primarily Southwestern and Indian, I had learned from my Dad growing up. And I developed a few wrinkles of my own through trial and error. I never had a recipe for it or exact measurements, so it was a little different every time I made it. My father and some of my friends at the time loved it, but many others found it too hot. (The chili had both an up-front heat and a cumulative, developing heat that snuck up on you.) In particular, my kids wouldn’t eat it, so I gradually quit making chili much at all.

My wife, however, loved a good Texas red with a bite, but not overpoweringly hot, so she kept looking for a good recipe. One day, she stumbled across one in our local supermarket that looked easy to adapt into a chili like the ones she preferred. She gave it a whirl and it turned out pretty delicious. She tweaked it a bit until it was pitch perfect. And the kids liked it too (especially with a lot of cheese)! I pretty much follow her recipe, though I do tweak it just a bit. It’s a fun and simple recipe that produces a reliably yummy chili.

Start by browning a couple of pounds of ground beef. These days, with our increased awareness about what we eat, we prefer lean, organic, grass-fed ground beef, but any ground beef will work. When the ground beef is browned, drain it and set it aside for later. (If you have Yorkies you tend to spoil, set aside a little of the ground beef for them.)

While the ground beef is cooking in a large skillet, add a pound and a half to two pounds of diced beef cubes (about 3/8 inch or so) to a large pot. (We generally use one of our ceramic coated, cast iron dutch ovens.) Finely diced stew meat will work. Or you can pick your preferred cut of beef and dice it yourself.

Chop a medium to large onion. I’ll use different onions according to my mood. A white onion will give the chili a slightly sharper bite. A lot of the time I’ll use a yellow onion because I like them. When they are in season a Texas 1015 onion can provide a delicious change of pace. Add the onion to the pot.

Then seed and finely dice your fresh chiles. What chiles should you use? Well, that’s according to the flavor you want. Definitely include a larger chile. Most of the time I use a poblano, but a large ancho or, in season, a roasted hatch green chile or two are good alternatives. You always need 1-2 jalapenos for their distinctive flavor. Beyond that, use whatever chiles you like. I’ll sometimes dice up a serrano or two. We almost never have fresh cayenne peppers here, but I would love to try one or two in this chili some day. Some chile pequins could be nice. Really, just use the chiles you like. The ones you pick will shape the flavor of the end result. Toss the finely diced chiles into the pot.

Crush or mince at least six large cloves of garlic and add them to the pot. Really, you can put in just about as much garlic as you like. We like garlic, so we never go easy on it.

Cook the beef cubes, onion, chiles, and garlic mixture on medium-high heat until the beef is no longer pink. You’ll know when it’s ready for the next step.

Add the ground beef to the pot and add the spices. The spices include 2-4 teaspoons each of salt, black pepper, and cumin. Throw in half a teaspoon or so of ground cayenne pepper (assuming you didn’t have any fresh ones available for the step above). Cayenne’s a moderately hot pepper, so adjust according to your tolerance. And then add 3-5 tablespoons of chili powder. I suppose in some parts of the country, you pretty much only have the generic chili powder blend in a bottle. Here, though, we rarely have fewer than two chili powder blends in the bulk spices at any of our grocery stores. The chili in the picture above was made with a San Antonio fiesta chili powder. The chili powder used will, of course, influence the final flavor of the chili. Stir to combine without removing the pot from the heat.

Stir in tomatoes. Personally, I like to use a large can (30 oz. or so) of organic crushed tomatoes and a medium can (15 oz. or so) of organic tomato sauce. I also like chunks of tomato in my chili, so I usually add a can of organic diced tomatoes. (You can chop up fresh tomatoes as long as you recognize that will extend the cooking time.) If you want your chili without those chunks of tomatoes, it’s perfectly okay to skip them.

Purists will insist that a Texas red has no beans. Beans, if provided, are to be served on the side. My wife and I both like beans in our chili, so we thumb our noses at the purists and make our chili the way we like it. We both tend to like black beans, so we’ll normally throw in a can of drained black beans. (Or add some fresh cooked ones, but we don’t make beans from scratch all that often.)

Finally, add enough liquid to reach the desired consistency. Usually that’s going to be about 1-3 cups. (This is a part I always just eyeball rather than measure.) It will be a little thin at first, but as it simmers, and especially as the tomatoes cook, it will thicken. A lot of the time we’ll use a gluten free organic beef broth for the liquid. (We like the Central Market Organics beef broth.) But a gluten free beer works too. Red wine adds a certain richness. In a pinch you could even just use water, though obviously that won’t add any flavor of its own.

Heat the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, until it’s done. That’s usually going to take at least an hour and the longer it cooks, the better it will be. Save the leftovers, of course. Chili is always better the second day.

We always make cornbread to go with our chili. My wife adapted one of our recipes to be gluten free, but didn’t tell me about the changes she made to it. I made it a couple of times just substituting all-purpose gluten free flour for the regular all-purpose flour on a one-for-one basis and, while edible, the result was not very good at all and had a strange consistency. Finally, she told me she had modified the cornbread recipe and wrote it down for me. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m not much of a baker, so I don’t play with the recipe.

Add 1 1/4 cups of gluten free (most should be gluten free, but always check) corn meal and 3/4 cup Jules gluten free all-purpose flour (or some other all-purpose gluten free flour, though I don’t promise the same result with any other) to a mixing bowl.  Add four teaspoons of baking powder, half a teaspoon of salt, and some cayenne (to taste). Mix the dry ingredients together thoroughly.

Add two eggs, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, and one cup of water to the dry mixture. Stir, just until combined. (Don’t use an electric mixer or stir past the point that everything is combined.)

Transfer to a greased pan and cook at 425 degrees until done. It’s going to take about 20 minutes, but I’m sure most people know the drill. When it’s pulling away from the sides and a toothpick or butter knife inserted into the center comes out clean, it’s done.

My kids like cheese in their chili and honey on their cornbread. I can’t eat cheese anymore and I just like butter on my cornbread. Gluten free tamales go well with it too.

And that’s pretty much what things look like when I cook. Hope you enjoyed my narrative description of the process!

Weekend Update 04-21-2012

Posted: April 21st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 04-21-2012

Europe’s Economic Suicide. Of course, Europe’s political insanity is replicated in spades in the current GOP here. They essentially want to inflict similar policies on our own country. They’ve already limited our recovery and in response to a crash in Europe as countries exit the euro, I can see them trying to double down here. It’s bizarre, really, watching people do everything they can to recreate one of the worst periods in our history.

Richard Beck posts on the loving economy of the Kingdom of God as the antidote to our slavery to the fear of death.

To Know What You Cannot Know. Fr. Stephen Freeman writes an excellent post on the topic. I love the quote from St. Gregory the Theologian. “Inasmuch as God exists, we do not exist. Inasmuch as we exist, God does not exist.”

Skin in the Game. Of course, the full scope of this GOP lie is so staggering it’s amazing that anyone buys it. Moreover, especially in the South, many of those people on whom they want to raise federal taxes and who are presently struggling to survive will actually vote for the very people who want to grind them further into the dirt. The lower half of the households in our country are barely getting by and have very little disposable income. Out of what they do have, they pay an ever increasing and highly regressive set of state and local taxes, including sales taxes, fees, property taxes (either directly or through rent), and tolls. Moreover, unlike the very rich, they pay federal payroll taxes (FICA and Medicare) on all their income, not just a tiny fraction of it. This approach isn’t even good for the very rich in the long run since much of their wealth relies on the ability of the bulk of Americans to contribute to the economy and our society. It’s weird. Democrats struggle to gain support for things that are clearly in the interest of everyone and our entire society, such as health care reform while the GOP manages to get a large block of people to consistently vote to support corporations and the wealthiest Americans against their own self-interest. I really have no idea how they manage to do it.

Contrary to the blurbs I’m sure you’ve seen, cohabitation does not lead to more divorce. The data on which those claims are made is from couple cohabiting in the 80s when it was somewhat less common. Current data shows no measurable impact on likelihood of divorce. That doesn’t surprise me at all. In my world, as opposed to the one in which some people seem to live, I know relatively few people who did not cohabit to one degree or another before they were married. Doesn’t mean I recommend it as a first choice to my kids, but it also doesn’t freak me out when they choose otherwise.

Another conservative constitutional scholar joins the long list of conservative lawyers, professors, and judges supporting the constitutionality of the ACA. Sigh. It’s a shame we’re stuck with one of the worst Supreme Courts in a century.

Not even doctors are “safe” in our existing, unreformed health care “system”.

So, the US Catholic Bishops can at least be pushed into a tepid response against things like the Ryan budget, even if their response lacks the vigor of their reaction over the requirement to provide not actual contraceptives, but insurances policies to their employees (except for those serving in purely religious functions or organizations) that include contraceptive coverage. I’m glad they didn’t remain silent on things that really matter, but remain underwhelmed. I am curious, though, since he’s not only rejected their stance, but basically called them liars, will the Catholic bishops now deny communion to Ryan? Or are those threats only reserved for Democrats who don’t agree with them (and who don’t, I’ll note, call them liars)? Frankly, the USCCB, which used to be respected even by non-Catholics has pretty much lost our respect with all the events from the past decade and more. And I don’t see them doing anything to regain it.

Things like this effort to cut $33 billion in food stamps by the mostly millionaire GOP Congressman make me furious. They live lives of privilege and want to grind down those who are suffering. I have been poor enough to need food stamps (long ago as a teen parent). When you are so poor that sometimes you go hungry in order to feed your kids (or even too poor to feed them enough) you understand poverty. Everyone of them should be forced to live and eat off nothing but the allowance they make for the poor while serving in office. While you can’t truly make someone wealthy and privileged poor, they should at least have some taste of it.

I’ve known a goodly number of nuns in my life. Good luck “correcting” them.

Personally, I have absolutely no confidence in the five radical right-wing justices forming the majority on our Supreme Court. Citizens United and a host of other cases have already clearly illustrated they have no respect for either the Constitution or judicial precedent. But this article outlines the chaos and harm to our country and our citizens they will inflict if they rule as many expect them to rule.

Robert Reich connects the dots to show the big picture. It’s a good short video.

Dogboy and Mr. Dan on freedom Supreme Court style! Including freedom  from … health insurance!

End of Overeating 3 – The Food Industry

Posted: April 20th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: End of Overeating | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on End of Overeating 3 – The Food Industry

End of OvereatingThe next section of the End of Overeating includes a lot of stories of different restaurants, foods, and techniques for generating repeat business. I think an excerpt quoted from the first such illustration will give you a sense for the way this section of the book is constructed. It’s very interesting, I think, and will change the way you read restaurant menus.

The first story involves Dr. Kessler’s observation of an overweight woman eating the Southwestern Eggrolls at a Chili’s Bar & Grill in O’Hare airport.

I watched as the woman attacked her food with vigor and speed. She held the egg roll in one hand, dunked it into the sauce, and brought it to her mouth while using the fork in her other hand to scoop up more sauce. Occasionally she reached over and speared some of her companion’s french fries. The woman ate steadily, working her way around the plate with scant pause for conversation or rest. When she finally paused, only a little lettuce was left.

Next, he provides the report from his industry source on the actual contents of that woman’s meal.

The woman might have been interested in how my industry source, who had called sugar, fat, and salt the three points of the compass, described her entree. Deep-frying the tortilla drives down its water content from 40 percent to about 5 percent and replaces the rest with fat. “The tortilla is really going to absorb a lot of fat,” he said. “It looks like an egg roll is supposed to look, which is crispy and brown on the outside.”

The food consultant read through other ingredients on the label, keeping up a running commentary as he did. “Cooked white meat chicken, binder added, smoke flavor. People like smoky flavor — it’s the caveman in them.”

“There’s green stuff in there,” he said, noting the spinach. “That makes me feel like I’m eating something healthy.”

“Shredded Monterey Jack cheese…. The increase in per-capita consumption of cheese is off the chart.”

The hot peppers, he said, “add a little spice, but not too much to kill everything else off.”

He believed the chicken had been chopped and formed much like a meat loaf, with binders added, which makes those calories easy to swallow. Ingredients that hold moisture, including autolyzed yeast extract, sodium phosphate, and soy protein concentrate, further soften the food. I noticed that salt appeared eight times on the label and that sweeteners were there five times, in the form of corn-syrup solids, molasses, honey, brown sugar, and sugar.

“This is highly processed?” I asked.

“Absolutely, yes. All of this has been processed such that you can wolf it down fast … chopped up and made ultrapalatable … Very appealing looking, very high pleasure in the food, very high caloric density. Rules out all that stuff you have to chew.”

By eliminating the need to chew, modern food processing techniques allow us to eat faster. “When you’re eating these things, you’ve had 500, 600, 800, 900 calories before you know it,” said the consultant. “Literally before you know it.” Refined food simply melts in the mouth.

Dr. Kessler goes on to examine other foods and restaurants and performs the same sort of analysis on each. Food has become a form of relatively cheap entertainment for us. In a later chapter, a restaurant concept designer calls processed food a sort of “adult baby food.” Basically, they are trying to make food irresistible and largely succeeding through a wide array of techniques, including extensive use of chemical flavorings. I like the way he summarizes it in the final chapter in this section.

In industry shorthand, it all comes down to the difference between brown cows and purple cows, according to marketing expert Seth Godin. Brown cows are products that, while perfectly adequate, are fundamentally boring. But a product that’s a purple cow — now, that’s something that stands out. “The essence of the Purple Cow,” writes Godin, “is that it would be remarkable. Something remarkable is worth talking about, worth paying attention to.”

And that’s what the food industry is trying to develop.

How many of your memorable dining experiences have been “purple cows”? Think about it for a bit.


Four Hundred Texts on Love (Third Century) 33

Posted: April 19th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Third Century) 33

72.  God created both the invisible and the visible worlds, and so He obviously also made both the soul and the body. If the visible world is so beautiful, what must the invisible world be like? And if the invisible world is superior to the visible world, how much superior to both is God their Creator? If, then, the Creator of everything that is beautiful is superior to all His creation, on what grounds does the intellect abandon what is superior to all and engross itself in what is worst of all – I mean the passions of the flesh? Clearly this happens because the intellect has lived with these passions and grown accustomed to them since birth, whereas it has not yet had perfect experience of Him who is superior to all and beyond all things. Thus, if we gradually wean the intellect away from this relationship by long practice of controlling our indulgence in pleasure and by persistent meditation on divine realities, the intellect will gradually devote itself more and more to these realities, will recognize its own dignity, and finally transfer all its desire to the divine.

Asceticism, a word derived from one which originally described the physical training of an athlete, used to be part of the universal life of all Christians. We recognized, as St. Maximos outlines above, that we must train our nous and break the grip of the passions which enthrall us. Somehow that awareness and practice has been all but lost in modern Christianity. Is it any wonder, then, that we’re spiritually flabby?