In the wake of The Depression and World War II, it’s understandable that the focus of North America’s agricultural system became producing as many calories as cheaply as possible. And so, competitions were held like the Chicken of Tomorrow contest which aimed to produce chickens that grew more quickly and were in every way better suited to industrial production. The one thing that wasn’t a priority was flavor. The result was that even by the 1960s Julia Child was warning that American chickens for all their impressive size were beginning to taste like teddy bear stuffing. This it turns out isn’t some trivial concern. In fact, it may be the driving force behind why Americans overeat.
Given how much of the human genome is devoted to tasting (with flavor sensors not just in your nose and tongue but also in your gut), it would be incredibly strange if flavor was something trivial. In fact, more of your genome is devoted to flavor than is devoted to your genitals which gives you a sense of just how evolutionarily important it must be. As Mark Schatzker, the author of The Dorito Effect, explains in this episode explains, flavor is the signal our bodies detect as a proxy for nutrition. The Dorito is the perfect way to mess up that signaling. You take a corn chip that is full of carbs and pretty much nothing else and you wrap it in massive amounts of flavor. You eat and eat and eat but you never get the nutrition you need. Once you pop, you can’t stop isn’t just a campaign slogan; it’s a warning label. Doritos, Pringles and other junk food are perfectly engineered to make you overeat.
And this is where the mixed mental arts element of this all comes in. Culture is driving these choices. Doritos, Pringles and other junk food are an American invention. And while obesity is a problem everywhere, it is particularly a problem in America. And, however much Americans might try and rationalize this behavior based on cost or practicality, it actually doesn’t make any sense. There are varieties of chicken (La Belle Rouge) and tomato (those belonging to Harry Klee) that produce commercially viable quantities while still being much more flavorful. The costs? Obesity costs the US $190 billion a year. That’s 21% of US Healthcare costs. There are no good reasons why Americans shouldn’t have chickens that are as delicious as French chickens and tomatoes that are as flavorful as Italian tomatoes. More flavor. Less overeating. Less obesity. Lower taxes from healthcare savings. What’s not to love?
Expect to see a forthcoming blogpost that expands on this at mixedmentalarts.club.
GUEST NAME: Mark Schatzker
Mark Schatzker is an award-winning writer based in Toronto. He is a radio columnist for the Canadian Broadcast Corporation and a frequent contributor to the Globe and Mail, Condé Nast Traveler, and Bloomberg Pursuits. He is the author of The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor and Steak: One Man’s Search for the World’s Tastiest Piece of Beef.