Why Ruhlman Rules

RuhlmanBrace yourself for another glorious Michael Ruhlman rant, this time about salt and fat and diets and quality of life and death and Mayor Bloomberg:

America doesn’t have an obesity problem, or a food problem, or a Big-Gulp-forcing-Mayor-Bloomberg-to-put-on-his-cape problem (though the fattest state in the country just passed a food anti-regulation bill lest they lose their right to ethereal sugar-laden gulps on that express train to diabetes land).

What America has is a living problem. America seems to think that the answer to how to eat can be found on the news, from studies, from your doctor (who’s reading the same reports you are and following the same party line now being contradicted by that “small body of unsettling data”), not even from your mayor.

What sparked all this was a New York Times Magazine article by Gretchen Reynolds, “Eat Your Heart Out.” The author cites more studies and surveys pointing in several directions, leading us to … do what, exactly?

The data that matters to me is the data I receive after I’ve finished eating something. Do I feel good after eating a roast chicken with gravy and mashed potatoes and a pile of shaved sautéed Brussels sprouts? Yes. How about after I eat a bag of Cheetos? Not so good. What does that mean? Think about it. Think. Do you feel good after you exercise? Yes, because it’s good for you. Or you can hunt for data on the Internets if you want The Truth. Go ahead, read up on it. Or watch all the “a new study finds” stories on the ABC Nightly News.

Part of the problem is our obsession with longevity rather than quality of life. Why can’t we become obsessed with good rather than long? Sure I’d prefer 90 healthy years to 75 healthy years. But do I want 75 healthy years followed by 5 years of mental and physical decline, followed by 10 years of increasing dementia that puts a strain on my family?

How are we going to die? Chances are, it’s a combination of genetics and environment and no diet, insists Ruhlman, is going to allow you a higher quality of life. Perhaps my favorite paragraph, because I’ve shared similar sentiments with the Mrs.:

Me, if I have a really good meal, al fresco, say, followed by an espresso and an eau de vie and someone offers me a cigarette? I’m going to have it. I love a cigarette. What a pleasure with, say, a grappa overlooking the harbor of Portofino on my 49th birthday. Damn, that was a good cigarette. But I have no intention of addicting myself again, because that will give me the lung cancer and emphysema that killed my dad. I’d sooner eat straight sugar than drink a regular Coke, but am I going to forgo duck confit and bacon so that I can eke out 90 years? Are you kidding me? Shoot me now.

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