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Amuse Bouche: The fall of food, part II

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This column is part of a series. Read part I and part III here.

We are at war. And we know exactly when it happened.

I don’t mean a war where we are all wearing camouflage fatigues, carrying guns and hiding in trenches trying to survive. I mean a war in which we are wearing trendy camouflage aprons with cute or clever sayings, carrying a tong or our favorite Japanese chef’s knife and have our noses in the latest healthy cookbook or website, trying to survive with what we believe to be the most up-to-date information for how we should eat.  

In this war, as we learn more and more how to eat more sensibly, some new diet, food product or regimen tells us we’re doing it wrong; that what we thought we knew about margarine for example, turned out to be very wrong. Or that red wine is good for our heart or helps alleviate arthritic pain, until it doesn’t.

The bottom line is that for every step forward we think we make in learning how and what to eat, another food product hits the market which is sure to take minutes off our lives like a cigarette.

The one-two punch that first had us on the ropes in the late 1940s and 1950s, tin can foods and high fructose corn syrup, respectively, were only the beginning.

But what harm is there in a few vegetables and red meat in cans? And surely liquid sugar isn’t any different than the white granules we know simply as “sugar.”

Well in and of themselves, no. 

In theory, corn, green beans or a little wild salmon in a can are still just that. So what if my sugar is a solid or a liquid?

Well, there’s a big difference as it turns out.

Though the 1950s and 1960s were still decades of overall healthy eating, we were setting the stage for Americans to become the fattest nation in the world.

America was on a roll. 

And is the case with the ironic timing of American culture, more than one thing came to fruition at the same time.

The Levittown way of life was about to change the way we lived. We were moving out of inner-city row houses and out into urban sprawl. Additionally, 1954 saw the invention of what we colloquially refer to as the “TV dinner.”

And just like that, America went from cooking on cast iron stoves in brownstones that were crammed in tighter than dusty old library books and an inherent patriotism to fight overseas, to houses with yards, prepared meals in neatly compartmentalized aluminum foil, and a taste for salt, fat and butter that was insatiable.

Simultaneously, two brothers by the names of Richard and Maurice McDonald had been building a franchise which would go on to become the most recognizable brand logo for over three decades around the globe.

Right now you’re thinking to yourself that there are several directions America’s food was going. That surely these couldn’t all intersect. 

Well they do, and what a fateful, unhealthy recipe it’s shaping up to be.

Scott Mechura has spent a life in the hospitality industry. He is an executive chef, former certified beer judge and currently the executive chef for Horn & Cantle at Lone Mountain Ranch.

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