57 Buffet Tables and Nothin' To Eat
by Sandra Lewis    Mon, Nov 13, 2006, 12:41 PM
I have a theory about American eating habits.

We neglect our palates.

We trade the pleasure of tongue-tingling, flavorful food for massive quantities of quick, easy, and cheap grub. We ingest fast, frozen, and mostly junk food that fills the belly, but leaves our palates wanting. We mistake our lack of satiation as hunger so we snack and over-consume at the next meal searching for that ever elusive sense of savory satisfaction.

Perhaps if we focused more on introducing our palates to a wider range of interesting foods, flavors, and tastes we'd make healthier food choices and consume less.

These were the thoughts I mulled over during a private party in Los Angeles this past week.

Although I did spend four nights at the Crowne Plaza Beverly Hills, I wasn't hobnobbing with the rich and famous.

I was in Southern California with 5,000 other sales-types and propeller-heads for a software vendor conference that hosted a night at Universal Studios with free food and drink.

So it was on a beautiful Los Angeles evening with just a bit of a chill in the air that I was literally surrounded by food. I couldn’t walk more than 15 yards without bumping into a buffet table or a bar.

I surveyed the heavy-laden tables then filled myself a plate with fried rice and a few other Asian items to assuage my hunger. My stomach stopped growling, but my tastebuds were bored. I could have been dining on scrambled eggs or ravioli for all they knew.

My palate yearned for a spice that would scream "this is fried rice!"; something that would make all 10,000 of my tastebuds do a jig right there in front of the entrance to "Revenge of the Mummy."

But, it was industrial food at its best -- heavy on quantity, short on flavor. Several teams of Sumo wrestlers could have feasted on the leftovers.

And I thought about Bruce Springsteen's song, “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On).”

“I bought a bourgeois house in the Hollywood hills
With a truckload of hundred thousand dollar bills
Man came by to hook up my cable TV
We settled in for the night my baby and me
We switched 'round and 'round 'til half-past dawn
There was fifty-seven channels and nothin' on”

So his lament was about TV, just think food.

We need to rethink and revolutionize our culture of eating.

Eating should be about the pleasures of the table – the unique flavors of the food and the enjoyment of those with whom we share a meal, not the sheer pursuit of maxing out our bellies every time we pull up a chair.

I’m not advocating a Julia Child’s experience at every meal; satisfying can be simple and more nutritious when we seek first to please, or at least interest our palates with a diversity of food and flavors, fast, frozen, and junk not included.

Our cholesterol counts, blood-sugar levels, and waistlines will thank us.

Our tastebuds will adore us.

(I don’t have any photos to share from my Los Angeles night out, but here’s one from my summer 2006 trip to Italy with Ariel and Hannah. Hannah snapped this photo as we sat next to the canal in Venice enjoying a leisurely meal.)

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