Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Sheer Jackassery


Marshmellow Fluff.

A fine meta-food product, beloved of parents and children, extant far before children began to get fat.

And now, a figure of great controversy in Massachusetts.

State Senator J. Barrios, a man who once was a devotee of the Atkins diet, became " outraged that his son was served a Fluffernutter for lunch at his Cambridge elementary school, (and) proposed an amendment to a junk food bill, calling for limiting the serving of Fluff to once a week in schools statewide. "

If Jackassery wasn't a word prior to this, it sure is now.

Because nothing else describes proposing a bill to limit the serving of a sandwich spread to schoolchildren, especially couching it in such hyperbolic terms as Mr. Barrios has.

This is the incident that roused his legislative fervor, such as it is.

"`I'm at home and my son wants to make a Fluffernutter sandwich," Barrios recalled. ``It turns out the Cambridge schools offer this as a nutritious lunch alternative to the meal of the day." Noting that Fluff is 50 percent sugar, he added, ``I'm not sure we should be even calling it a food." (Boston Globe)

His son asked for a sugary sandwich, that he had been served at school. And instead of starting a conversation about nutrition, good choices, and portion control, he tried to make a law.

Gee, and I thought only women were so reactionary and irrational.

But, a man who considers eating a low-carb diet healthy eating would probably be incapable of explaining, to his son, what place discretionary foods, such as Marshmellow Fluff, may have in a balanced diet.

The division of the complex subject of nutrition into good foods (to be eaten without limit) and bad foods (to be completely restricted) is juvenile, naive, and destructive. There can be no balanced diet without some portion control; the division of foods is an attempt to bring virtue to gluttonny. The reapportionment of foods into good and bad categories is always an attempt to justify consuming to much of some, by refraining from all of another. This is fucking stupid. It didn't work low-fat, it didn't work low-carb, and it won't work low-sugar.

Senator Barrios, explaining the problem with Marshmellow Fluff, says that it is nearly fifty percent sugar. Sugar is a food (food component) nearly universally recognized as "bad" these days. It's a carb! And nothing else!

Any neuroscientist can tell you that the brain runs on glucose. Any organic chemist can tell you that the body builds amino acids and fuels reactions by breaking the bonds of carbohydrates. Sugar, a hydrocarbon, is no more loved or hated by the body than anything else. It can't fucking tell the difference.

It's true that consumed in large quantities, may lead to inadequate consumption of nutrients (because sugary foods have replaced a diversity of foods in the diet) or overconsumption of calories (because sugary foods are eaten in addition to other foods, exceeding the total caloric requirement for maintaining weight). But that is true of any caloric nutrient. (Of which there are three, kids. Just three- carbohydrates, fats, and proteins)

Marshmellow fluff is not going to kill your children.

You are going to kill your children.

By keeping them indoors, so they don't burn calories.
By teaching them absurd nutrition voodoo, instead of portion sizes.
By driving them to school.

Marshmellow Fluff could even be an important nutritional lesson for elementary school children. Imagine this. A child has a choice of two meals. One, a high-sugar meal, of a half-Fluffernutter Sandwich, is balanced by high-fiber bread and served with strawberries and celery sticks. One, a larger green salad, comes with another indulgence. Instead of a sugary treat, this big green salad comes with a small slice of buttery garlic bread and some black beans. Both could be balanced meals, and could teach children that they can eat anything they want- as long as they don't eat it all the fuck at once.

But this is too complicated a message to entrust to children. After all, we still want to be able to tell them that if they have sex before marriage, they'll die of cancer.

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