Mark Bittman recently wrote about how people talk about food in good-and-evil terms. Salt is always bad. So is sugar. Fat is always bad too. Gluten is the devil. Quinoa and spelt, on the other hand, are wonder foods. Soy used to be wonderful, but now it’s suspect. Same with sweet potatoes.
Here are some facts: Salt is a necessary nutrient. Sugar is just a carbohydrate, like many others. Fat is concentrated energy in food form, which is why we find it so appealing. Gluten is just wheat protein; some people may have a sensitivity to it, but most people really don’t. Quinoa and spelt are nice additions to the diet, but don’t cure cancer. Soy is generally fine, as are sweet potatoes.
Now go online and read the reactions from Bittman’s readers! Some of them were furious. He was telling them something contrary to their own beliefs.
Now here’s a somewhat different case. Watch this video and think about it, and then continue reading:
This is “Sam Sandwich,” an animated character created by the Disney Channel. Sam teaches kids to eat healthily. There are lots of episodes, and I invite you to watch some; they’re cute, and some of them teach valuable lessons, like don’t eat candy for lunch, etc.
But what lesson did you learn from the above video?
If you’re an adult of average intelligence, you will have noticed Sam’s comment that “a pinch of salt makes food taste better, but too much is bad for you.” If you’re a child, you will hear: SALT IS BAD FOR YOU.
I heard about Sam Sandwich from a colleague, who found that her little boy wouldn’t eat anything salty anymore, because “Sam Sandwich says it isn’t good for you.” Evidently he’s a picky eater to begin with, and this has made matters even worse.
Bittman has shown us that adults are credulous enough. Sam Sandwich shows us that children are even more so.
Enough, already. Stop frightening children. And let’s have a little reasonable conversation.