Cumberland Times-News


March 9, 2013

The French are slowly catching up with us

A recent report indicates that people who eat a Mediterranean-style diet are at a lower risk for heart disease and strokes.

That is to say, according to The Associated Press, they consume lots of olive oil, nuts, fruit, fish, chicken, beans, tomato sauce, salads and wine and little in the way of baked goods and pastries.

I frequently watch food and travel TV shows and see what’s eaten by folks who live around the Med. It may be that they simply want to live longer, so they can eat more of it.

Another factor that should be considered, but AP didn’t mention, is that some people in these cultures like to knock off work in the middle of the afternoon and relax for a few hours before going back.

Eventually, they close shop for good and go somewhere to have a leisurely late dinner that includes plenty of wine.

This beats wolfing down a sandwich at your desk at work, then wishing you could go someplace to take a nap.

Also not addressed was what’s sometimes referred to as “The French Paradox.” Frenchmen eat a high-fat diet filled with things like cream, butter, fat goose liver and celestially good pastries that you and I could only dream of, but have fewer heart attacks than Englishmen or Americans. They also smoke more than most other people.

One explanation has been that they drink more red wine than just about anybody else — except maybe the Italians, who also have fewer heart attacks.

However, one report I found stated that in 1997, only 8 percent of French adults could have been considered obese.

Now, that rate has risen to more than 40 percent — which means they are rapidly catching up with Americans. Close to two-thirds of us are considered overweight or obese.

The French also may be more physically active than we are. It’s not likely they get hungry while sitting around watching food-oriented TV late at night and send out for a pizza strewn with pepperoni, bacon and sausage.

Also consider that some Americans eat heart-healthier than others. Another recent study indicated that folks in the Deep South tend to snarf down more artery-clogging grub than sandal-wearing, tofu-eating yuppies who live farther north.

Our diet usually is dictated by the culture in which we have grown up.

Mine has been rather eclectic. I grew up around Italians, so I ate my share of spaghetti, and there were country folks who fed me fried squirrels and deer meat. And so on.

Mary Calemine put Italian sausage in her spaghetti, and it was unbelievably good.

Her husband Frank and I liked to do quality control on Mary’s meatballs, and it was just a matter of time until she told us to get the hell out of her kitchen before there wasn’t anything left to take to the table.

A friend asked me the other day if my mom was a good cook, and I just laughed.

Sometimes she fried her chicken, and sometimes she rolled it in corn flake crumbs and baked it. Either one would make a puppy pull a freight train to get some of it ... as Justin Wilson used to say.

After Mom passed away, Dad and I used to get an occasional hankering for fish the way she liked to cook it.

That meant haddock fillets brushed with butter and dusted with paprika, then broiled in a toaster oven that I still use now and then.

We kept a close eye on them, and just when they reached the point where they began to pull apart ... that’s when we yanked them out.

“I think we can make a meal off this,” he used to say, and I always agreed.

During sweet corn season, Dad made occasional pilgrimages to a family friend’s farm near Burlington to bring back a couple of dozen ears that had started the day still attached to the stalks.

We called them “roastin’ ears” because when Dad was principal at Keyser High School and Mom was an English teacher, the faculty had a cookout at the South End park every year.

He would send some students to get a mess of corn and dig a pit in which to roast it for several hours over wood coals. The roastin’ ears were dunked into big cans of melted butter and may have been the best corn I’ve ever eaten, with a distinct nutty flavor.

One year, the kids took a shortcut and harvested some of the field corn that Vo-Ag students had planted nearby.

Field corn is fodder for livestock and has even less taste than the popcorn-looking stuff that was used to package fragile items before bubble wrap was invented.

Dad got wind of this and drove in haste with his brother-in-law Bob Broughton to someplace in Garrett County, where they found a farmer who filled the trunk of Dad’s 1964 Buick Wildcat with sweet corn.

My great-grandfather James was born in County Cornwall in the southwest of England and would have referred to himself as a Cornishman, rather than an Englishman.

He had his own food traditions. Whether they came across the Atlantic with him in 1873 when he was 14, or if he developed them here, I have no idea.

When he sat down to dinner, he unbuckled his belt and undid the top button on his trousers. (He was a slender man, but his appetite was said to be a hearty one.)

He poured his coffee into the saucer and blew on it until it had cooled off, then returned it to the cup and drank it.

This coffee was referred to as having been “saucered and blowed,” and that came to be one of our family expressions. To be “saucered and blowed” usually meant that you or the dog were tuckered and ready for bed.

My great-grandfather also had a taste for what he called “bloaters,” fish that Dad said were incredibly salty and full of small bones.

The Internet says bloaters are a type of smoked herring that once was popular in England, but now is rarely found.

Great-grandfather James would put them on a skewer and go to the basement, where he cooked them directly over the flame and embers in my grandfather’s coal furnace.

What, I wonder, would the result have tasted like? Considering that he started his working life in America as a coal miner, it probably didn’t faze him.

Smoked fish is considered a delicacy in some cultures and a necessity for sustaining life in others.

I’m not sure where my great-grandfather’s version would fit in.

Text Only
  • Sleep under the stars! Be a game warden!

    July 27, 2014

  • He was here long before Duck Dynasty

    July 27, 2014

  • Very first memories of a very long life

    July 27, 2014

  • FSU Planetarium has new outreach program

    Several years ago, the FSU planetarium acquired an iPad. Months later, we purchased an iPad projector with necessary cables. I purchased a number of astronomical apps this year for the iPad. So I’m interested in visiting schools in this county to teach the stars and planets to classes. The astronomical apps allow you to survey the current evening night sky and show the planets, bright stars and star groups. One of the apps shows the planets close up with wonderful surface detail (as if you were cruising by in a spaceship). The apps I’ll be using can be purchased from the iTunes app store for a few dollars.

    July 27, 2014

  • O’s, Pirates will be buyers, but when?

    Not that we should expect any blockbuster deals to go down as Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline approaches, but the names you hear in Baltimore are catcher Kurt Suzuki and starting pitchers Ian Kennedy, A.J. Burnett and Jorge De La Rosa.

    July 27, 2014

  • Expectations too high for a rehabbing Woods

    July 27, 2014

  • Peanuts and Cracker Jack beat any foam finger

    Times have changed, and for the better, as this week marks the third year in a row NFL training camps have opened and have not taken center stage in the cities of Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Washington. That, of course, is due to the play of the three baseball teams that inhabit said cities, the Orioles, the Pirates and the Nationals — two of whom hold first place in their respective divisions, with the other one entering play on Wednesday just 2 1/2 games out of first.

    July 23, 2014

  • Big loophole Big loophole

    How ironic — and how sad — that the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority plans a closed executive session to discuss the open meetings law.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

  • Don’t do it. Don’t do it

    Temperatures have been moderate recently but are projected to rise to the upper 80s and low 90s later this week, so we want to remind you: Never leave children unattended in a vehicle.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • He means well, and this time they spared his life

    Our pal Phil is the only re-enactor certified in writing by both the Lee and Custis families to portray Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (whose wife was Mary Anna Custis Lee). When he’s in uniform, he generally stops at the bottom of the path that leads to the summit of Little Round Top, salutes Capt. Gary and First Sgt. Goldy and asks permission to join us. (Get it? Generally ... General Lee?) We always return his salute and grant him permission, in part because he’s our friend and also because the real Lee never got to see what it really looks like from up there. (Get it? Grant ... Grant? U.S. Grant? Real Lee ... really? OK. I hear you. That’s enough. Seriouslee.) Phil gets a kick out of being able to sneak up on us while we’re distracted by tourists.

    July 20, 2014