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August 21, 2009
My what? My glucose?

Yes. Reduce your carbs and up your protein. Exercise every day. Come back at the end of September and we'll go from there.

Well, that's a new one. I hope I'm not enlarging my collection of illnesses: there is diabetes in my family, and my brother died of it. I have been telling myself for a few months now that I would turn over a new leaf when we got back to the States, where there is plenty of awful food to be shunned, and now appears to be the time. I kept excusing myself: The food is just too good here -- leaving aside the mystery of the millions of slender Italians who all seem to live to be 107. You rarely see an obese Italian. The fat people you see there are mostly Americans.

Hefty, but malnourished. Full of salty chips and greasy hamburgers, unpronounceable additives and stealthy hormones. Supersized. Our favorite vegetable? Potatoes. 75 percent of them are consumed as French fries.

It is not that way in Italy. The produce is pure poetry, both in its display in stores and in its preparation, and its availablilty is seasonal, as it used to be here. I am not the first person to have noticed what is needed -- there have been some fine books published here in America in recent years about food and the way we produce and consume it. Some change is afoot.

But change is afoot in Italy, too. There are prepared foods now, frozen meals, things you never saw in days of yore, and they are sold in supermarkets, something you never saw then, either. Families have changed: both mothers and fathers work outside the home, making the long mid-day meal more difficult to bring off. There are three Macdonalds in Florence.

Who can blame others for wanting our prosperity? For aspiring to the great ease of American life -- if you doubt that American life is easy, go somewhere else for a while and then come home. But there is an ominous side to that natural longing: wanting prosperity and ease translates much too easily into an uncritical admiration of the bloated lifestyle that now shows itself forth in our very bodies.

It doesn't have to. We can do things differently. We can notice, for instance, that cooking is only a difficult and unpleasant chore if you think it is -- it is the makers of ready-made foods who have taught us to think so. Cooking isn't hard and it isn't unpleasant: it's fun. Cooking makes your house smell good. Cooking delights the people you love, yourself among them. You can do it together. You can do it to music. You can cook and pray at the same time. For that matter, your cooking can be a prayer: for the people who will eat, for the people who taught you how. For the people who have nothing to give their hungry children. For the people who made the ingredients possible and the people who brought them here. for the bounty of the earth.

Jesus preached a lot. Healed a lot. Jesus performed miracles. But, of all the things the Church could have chosen to make the liturgical center of its life, it chose a meal. We re-member Jesus in the Eucharist, put his body together, again and again. And somebody has to bake that bread. Somebody has to make that wine.


It's true that I said that Italian aren't fat, and most of them aren't. But at least one seems to have been: meet the first fat person in Western art: Giotto's wine steward at the wedding in Cana of Galilee.,01_Cana_Wedding_Noces/slides/15 percent20GIOTTO percent20THE percent20WEDDING percent20AT percent20CANA percent20FRESCO percent20SCROVEGNI percent20CHAPEL.html

Speaking of food, did you know that the Geranium Farm published a cookbook a few years back? It's available on Amazon at
Two essential books about food production and eating:

Kingsolver, Barbara, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

Pollan, Michael, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
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