Remorseless Eatin’ Machine

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education,

Obese diners at all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurants were more likely than other customers to sit closer to the buffet, face the food bar, use forks rather than chopsticks, use larger plates, and serve themselves immediately rather than first browsing the food, according to a study reported in the August issue of the journal Obesity. Brian Wansink, a professor of marketing at Cornell University, and his co-author Collin R. Payne, compared the behaviors and body-mass indexes of 213 restaurant patrons for their paper, “Eating Behavior and Obesity at Chinese Buffets.” Leaner patrons were more likely to sit at booths than tables, leave food on their plates, and place their napkins on their laps, the researchers reported.

It’s kind of shooting (Chinese steamed, with ginger) fish in a barrel to poke fun at this, but it’s hilarious to consider the context in which this research project was developed.  Since it was conducted by marketing professors, are they pointing out that obese patrons are bad for business?  Yes I realize that obesity as a health problem is not funny, but behaviors at all-you-can-eat buffets are inherently amusing.  There’s something transgressive about the whole concept, encapsulated in the paradoxical promise of the name.  It makes me think of that classic Simpsons episode in which Homer is sued by The Frying Dutchman, an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet, for eating too much.  The line I remember is the owner saying of Homer, “‘Tis no man, ’tis a remorseless eatin’ machine!”

OK I admit I just looked this up to get it right.  Amazing that in 10 seconds I was able to access the entire script of this episode, which was written by Conan O’Brien as it happens.

Hoosiers, Craveables, & Riblets

Two recent news stories. First, Report ranks Indiana 11th fattest among states:

Indiana is still getting fatter, just not as much as some other states.

In an annual report released Tuesday by the Trust for America’s Health, obesity in Indiana continued to climb as a percentage of adults but once again dropped in its ranking among all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The new report found 27.5 percent of Hoosier adults are obese, up from 26.8 percent in last year’s report. The Indiana rates were 26.2 percent in the 2006 report and 25.2 percent in 2005.

Indiana was one of 37 states that showed a higher rate of obesity in the past year — no state saw a decrease — but Indiana’s ranking improved from a tie for ninth-worst to a tie for 11th.

Yes, Indiana is getting even fatter, but some other states are getting even fatter even faster. This is the sort of depressing/pathetic part:

“There is reason to have some encouragement here,” Monroe said. “There’s a little bit of portions of a percentage change, but we’ve really kind of plateaued the curve that we were on. Our ranking improved because we held the line better than other states.

“For the first time, we’re not in the top 10, which I’m very excited about,” she said….

But it won’t be a quick fix, she said.

“The national experts believe it will take time to turn it,” Monroe said. “It’s like turning a barge. That’s why I’m excited we have plateaued … because the first thing you have to do is stop it, and then you begin to turn it.”

Basically, the big cause for celebration here is that Arkansas and Oklahoma increased their obesity rate this year more than we did. Somehow that image about trying to turn a giant barge seems like the wrong note to strike in this context.

Anyway, I thought of that story when I read this one about the new chief executive of Applebee’s:

In her business, people use phrases like “drink equity” and “healthy indulgence rebranding.” Everyone is on the hunt for the next “craveable,” an item like a whole deep-fried onion, a potato skin stuffed with bacon or, in Applebee’s case, the riblet [the riblet is the meaty piece with flat bones left over when racks of ribs are trimmed into uniform rectangles. It is a classic menu item at Applebee’s Grill and Bar.]…

You don’t come up with a quesadilla burger by catering to dieters. Applebee’s flags some menu items that have been approved by Weight Watchers, but the company is not exactly cutting a path through the calorie jungle.

That’s because what people say they want and what they eat are often different, she said as she sat in a booth at the IHOP. Nearby, a family of four was pouring different flavors of syrup over stacks of pancakes. “That’s what people want,” she said.

Among the dozen dishes on her table that day was the Georgia praline peach streusel pancake, a dish so sweet it made a Butterfinger bar seem like a refreshing palate cleanser. …

“We can’t seem to make things sweet enough for people,” said Patrick Lenow, the director of public relations for the company.

So, what’s the next craveable? A deep-fried riblet stuffed with bacon and drenched with strawberry syrup? A whole deep-fried streusel pancake? Any ideas?

Wearable Feedbags

Does away with the hassles of chewing and stopping to breathe while eating.

It’s hot steamy food in your face right now.

Sometimes I don’t feel like moving my arms. So this way, you can just have it on your face, close to your mouth.

We’re always looking for more efficient ways to get food products into our customers’ gaping maws.

So-called Feed Hoses will gush food directly into customers’ open mouths as they drive past the restaurant in their cars.

New Wearable Feedbags Let Americans Eat More, Move Less

Our Beehive Wedding Cake

Our friend Linsey has posted on her blog about all the wedding cakes she’s baked. Turns out ours was the first, back in 1999 — and what a spectacular and delicious creation it was: “in the shape of a bee hive and… decorated with gold leaf and sugar bees. Sarah had made a bee painting and I wanted to try and capture its spirit in a cake. The cake itself was lemon and it was filled with ground pistachios and white chocolate mouse.” If I recall correctly, Linsey had to carry the layers of cake, frozen, as carry-on luggage in her suitcase from Chicago (or wait, where was she then? Atlanta possibly?); and then it was 99 degrees on our wedding (in July) and the cake was in constant danger of melting…

Invisible restaurants: Sir Taj

I am stealing/ paying homage to my blog-buddy Don Quixote Was a Steel Drivin’ Man’s recurring feature, Invisible Restaurants, “Capsule Reviews of Restaurants No Longer in Existence.”

Actually I do not know for sure that Sir Taj is no longer in existence. I am probably spelling it wrong anyway. This is/was an Indian lunch place maybe on East 41st street or something… is my geography completely wrong? Jon and I worked as badly-paid glorified receptionists editorial assistants at a publishing house near the Flatiron building. Sir Taj had good, generously-portioned chicken tandoori for some ridiculous price, maybe $3.50 or something? Initially my colleague (and old friend) Jon and I would only go there once a week or so — after all it was almost a 15 minute walk and we only had an hour lunch break, officially anyway. But that winter, I started going there 3 or 4 times a week, by myself if necessary. Somehow it seemed absolutely impossible to bring my own lunch; I was totally poor; and the cheap options close by work were lousy. The guys who worked at Sir Taj were impassive-faced as they handed over my tandoori and would never nod or in any way acknowledge me as a regular. I found out later that George sent a letter to me care of the restaurant, describing my appearance on the envelope, saying that I always wore a long scarf and was there several days a week for lunch. Of course, I never got it, I’m sure they threw it out.