Aug 22, 2011

Pyramid Scheme

Back in June, the USDA demolished the “Food Pyramid” in favor of a new place setting-type icon that illustrates which food groups should be present on your plate and the approximate area of your dish they should occupy. Maybe you’ve seen it:

It’s been branded “MyPlate” (yes, one word). Seemingly an attempt to capitalize, yet not overtly infringe, on the popularity of Apple products while encouraging the consumption of actual apples.

This particular diagram gave me flashbacks to my high school home economics/cooking class where they taught us how to properly set a table. This was also the class where the instructor eschewed the traditional butcher's chart and got on all fours to demonstrate where, in terms of anatomy, various cuts of beef came from. She was Canadian.

We all know the country (I’m referring to the US, in spite of the aforementioned high school teacher) is quickly going down the tubes. And while public health is certainly a worthy priority, I could not help but wonder what exactly the hell was so wrong with the food pyramid that taxpayer funds needed to be spent on this bullshit. I mean, people have been ignoring it forever, right?


After some research, I discovered that the food pyramid--unlike the Egyptian pyramids--was neither ancient nor set in stone. In fact, it actually underwent a renovation not too long ago. In 2005, the number of food groups was increased to six and steps (along with a little running stick figure) were added to the left incline to illustrate the importance of exercise. For those of you wondering, the original 1992 edition included just four food groups and contained no reference to physical activity. Obviously, this first pyramid pre-dated widespread high-speed Internet access.

As to my original question of why we needed to mess with the damn thing in the first place: well, it turns out governmental health experts deemed ANY food pyramid to be “confusing.”

I wonder where public education falls on the “fix it” list.

I’m no nutrition expert or health nut, but I can’t seem to wrap my head around the concept of adding food groups. This smacks of slippery slope to me. And I’ve seen evidence.

You see, one of my favorite after work activities involves going to the local A&P Fresh, copping a cup of coffee (which should be a food group, btw) from the in-house Starbucks and skulking the aisles. Over the past few months I’ve been noticing an increasing number of products touting the nutritional benefits of the “healthier” foods from which they're derived. These are pretty straightforward: fruit drinks, vegetable juices, and processed cheese logs (as much calcium as a glass of milk!), etc.

But I've also witnessed a slew of new products that really have no relation to the foods whose nutrients they are claiming to possess.

Exhibits A & B:

Cookies instead of blueberries? Pasta instead of vegetables? I mean at least Velveeta has something to do with milk, right? But this other stuff is just madness.

Maybe it’s just a matter of time before “whole grain whiskey” helps me reach my RDA of fiber intake and “Omega 3 cheese pizza” allows me to abandon fish oil capsules.

From the looks of this (Exhibit C), cough drops now "count" as fruit, so who the hell knows:

But hey, USDA: when it’s time to redeisgn that MyPlate icon to include a new section for food groups that masquerade as, well, other food groups (or if you just need to add Soylent Green)…I freelance.

Aug 6, 2011

Post Parade

Harness racing fans know the first Saturday in August as “Hambletonian Day” at the Meadowlands. While arguably the year's most exciting day of standardbred racing, it’s usually hot as balls (sorry geldings) and somewhat of a mob scene. So, I typically just watch on the TV. But today—overcast with thunderstorms looming—it was neither hot nor totally obnoxious. I went.

Thanks to technology, this was certainly the most leisurly racetrack experience I've ever had. You see, as I've got my brand new iPhone all hooked up to my internet wagering account, there is no need to scurry about to tellers or autobet machines. That gave me plenty of time to walk around and take in the sights.

Ah, the sights. The usual suspects—derelicts, ass-crack guys, catcher’s mitt faces with pinky rings—were all present and accounted for (no shit, I sat next to a guy with a gold ID bracelet with the name "Vito" in all diamonds). But as this was a festive "family friendly" event my eyes also feasted on drunk young dads with their face-painted toddlers as well as some monstrosity of a cake by the “Cake Boss” guy that was baked (designed? erected?) to resemble the Big M grandstand. In fact, I got a raffle ticket that entitled me to a piece of said monster cake if horse #2 won the big race. It didn’t, thank God.

Anyway, back to my walking around. Leave it to me to hone right in on the “Drive to Win” traveling exhibit on loan from the Harness Racing Hall of Fame. Way to turn a day of sin into an educational excursion!

According to their (the HRHOF's) website:
“This exhibit celebrates the drivers and trainers who make every race possible, but through circumstance, choice, design or fate, did not rise to stardom.”
So, in other words, the working stiffs of racing. I can't really see this concept working for any other industry or sport, but I digress.

One driver/trainer in particular that caught my attention was Phyllis Smith Page of Gardiner, ME. It seems she was a pretty badass broad who drove and/or trained horses for over 250 events in her home state by the time she was 21. And this was in the 1940s!

The too brief write up basically praised her dedication to pro racing at a time when it was largely a man’s domain (still is, in my opinion). And while it stated that she actively encouraged women to contribute to the sport of standardbred racing, it offered a very interesting quote that she relayed to a reporter back in the day: “It would be more of a thrill to beat a woman than to beat a man.”

So much for the sisterhood of the traveling jodhpurs. Me-ow.

As for this woman’s contribution to the sport…strictly financial. More bad picks than I’ll ever admit to and a couple of $6 beers.