Nutrition Terrorism and How It Got That Way


For longer than anyone dares remember, dietitians, nutritionists, and neighbors coping badly with retirement have been terrorizing ordinary citizens about eating right.


"Weren't those pitted okra clumps I left on your back porch stairs yesterday delicious?" you'll likely be asked as you leave for work, if you're lucky enough to live next door to a nutrition terrorist, as I do. (I hadn't the heart to tell her that I'd mistaken her gift for a bag of mulch.)


"Yes, thank you, Miss Gruntlocke. We've never tasted better," I replied with a wave and a smile, quickening my pace in the opposite direction, my car deliberately parked several houses away. "Well, must run. Our tub of organic beets is in. . . ."


Although I dared not look in her direction, I could feel Miss Gruntlocke rising from her compost pile. "There's no better source of uncongealed cadmium than poached okra clumps, you know," she declared as she straightened herself. I'd broken into a lope early enough that I was arguably out of earshot before she lifted herself onto tiptoes to shout her Follow-Up Question: "You did poach them, DIDN'T YOU?"


Only a few short decades ago it was still considered not merely safe, but even desirable to dine on food you enjoyed. Many of life's problems evaporated with wholesome, simple meals that included steak tartare and bananas Foster. No one needed nutrition charts to savor pretzels dipped in spam or sides of beef charred on backyard grills.


In those days, avoiding nutrition terrorists was a piece of cake. Yet we were free to mingle if we wanted to. Obviously I'd have thought twice before bringing a dietitian home to mother. But nutritionists of all stripes could, with the proper permits, gather on the periphery of Fourth of July picnics, if they promised to keep their picketing civil and pick up their granola litter afterwards. Relations between them and us normal eaters were so good, in fact, that during protest breaks they gratefully accepted the Fudgsicles we slipped them through the barbed wire.


So how is it that we cower before nutrition terrorists now?


As usual, whenever anything takes a turn for the worse, it's almost certainly due to a corporate-government (or government-corporate, depending on your politics) program. To awe their subjects and sell advertising space, program managers, like latter-day Egyptians, erected giant food pyramids. The colorful designs of "nutritious" foods they bore naturally attracted roving bands of homeless dietitians, who then became squatters. To save money on groceries, they lived on carrot juice and chard. Soon malnutrition made them delirious and irascible, and their speech turned to gibberish:


"Here chard serving." [bows deeply]


[offended] "Trans fathead!"


[cooing] "But low sodium percent. . . ."


"High monounsaturated cumquat calorie. Blech."


When the pyramids began to go condo, social workers quietly relocated the dietitians to the suburbs. There, properly medicated, many led more or less productive lives.


If, that is, they could still poach the odd clump of pitted okra.