Diners, Drive-Ins, Dives and Dancing

Food-chugging show host Guy Fieri
I can think of no greater exemplar of our American fetish with a steady diet of rich juicy food full of fat, salt, sugar and cholesterol (that contribute to our national pastime of accumulating “life style” diseases like diabetes, heart disease and obesity) than the enthusiastic red-faced Guy Fieri, host of the Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”. He criss-crosses the country and its local low-brow eateries masticating his way through super-sized Philly cheese steaks, bratwursts and macaroni and cheeses presumably ignoring the cholesterol numbers in his blood tests (if he even dares have those tests) and always looking overheated and about to burst.
It seems like the whole Food Network is dedicated to promoting the eating of (what people who are more conscious of healthy eating call) “feast foods”. That is foods that are delicious but generally unhealthy and should probably only be eaten maybe once a week or once a month on special occasions. Many of these foods contain the two signature ingredients, butter and heavy cream, the crack cocaine of American “comfort foods”.

But none of the shows on the network that I have seen seem to throw in this caveat and caution about eating these “feast foods” sparingly. Instead, their ubiquitous presentation on the array of cooking and eating shows makes the case that food in the United States is all about joyful overconsumption, rather than sustenance. This while many people in the world do not have enough to eat. Though I have not seen any exposes, I would suspect that the Food Network has a lot of connections and support from the meat, dairy and restaurant industries, whose products they generally feature in their programming, rather than the healthier beans, grains and vegetables.

Now confessing my biases here, I am a vegan, who started this diet twenty years ago because I realized that my body had a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol and high blood pressure. I realized that if I continued to eat meat, dairy and eggs it was going to send me over the edge into those “lifestyle diseases” of diabetes and heart disease. Even as a vegan I still struggle with that cholesterol and blood pressure and take medicine every day to control it. So maybe that makes me doubly sensitive to a network that appears to be devoted to encouraging people toward a lifestyle that would send me to an early grave. So maybe take my rant with a grain of salt (or salt substitute).

So why are we over-consuming all these tasty treats to the detriment of our health? I got to figure that we are medicating ourselves somehow. Is it that we have created a culture that is in some ways sustaining and invigorating, at least in principle (or as it appears to many others around the world), but peel back a layer or two and see the heavy price being paid in fear and stress.

Is that Philly cheese steak with all its warm juicy tastiness a substitute for a more wholesome physical and emotional intimacy with someone we love​? Are we living in a society that is devaluing the good things in life that are free and accessible (like love and sex and work for a good cause) because there is no profit in it? Are we somehow substituting consumption for empowerment?

My partner Sally and I went to a party last night to celebrate a friend’s 60th birthday. There was an open bar, tasty hors d’oeuvres, a DJ and dancing. The food and drink were a treat and helped loosen up the crowd, many of whom had known each other in the past but not seen each other for years. But the dancing was awesome and the highlight of the evening. Sally and I rarely have (or make) the opportunity to dance, but every time we do it’s always “This is fun and good exercise and why don’t we do this more often?” We heard others say to each other, “Nobody dances any more!”

While our DJ cost money (though certainly nothing like the food and drink) our son Eric and his circle have discovered dancing and are having regular dance parties with perhaps just an iPod and speakers and BYOB. He tells us he finds dancing exhilarating and transformative.

But in a culture built around capitalism, a market economy, and the ongoing relentless promotion of consumption, who is promoting those elements of human culture, like dancing in ones apartment with friends, that have no business model (once at least the iPods and speakers have been purchased)? To watch all the advertisements, you could become convinced that to have fun, to have intimacy, or some other life-enhancing experience costs money. The corollary to that is once you run out of money you run out of life-enhancing experience.

Could this be a factor in driving many of us to suffer long hours and bad working conditions because we have become convinced that everything compelling, invigorating and just plain fun in life is going to cost us?

I for one am seriously contemplating this, and starting to imagine a life for myself and my partner Sally that is a lot simpler, in smaller cheaper living quarters, with less expenditures and less “stuff”, which will require less paid work “for the man” to support. And maybe even with more dancing.

2 replies on “Diners, Drive-Ins, Dives and Dancing”

  1. Dancing is amazing! I have loved it for many years, it is one of the best therapies ever. People have been doing it for ages, we’ve just become stuffy in recent years. I’m really excited about the prospect of dance parties upon my return from South Korea.

    Keep dancing!

  2. Thanks Sarah… got a little of that oxygen to my brain last night and had a bit of an epiphany… Thanks for the second and I’m sure your circle is looking forward to you joining them for a “Moon Dance” or whatever.

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