My Issues With Thanksgiving Food Assumptions.

How to Pig Out on Thanksgiving (But Without the Guilt) « Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose discusses an article in Cosmo called (oddly enough) “How to Pig Out on Thanksgiving (But Without the Guilt)“.

It’s the Cosmo article which I’m really responding to here, since I pretty much agree with Kate Harding’s points. The holidays are stressful enough without turning food into another point of stress – and when people are stressed and Grandma’s Comfort Food Stuffing is available in quantity and on demand, things happen.

Pay attention to what you eat, yes. Stress out over it, no.

The one major thing that’s really irking me about the article is the assumption that every family’s recipe and default portion size is the same.

This is the first I’ve ever heard of putting sausage in stuffing. Honest. We don’t make it quite like the recommended veggie stuffing the article offers as an alternative, but it’s usually regarded as one of the more healthy dishes on the table, right after the mashed potatoes (which aren’t made according to Cosmo‘s assumptions, either).

This assumption of everyone cooking the same reminds me a lot of a horrid health class experiment involving the words “Use the stats from the book, not from nutrition labels” and “I think you’ll all be surprised how many more calories you’re eating than you think you are.”

The book had added milk and butter to insane numbers of items, draining fat off of anything  during cooking didn’t exist (my beloved microwaved turkey bacon had to be counted as thick-sliced pan-fried pork bacon), and all ground beef was presumed to be the cheapest ground chuck on the planet. I’m not even sure the local grocery sold beef with that much fat in it.

That was the first I had ever heard of putting butter and milk in scrambled eggs, and I’m still not entirely sure I’ve ever eaten them that way. Certainly not intentionally, but with cafeteria lines you can never really be sure.

No wonder the teacher assumed my generation had eating issues, and had that backed up with every class that took the course. It was easy to rack up several hundred extra calories per day just through being forced to say you ate things you didn’t! No one in the class looked heavy, and most of us were average weight or below, but all that butter and milk and extra fat we weren’t actually eating meant we needed to shape up our diets or else we’d pay for it later on.

The article is also full of serving assumptions.

I don’t know about other families, but we had a single can of cranberry sauce on the table today, and it was not a big one. There was no backup in the house. Anyone eating an entire cup of the stuff here would swiftly have had much worse problems than worrying about his or her waistline. Managing to get a fourth of a cup would have been an overly large portion here. Cosmo listed the calories for a full cup as if readers ate an entire cup of just the cranberry sauce every Thanksgiving. I’m sure someone somewhere does, but I’m thinking that’s a well above average serving size.

Different families stress different items on the table, and I felt like the article was assuming the items that were the worst nutritionally were the ones that would be piled highest. This plays into both traditions and into presumed serving sizes.

The biggest problem for me in that department was the discussion of the bird itself. At least they didn’t assume everyone was going to deep-fry – but the assumption that everyone has the same answer to the dark meat versus light meat conundrum bugged me as much as if they had talked preparation methods. Around here, dark meat is known as ‘leftovers’. Cosmo‘s article read as if they were assuming female readers always pile up the dark meat and ignore the turkey breast – which is bought at a premium sliced, ground, and in its original form but without bones the rest of the year by the same women who are reading the article.

Families have different traditions, and cooking according to tradition doesn’t always mean fixing Heart Attack On A Plate for Thanksgiving. It would be nice if the people writing articles for holiday-themed issues of magazines would remember that when talking about eating healthy for the holidays.

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One Response to “My Issues With Thanksgiving Food Assumptions.”

  1. Benyitzhak Says:

    I, for one, cannot recall ever seeing sweet potatoes with marshmallows on the table during thanksgiving. And they say you get vitamin C by using the baked sweet potatoes, but I was under the impression that most vitamin C doesn’t survive the cooking process.

    Don’t even ask about the green bean casserole.


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