Sunday, 10 June 2012

Big is Bad

This blogger doesn't mind telling a story against himself. A couple of decades ago, he made his first trip to the US of A. Two experiences stand out in the trip. The first was his  seatmate on the flight. The gentleman was, to put it mildly, a mountain of lard. Having encountered many Rajalakshmis - she of the ample proportions -  this blogger thought he had seen it all. But "he ain't seen nothing yet". The specimen he was now witnessing would put all Rajalakshmis combined into the svelte and petite category . The worthy had boarded the flight first as "a passenger requiring assistance" and occupied the two seater we were to share. When I boarded, I discovered that both the seats had been "taken" (this was before the era which now requires man mountains to buy two tickets). I managed the two hour flight by standing next to the seat !

The second stand out experience was when I ordered a cup of tea at some cafe. Small size please. I got a plastic monstrosity which held some 2 litres of boiling water. And one sad looking tea bag . I have never ever asked for hot tea  in the US ever since. This is, after all the country where the smallest size in Starbucks is called Tall

This was 20 years ago. The connection between the two has only now been grasped in the US. Or at least in New York. Mayor Bloomberg now wants to ban soda fountains serving portions bigger than 16 oz (half a litre) in his crusade against obesity.

This blog has carried consecutive posts on economics and politics. That is rather heavy. Readers are now invited to wash that down with this rather "easy" post.

New Yorkers are up in arms protesting against the encroachment of the fundamental right to consume 3.4 litres of Coke in one go. I have some fundamental questions regarding how anatomically possible this propensity of New Yorkers is. I am fairly convinced that human body systems for dealing with liquids, do not have a combined capacity of  3.4 litres. Therefore if there is ingress of the stated quantity, there must also be a steady egress ! And what happens to the enormous quantity of CO2 inherent in the soda. Is this the reason for the generation of the vast quantities of hot air that The Tea Party and Michael Moore followers do each day. Or is it that all that gas adds a certain amount of buoyancy to people who are gravitationally challenged enabling them to transition from the horizontal to the vertical ?

Bloomberg is arguing that he is not banning New Yorkers from drinking 3.4 litres of Coke in one go. He is only banning them from drinking that from one glass. They can buy 7 glasses of 16 ozs each and slurp to their heart's content. Apparently his theory is that they cannot carry seven glasses at one time; so they will consume less !!

I am applying to the good Mayor for a clarification. Are the 14 kgs of ice cubes that are shovelled into each drink to be counted in his 16 oz limit or not ??  For , you see, no self respecting New Yorker will drink a soda, unless the entire Arctic ice cap is in his glass.

I am also unclear how the good state of Texas views all this. You see, all Texans believe that New Yorkers are wimps because they serve such tiny portions of food and drink. You want to see a Big Mac, come to Texas, where about two cows have to lay down their lives in the cause of doing justice to one burger. The Texan concession to the war on obesity is that he has reluctantly agreed to settle in for an order of "1 Big Mac and a Diet Coke please" !


Deepa said...

You would be surprised to see the amount of coke an average colleague of mine drinks, the 16oz glass issue is a big deal. I would also like to add that the cheese is an important source of 'proteins' here. I dare you Mr. Mayor to come up with a limit on the amount of cheese you can use in one serving of an Entre.

Sandhya Sriram said...

well, for some one sinking in the weight of guilt for having crossed all the L, XL and XXL marks of weight to height proportions, this post is a like actually trying to gulp down a 3.4 litres of coke at one go.

so i should lie low and not make some sweeping idiotic comments like the way i keep doing all the time.

But i feel, where one draws the line of health is very clearly one's own choice.

When no one has a problem with Alchohol, then why a problem with coke. and that way, the list will become endless, burgers and fries, pizzas and all sorts.

and in fact, if you touch the other side, they must start defining that every one will have to drive 3 litres of water every day and so pass regulations that with every can of coke, please provide a half a litre water free of cost so that people are motivated to drink it.

this can get nowhere. not in a place like the US of A where awareness is not an issue.

PS: I am just wondering what my co-passengers would be thinking about me when i travel on flights.

Connecter said...

I too experienced this during my only visit to A. Asked for a pepsi and what came is a glass full of ice cube topped up with pepsi. Even water is served like this. I guess big is beautiful there. Atlast some consciousness on KFC or coke drinking in that country.

Ramesh said...

@Deepa - Oh yes - the list can go on and on. What about the Big Mac ?? Even salad portions more resemble a forest to me !!

@Sandhya - Madam - you are a petite girl in America ! You are actually a petite girl in India too :)

@Connecter - Big is indeed beautiful; in every sense of the term :)

gils said...

thalaivary...all totally u r oray oru peice...y sudden fight against obese?? bye the bye...intha oorla oru crate water bottle is much much vela jaasthi thaan one crate coke

TMM said...

And once upon a time during my peripatatic days, I was taken to a place called The Chop House in Chicago (for those interested 60, W Ontario Street, just off State Steet opp to the hard rock cafe) by a bunch of Texans, who ordered a T Bone Steak for me - all of 32 Ounces. Gross, the price was even grosser at about 90 bucks plus tax plus the mandatory 15% tip. Luckily I did'nt have to pay for the 6 ounces I was able to gorge in! Felt really guilty thinking about Somalian kids.

Shachi said...

At work, when they started the free fruit program, they had to "balance" it out by providing free drinks as well. The fruit baskets are filled at a particular time twice a day....they become empty within half an hour of getting of the day, folks are found refilling their cups with soda n ice :(. It's sad to see!

I pick up my fruit if available and fill my cup with water....which is flavored with fresh fruits n herbs (they have 3 different kinds everyday and it's so refreshing)....I love the lemon, mint, cucumber water combo!

Portions are gigantic here....even salads! Between hubby n I, we are always able to share an entree, so it works out cheap for us when we go eat out.

It's all about the choices you make in your lifestyle....however, during my observations, I've found that mental health issues (mild to severe) drive a majority of the folks here to junk food.

sriram khe said...

Back in the late 1990s, when the states and the fed were going after tobacco and cigarette--by irrationally going after individual choice--I recall writing in a newspaper column that soon the government will go after what we eat ...
I will leave it at that and "outsource" my comments to Jon Stewart :)

BTW, about time you digressed from "business" musings to such issues that seem to preoccupy me a lot :)

J said...

This is such a tricky one - clearly there is a problem at the individual's level that is becoming a whole nation's problem and yet we dont like the government telling what and how much to eat. I like that Bloomberg did this - ridiculous as it sounds, we're at least debating the issues. The solution may lie in educating the public on what seems obvious. As an overweight person who does precious little about it :( I think everyone realizes that excess weight is bad but does not fully grasp how bad. So maybe the government should launch some hard-hitting and catchy ads that forces everyone to think about what they put in their mouths and maybe target the ads at kids who are more impressionable. Another issue in the US is how weight is so skewed by the economic status of the person and it is lower income families that are hard hit by obesity. When the moms are working multiple minimum wage jobs, the battle between convenient unhealthy food and healthy cooked food (which involves shopping for ingredients and then cooking them) does not always end well. Another thing that I have started to notice much more is how many middle-aged Rajalakshmis in India are quite overweight. Was it always the case and I hadnt noticed or is this a new trend.

J said...

@sriram khe: ROFL at Jon Stewart's smack and snack calculator! He is so brilliant at doing serious material with so much humor that you don't even realize it.

Ramesh said...

@Gils - In your new land at least one benefit will come. Your mother will not moan anymore about how "olli" her son is :)

@Kiwi - I take my hat off - you really finished 6 oz of the stuff - I presume it was rare; maybe just cut :):)

@Shachi - Junk food is not bad. Its just eating unbelievably huge quantities that is. Whatever happened to the saying the good things in life are to be enjoyed in small doses ?

But seriously, do you have to flavour water ???? I know marketers try their best .....

@sriram - Oh yeah; I saw that piece. Jon Stewart is simply brilliant. Thank God for the internet ; I can follow him from the other side of the world.

@J - Seriously; one can't be poor if they stuff themselves like that. I am entirely for personal liberty (and responsibility) on this one. Nanny state should stop directing what I eat. Zero sympathy for the grotesquely obese who are looking for somebody to blame.

By the way; you (like Sandhya) are in the svelte and petite category :)

Hema said...

It took me months to get used to saying 'tall' for 'small' at Starbucks. Strange are the ways int he world where big is small.
And looks like Bloomberg is just saying 'Don't DRINK'...but you can drink...drink..drink..
Thanks for the light post to washdown the heavy blueprint!

Vishal said...

Lol... great post! loved it. Looks very very ordinary when govt. has to intervene and decide the food habits for one. Quite liked the title of the post :)

sriram khe said...

I quickly reviewed my favorite posts on this fat and juicy topic ....

My uber-fave is this one on the "battle of the bulge" has a hilarious Onion video that might have you laughing your ass off (which might be a neat way to lose weight too!)

The complete collection on obesity is here

BTW, this post has a wonderful tip for you, if your goal is to be healthy :)

Ramesh said...

@Vishal - :)

@sriram - Buhahahaha !

Ramesh said...

@Hema - I actually do the opposite at Starbucks. Tell them I want a tiny coffee. And when they look nonplussed, explain to them that drinking a gallon of coffee (Tall size) is insane, and that I have still not lost my head !!

J said...

@Hema: Ask Starbucks for their "short" size - it is smaller than the small/tall size and for some strange reason they are too shy to put it on their menu. Other than airports, you get that size in regular Starbucks locations in the US. No idea about international Starbucks stors though....

sriram khe said...

Hey, the New Yorker had a great follow-up cartoon to this soda size issue :)

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