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The Informational Cascade and the Egg-White Omelette

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There's a new book out about diet, and it apparently says what I've known all my life -- protein is good for you, carbohydrates are bad, and fat is highly overrated as a dangerous substance. Well, it's about time. As my mother used to say, you can never have too much butter. This is how we cook steak in our house: first you cook the steak. Then you throw a huge pat of butter on top of it. That's it. And by the way, I'm not talking about sweet butter, I'm talking about salted butter.

Here's another thing it says in this book: dietary cholesterol has nothing whatsoever to do with your cholesterol count. This is another thing I've known all my life, which is why you will not find me lying on my deathbed regretting not having eaten enough chopped liver. Let me explain this: you can eat all sorts of things that are high in dietary cholesterol (like lobster and cheese and eggs) and they have NO EFFECT WHATSOEVER on your cholesterol count. NONE. WHATSOEVER. DID YOU HEAR ME? I'm sorry to have to resort to capital letters, but what is wrong with you people?

Which brings me to the point of this piece: the egg-white omelette. I have friends who eat egg-white omelettes. Every time I'm forced to watch them eat egg-white omelettes, I feel bad for them. In the first place, egg-white omelettes are tasteless. In the second place, the people who eat them think they are doing something virtuous when they are instead merely misinformed. Sometimes I try to explain that what they're doing makes no sense, but they pay no attention to me because they have all been told to avoid dietary cholesterol by their doctors. According to yesterday's New York Times, the doctors are not deliberately misinforming their patients; instead, they're participants in something known as an informational cascade, which turns out to be a fabulous expression for something that everyone thinks must be true because so many reputable people say it is. In this case, of course, it's not an informational cascade but a misinformational cascade, and as a result, way too many people I know have been brainwashed into thinking that whole-egg omelettes are bad for you.

So this is my moment to say what's been in my heart for years: it's time to put a halt to the egg-white omelette. I don't want to confuse this with something actually important, like the war in Iraq, which it's also time to put a halt to, but I don't seem be able to do anything about Iraq, whereas I have a shot at cutting down consumption of the egg-white omelette, especially with the wind of this new book in my sails. (The book is called Good Calories, Bad Calories, and it's written by Gary Taubes.)

You don't make an omelette by taking out the yolks. You make one by putting in additional yolks. A really great omelette has two whole eggs and and one extra yolk, and by the way, the same thing goes for scrambled eggs. As for egg salad, here's our recipe: boil 18 eggs, peel them, send six of the egg whites to friends in California who persist in thinking that egg whites matter in any way. Chop the remaining 12 eggs and six yolks coarsely with a knife, and add Hellman's mayonnaise and salt and pepper to taste.

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