Spud lover, maybe it's the end of the line for you, too.
There I was in my one of my favorite upstate New York diners with my wife for a late breakfast on Independence Day. In front of me was my half-finished, standard diner two-egg special.
One of two medium poached eggs was left in a cup, a flawlessly toasted everything bagel and a heaping portion of amazing home fries with chunks of pan-cooked potatoes, slices of fried onions and just the right amount of seasonings adorned the plate. It was the perfect American breakfast to be eating on the Fourth of July.
I tried to avoid wolfing the food down too quickly by distracting myself with an article about the weigh-in ceremony that had taken place at New York City Hall the day before the traditional Nathan's hot dog-eating contest on Coney Island. That's the traditional Independence Day contest celebrating the ultimate in American gluttony, where contestants trained in the art of stuffing their faces cram as many hot dogs, buns and water down their throats as is possible within a 10-minute time frame.
The standing record for men -- 68 hot dogs -- was set in 2009 by Joey "Jaws" Chestnut. The women's record stands at 41, set that same year by Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas.
The newspaper article had been written from a very facetious point of view because of the obvious hypocrisy of Mayor's Michael Bloomberg welcoming contestants to an event that celebrates America's eating excess. His emceeing the event clearly flew in the face of his signature anti-obesity campaign, which now includes his well-publicized efforts to limit restaurant sales of non-diet soda in quantities bigger than 16 ounces.
After I read the article, I looked down at my wonderful breakfast plate and wondered how long it would be before those delicious, but caloric and oily, home fries would be the target of powerful health freaks like Bloomberg, First Lady Michelle Obama and any others who want to slim Americans down. With them would fall hash browns, French fries, tater tots, scalloped potatoes and even baked potatoes, as they are usually laden with fatty oils to make them taste decent.
Fat Americans consume 140 pounds of potatoes each a year. Were my home fries going to go the way of the 16-ounce Coke?
The mayor is already looking to ban potato chips from city schools and jails. Is he going to crack down on city diners' home fries next? If I were a potato farmer, I would be very concerned.
Sure, throughout the history of mankind, potatoes have been an important staple food around the world. And potatoes do have some nutritional value in the way of important vitamins and minerals, and a plain potato is really not terribly caloric or bad for you. But it's all that oil and fat we use to make them taste great -- and that makes me and other Americans very overweight.
So I sat there and thought, "Is Bloomberg really wrong?" There's nothing healthy about the way Americans eat their potatoes.
All Bloomberg is saying -- and wrongfully trying to enforce via overbearing government regulation -- is that we ought to eat our favorite, fattening foods, such as hot dogs and fried potatoes, in moderation.
Yet, even if Bloomberg is right, I don't want him or any government leader to limit my fried potato consumption. I can do that on my own.
We celebrate Independence Day, in part, to rejoice in our liberation won from a monarchy that sought to limit Americans' freedoms of expression and way of life. The revolt was actually started when the British imposed a hefty tax on their drink of choice back then: healthy tea.
Bloomberg and other obesity zealots need to get this typically American memo: I'm all for moderation, but don't tread on my home fries.
Originally published in the Sun Sentinel on July 12, 2012
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