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Food And The South


It is well known that the South has become a hot spot when it comes to the obesity crisis in America. Tennessee, the state I live in, is the buckle of the diabetes belt with over 30% of adults obese. If you also count in adults who are overweight it comes to over 60%. With that being said it is not hard to figure out why these numbers are so high. People eat like crap.

From my own experience it is very difficult to find a wide array of healthy food products in just one store. We have Bi-Lo Publix, Food Lion, Walmart, Whole Foods and an Earth Fare. Often I’ll be searching for ingredients for recipes and I will have to hit three different stores just to find what I need. Many of the grocery stores, if not all, in the lower income areas carry a very poor selection of fresh fruits and veggies and seem to center around their in-store deli foods, such as fried chicken and chicken salad.

Way back in the bad old days people ate fried foods down here because they were  cheaper to make than fancier dishes. Instead of progressing away from that the South is still stuck in a rut. Even if people can afford better food they will still pick a chicken biscuit over a bowl of healthy cereal. I’ve had several different people tell me that they will eat the foods that they love until the day that ‘God’ decides that it’s their time to go. So, not only do you have generational eating habits that are bad you have  religious dogma thrown into the mix for good measure.

You are surrounded by bad food down here. Yes, all of America is crowded with fast food shops, but down here there are also a huge amount of buffet restaurants. I used to live on the West Coast and I never saw as many Asian buffet type places out there as I see here. Seriously, you can’t go down a main street without finding one. They all reheat the same unhealthy Sysco shipped frozen food and the people swarm into them like locusts. Also, there are a lot of  ‘down home’ type places that serve almost nothing but fried foods.

To be quite honest I think the only way things are going to change down here is if people get better access to good food and realize that it doesn’t cost a ton of money to eat healthy. The prevailing attitude around here is that only the rich yuppies go to Whole Foods and Earth Fare. Okay a lot of them do! However, my boyfriend and I don’t earn that much money and have begun to buy food that is better for us.

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5 responses »

  1. Pingback: Food And The South | Passing through Menopause Gracefully

  2. Let me be the first true, real, down-home, born and raised Alabama southerner to totally agree with you. My 19-year-old son told me last week that Alabama is ranked Number 1 out of fifty states with the highest obesity rate. Fortunately, my three teenage boys have been blessed with amazing genes. How, I have no idea, as I come from a family where only one “X” on the size tag was a “REAL GOOD” feeling. We cut the tags out when the X’s doubled or tripled on the clothe’s tag. All three of my sons have bodies of a top athlete, and are actually gifted athletes as well, without having to work for those muscles and trim fit. My husband is 46 and has only gained about ten pounds since we married..23 LONG years ago..never had any health problems, had his first real check up in 20yrs six months ago, and the doctor said he had the body and test results of a mid-twenty’s profile. Then there’s me…I have weighed 280lbs and 105lbs to 130lbs all within the last six years. Due to a past surgery for a blocked intestine, I have a stomach the size of my pinky nail, recurring ulcers and a vitamin deficiency to boot. I’m lucky these days to have a size tag that reads above a “2” or not have my 10yr old nieces bring me their bags of clothes they have cleaned out of their closets. Jr’s. clothing really does not look good on a 42yr old mom. Enough of my rambling, I just wanted to explain how I think I’m a genuine qualified individual that can attest to how right you are. The south is just different from every other place I have traveled. Most of us were born here, either moved away for a while, but we always seem to come back, and usually live within 20 minutes, or in my case…around the corner..from your parents, your kids go to the same school you went to and actually have the same teachers we had, and on Sunday mornings your extended family takes up the whole left side of the church pews with five brothers and sisters, 22 cousins, spouses, and grandparents. And by the way, we live in a tiny town of about 275 residents, but we have our own private school, post office, park, two small grocery stores, town hall and FIVE active churches. So what I’m getting at is after Sunday dinner, which is always a BIG cook day..Church socials, birthday dinners at least four times a month, and we celebrate every single holiday including teacher’s week, boss’s week, grandparent’s day, etc., even khannika, and there isn’t even one Jewish family that I know of living anywhere near us, we tend to get on the phone Sunday night and start planning our next big get together and who is bringing what, and so on. I have a neighbor that moved here from Colorado about a year ago and she has had a hard time grasping the south’s concept of food and how it relates to our everyday life. Food in the south seems to be the center of attention for most occasions or planned events instead of the event or occasion being the center of attention and food secondary. I know every year I have to buy all three boy’s unsold $25 a piece raffle tickets for–Guess what?– a 10lb smoked boston butt. I bought a small deep freezer just to store all the butt’s I can’t sell because all the other cousins have to sell 10 a piece too, so we all end up buying $300 worth of fat and eat boston butt all freaking year-long. Then there is the cookie dough fundraiser. Gallon tubs of cookie mix for $15 that you can buy in the store. What about submitting one healthy recipe a piece and making a cookbook that can be used fifty years from now instead of an empty gallon tub of COOKIE DOUGH, or the $20 book of coupons that offer over forty local businesses, usually a buy one get one free at Chick-fil-a or subway, rental cars, clothing stores, etc. Even Resturaunt.com has fundraisers and you at least get to pick what you want to eat.
    What I am getting at is it’s all a learned behavior. Kids follow their parent’s habits and repeat what they see and hear. “Whose gonna be a Jack-Sprat and eat every single thing on their plate? The winner gets the first piece of cake.” I heard my granny say that at every meal. We scarfed our food down so fast to see who got the first piece of cake. It was always a race at her table. I remember me and my cousins standing behind her on early saturday mornings waiting anxiously for her to fry up that fat back and beg for the first piece out of the iron skillet, or the fried green tomatoes, fried okra, fried squash, fried pork chops, fried chicken, red juicy garden grown tomatoes soaked in oil, salt and pepper homemade mashed potatoes with a stick of oleo, heavy whipping cream and Hellman’s mayo to boot, and that famous cake made with a tub of lard and Crisco icing, and oh, yeah…real ranch dressing made with buttermilk and half a jar of mayo, this was before Ranch was even sold in the stores. And don’t forget the 20lb block of real cheddar cheese wrapped in red wax that sat on the counter for a snack. We would cut blocks off and melt it and eat a pound a day with saltines and salt. When granny died of a heart attack, I inherited every one of her cookbooks and old taste-of-home magazines-like from 1979–over 800 real cookbooks. I had shelves made just to store them. I adore reading all those 1940 cookbooks. The recipes call for items I have never heard of and you have to make your ingredients instead of opening a store-bought jar of tomato sauce.
    You are right when you say you can’t find some ingredients in the local stores. I order a lot of my cheeses, spices, pasta and certain meat cuts online. I find that it’s cheaper if I wait until a coupon code is released or wait for sales and discontinued items marked down and buy in bulk rather than hoping Publix has that one item in stock or the Mexican grocery mart hasn’t closed down yet or the fresh fish market guy came back from Destin with the type of seafood you’re expecting.
    I looked in the phonebook under restaurants and found 48 mexican restaurants listed, 32 Chinese, 15 Italian, 23 local 1 meat and 3(vegs) most w/ dessert, 8 chicken finger (only) spots, 28 Pizza eateries (most with buffets), 4 healthy (no-fried foods) joints, 12 seafood hole-in-the-wall joints (most are local and more bar than restaurant), ONE weight watcher’s office with only two meeting days a week (offer online support now), 2 over eater’s anonymous meetings on t/th @ 8:00pm (kinda late, you think?), six Sonic’s that have closed within the last year, all Whataburger’s have closed and Boardwalk Fries and Burgers took their place, three Zaxby’s closed, but two moved to the “NEW” part of town and are doing good, O’Charley’s closed, two Ruby Tuesday’s closed, three steak restaurants now vacant, Jim and Nick’s gone, and lastly..six gyms worth joining..BUT you have to sign a One year agreement contract and most are over $75 monthly fee.
    So to top off my LONGGGGG post, most insurances now offer either online dietary plans with free consultation and/or menu/calorie/diet plans for free and hospital employees here get access to the gym facilities free.
    But, if you ever need a good fried southern recipe, just let me know. And if I ever decide to go whole-grain or “clean eating” (you can have my subscription), I’ll call on you!

    Reply
    • The South is soooo different from the rest of the country and I don’t think a lot of Southerners realize just how different it is down here. People eat unhealthy all over the country but down here it’s like a way of life. I’ve met people who would rather die than give up eating fried foods. The food is just such an ingrained part of the culture that it’s difficult for many people to separate the two.

      Reply
  3. I live in Alabama too…thing is the bad diet not only starts at home, it is perpetuated in the schools; They even allow children to serve their own plates, and most just filling the plate with frech fries, pizza or chicken fingers EVERY DAY. Then there are fast food chains on every corner, Fast food is CHEAP; most alabamians are poor; the dollar menu is appealing to them, and besides, from grade school on, thats what they have eaten.

    I am now gluten free and just found out I am also intolerent to fructose and lactose….sick for 12 years, misdiagnosed with every non testable syndrome like fibromyagia, chronic fatigue, depression, IBS, nueralgia….I could go on…and on. In the end, had tumors many of my endocrine glands like parathyroid, thyroid, and ovaries. Of course surgery was the answer for that to the docs and they never looked for a cause never ever mentioned the thing called Celiac or fructose intolerent…ever…. So they would keep me sick and eating crap that keeps me going back for more meds and more surgery without ever mentioning I could be making myself sick with food choices.

    Until the government gets out of the pockets of big pharma, and stops subsidizing grain growers…we are all screwed….thats why its so cheap to eat burgers….

    We have only been consuming grains as a species for .05 percent of our time on this planet….My theory is until we start eating what we were intended to eat to thrive, there will never be a cure for cancer or “unexplained disease”. Sanjay Gupta had a good show last night on heart disease…. says it due to the food we eat, not heridity….at all. They featured Clinton and his dramatic health turn around after going VEGAN. Since I cannot eat pastas, breads, and most fruits, that would not do for me, but good concept, and glad its making news with someone people can relate to as a previous burger addict.

    LOW FODMAP diet is the new up and coming thng for people with chronic ailments…it works and the science is behind it.

    The reason fried is SO unhealthy is not due to the fact it is fried….its the BATTER…wheat flour is horrrible on the body….and contains the highest gluten of all grains….and its subsidized to the hilt….

    My feeling is the cure for cancer lies in not drug research, but FOOD research; its like trying to cure a bee sting, the only cure is to avoid the bee in the first place! Gluten and fructose for me is no different, everytme I eat it, Its like swallowing a bee, and it stings my small intestine causing swelling and CHRONIC malabsorbtion of vits and minerals from food, this sends the endocrine system into overdrive, causing tumors…..AND MANY symptoms….such as OBESITY. The thyroid slows down metabolism to Try and compensate for the malnutrition caused by chronic malaborbtion…the parathryoid speeds up to deal with chronic low calcium levels…ademonas form then it wont shut off pulling caliucm right out of the bones, which causes extreme pain, and people down here, say OH its my Arthritis acting up…or my high blood pressure because its hereditary…welll the only thing hereditary is the DIET of these people…..passed down for generations of poor people, and it just keeps perpetuating….

    I have evolved past my upbringing….my mother recently gave me a tounge lashing for not eating any of the “breakfast” she brought for eveyone while we gathered to paint my brothers house…she brought a bag of gut bombs… Mcdonalds sausage bisquits….when I said I cant eat that, she said, well how about a breakfast burrito…..lol…flour mom, flour, cant eat it… later she comes to my house, I had prepared lunch, beef stew; cole slaw; and GF cornbread…

    They all said it was great, I pulled three graham pie crusts from the pantry and started giving them away as I can no longer use them….my mother says well you could make these pies for your FAMILY, what about them? I said my family has gone GF with me and they feel better TOO! She got soooo angry…NOW LORI< YOU HAVE JUST GONE TOO FAR! (You see, I was still very sick even after all my surgeries having those tumors removed….and I had to research and figure it out on my own, all tests if they ever ran them came up negative for celicac……like I said though if they tested for it, they never mentioned it, just that all is normal….and its all in my head……right.

    There is much resistance for change around here, and until the grocery stores start carrying good food and manufactureres are required to label properly and the schools start early with a good diet, we are doomed. Fried food is the norm down here. They only sell what sells, and that is cheap box mix chemical laden crap. I have to drive 20 miles for a whole foods store, but even have to be careful about the labeling in that store.

    for the first time in years, I finally feel healthy again, but everytime I slip up and have some gluten or some types of fructose…I am sick for three days…arms and legs going numb; fatgue, depression, muscle spasms; headaches, insomonia…..the list goes on…and results are repeatable every time, I can trace it back to what it was I ate that day, because I was either too tired to care what i ate, or eating out and thinking this or that was safe for me….

    Eating right is a task and a very time consuming chore in this society, but it sure beats being sick and disabled all the time!

    Lori

    Reply
  4. damn Yankees!

    Reply

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