Reading Mark Bittman’s excellent proposal to tax soda and other junk food in the New York Times has me thinking: There has to be a way to make eating well sexy. Because as much as I agree with Bittman, charts, graphs, admonitions on diabetes and health care costs aren’t going to combat the magic allure of junk food. Or persuade the food industry, which as he rightly points out, controls the diet debate through its advertising and lobbying power, to change its ways.
Americans are obsessed with using food as an indulgence, as something to get away with. And it’s not just junk food. From the current foodie craze of gourmet calorie-laden hamburgers to Big Mac’s double cheeseburgers, from sugar-laden classic cocktails to Red Bull as a breakfast substitute, from poutine (a Canadian dish of French fries, cheese curds and brown gravy) at the trendy gastro pubs to boxes of Dunkin Donuts at the soccer match to iced mocha blueberry lattes with whipped cream flooding the land, we’re cheerfully adding calories onto calories, from gourmet land to trailer park. Some of us may have more restraint — or more access to the gym — but it’s not just the cola-dependent poor who need to rethink their relationships with food.
I say tax sodas, fries and whatever else (Bittman was a little murky about exactly what might earn taxes) fat-laden can be added. But until a bowl of perfect green beans minutes out of the garden are as tempting as bacon-laced chocolate ice cream, we’re going to have trouble turning the tide. Who has some ideas on how to rock those beets for the common man?