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While I have come and gone many times from the United States, and had many new realizations upon each of the comings and goings, I don’t know how I let this one slip by, it’s so blatantly obvious. With a fresh perspective after another year living abroad, I never realized just how pervasive tomatoes, potatoes, beef, and oil are in the diet of this country.
Tomatoes-the preferred form of eating them here seems to be in the liquid form-ketchup. Maybe it’s because so many of them have to be gassed first and shipped over the border from Mexico, making the “fresh” tomatoes here (unless you’re willing to pay top dollar for locally grown good ones, preferably of the heirloom variety) something akin to a slice of cardboard soaked in water, both in taste and appearance. I find jars of ketchup and ketchup pumps (a new thing, and probably a good one since those disposable foil envelopes are so messy) just about everywhere. Alas, the pumps do make it easier to eat more of the stuff, and it would be even easier if they didn’t give you those tiny “condiment cups”; but I’m not worried, I’m sure they’ll supersize those before too long so that you can bring a whole cup of the stuff to your table, instead of the tablespoon or so you can fit in the current size.
I’m not sure which goes with which; is that I’ll have some french fries with my ketchup, or some ketchup with my french fries? I can’t find a snack bar, deli, or casual eating place that doesn’t serve french fries or potato chips with just about everything. No wonder there’s an obesity epidemic going on! The oil doesn’t need mentioning.
And then of course the ubiquitous hamburger. Again, every snack bar/deli/casual eatery menu throughout at least the southern half of the state of California, and I’m sure a whole lot more of the territory, must have the same items on the menu. All I find are hamburgers, cheeseburgers, turkey sandwiches, turkey and swiss, ham and swiss, and combinations thereof. Pay a little more and you might find salmon, roast beef, fish and chips, and a few other menu items but most of them consist of something fried, something with potatoes, and a lot, a whole lot, of protein. Seems like McDonald’s might actually have more healthy choices than most of the places I have visited; at least you can get apple slices or salad-skip the dressing.
If there’s one thing I must admire about Ecuador is the ease with which one can eat a healthy meal and the low cost of produce. While eating “out” in Ecuador and dining on the standard fare of rice, potatoes, pork and corn is not exactly a nutritionist’s paradise, at least it’s all fresh and local and mostly not fried. I miss my pineapple, banana, mango, strawberry, blackberry or some combination thereof smoothy every morning, fresh vegetables and fish for lunch, hand-made fruit sorbets and ice creams which can be found in nearly every town in Ecuador, and avocados, fresh cheeses, fruits and chocolate for my evening snack. It’s hard to eat like this in the US if you don’t have an extremely generous budget and/or someone to help you do the shopping-but in the long run it will save you a lot in health and health care costs. Unfortunately, as this recent article points out, it will cost you more. Wake up America, and let’s put something else on the plate!