I’m a dietitian…but I don’t eat like one. However, I don’t feel I’m defying the sacred code by frequenting my share of diners drive-ins and dives.
The reason is simple. We live in a land of abundance when the focus is on too much. Too much fat, too much salt, too much sugar. Highly processed foods and fast food concepts not only replace natural and unique flavors with the big three (salt, sugar, fat). The “beige wave” of deep-fried foods has spread across generations.
Although abundance is an issue, an equally important trend has occured in our eating patterns over the past 10-20 years…not enough. Packaged, processed food, whether prepared at a restuarant or at home, omits many of the standard nutrients which used to be part of a balanced meal. We are facing chronic nutient shortages in affluent populations. We rely on vitamin water, Flintstone chewables and Dr. Bernstein’s injections to provide us with the nutrients we should be eating already.
I believe developing a good palate must be a trained behaviour….just like throwing a baseball or playing the piano. We have saturated our children’s palates with big three since they had teeth. They can tell you the difference between a Mars and Snickers bar but can’t look at a thyme and rosemary plant and identify which is which.
While I’m on the soapbox, let’s talk about fresh food. I had a friend travel to Europe for a month. She mentioned that when she bought tomatoes from the market, she had two days to eat them before they spoiled. When she returned from Europe a month , she had two tomatoes in her fridge which still appeared to be edible.
So, feel free to criticize me for searching out some of the continent’s most atrocious dining exeperiences. Given my experiences with diners drive-ins and dives to date, here are my observations:
1. The food is fresh. Most of the ingredients are local and most of the foods are made in-house.
2. The food is tasty and unique. Rich, flavourful food with some complexity trains the palate instead of dulling it.
3. The food is prepared with passion and pride. They want to serve it as much as you want to eat it and it shows.
That’s my rationale for a very liberal approach to dining as a dietitian. So, leave the highly processed chicken pineapple lean cuisine in the freezer and join the adventure for fun, fresh, funky (and sometimes fried) food experiences.