Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Breakfast at Anke’s

Posted by on 06/03 at 08:34 AM I was sitting down with breakfast this morning (baguette with butter and fig jam, and milky coffee, since you ask) and could not concentrate on the NPR news (well, financial crisis in full swing, Obama doing his thing and war going on in several places - I don’t think I missed anything exciting, did I?) because of that butter. Let me explain.

As you will have gathered from my occasionally wonky English by now, I am not American, nor indeed a native speaker of English, but German. I grew up on a farm. And before you cry: ‘My, a farm - how romantic!’, let me add that I am sure that both my brother and I were accidentally switched in hospital, just after birth, with two other kids from academic backgrounds. All I know about agriculture is from bits and pieces I gathered at history of science conferences…

But back to the butter: in our frugal childhood home, butter was considered natural and very good for you. Margarine was used for cooking and baking, since it was cheaper, and saving money is very good for you, too. Either way, we never heard about trans fats, saturated vs. unsaturated fats, or the merits of olive oil. Later on, as I became a vegetarian and absorbed more pop science about fats, I cut out the margarine but still lived a life full of decadent dinner parties with my friends (5 courses plus pre-starter nibbles and post-dessert drinks, about once a month) and surprise picnics with delicacies from the French cheese and pastry shops on the bank of the river Neckar. Little bites of very, very good things.

So today, I was sitting there with my breakfast, and noticed that both the media (other than today’s news) and the subjects I come across in my job at the Chemical Heritage Foundation had infiltrated my brain. My baguette whispered ‘carbs’; the butter sighed ‘oh dear, oh dear’; the jam mused about metabolism and blood sugar levels; the coffee screamed ‘caffeine’; and the milk in it… whole milk of course!

Well, I know you’re awaiting a moral at the end of this story. But I refuse to demonize or condone, advise or pooh-pooh. You know what I did? I had my breakfast. And it was good.

Coda: we (i.e. CHF) currently have a fellow who works on the history of trans fats. We have had many an interesting discussion about food, the food industries and trends in medicine. It is conversations like those that get my out of bed in the morning a little bit faster than I would otherwise. Here’s to the fellows!

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