There is a reason that most people can’t stop at one chip or one chocolate chip cookie. And it is not about pigging out. Honest. The reason is in the brain.
Back in the old days, which lasted hundreds of thousands of years, from caves to castles, most people worked hard for their food. (That by the sweat of your brow thing.) Fat, salt and sugar were scarce and precious and healthy in the forms and quantities available. Since it wasn’t readily available, our brains were hardwired to seek it out and make the most of it when found.
Now comes the very recent, historically speaking, era of abundance. The problem isn’t will power or laziness or ignorance. It is that our brain hasn’t kept up with the speed of change (in this as in so much else) and the food industry has worked at getting the perfect combo to take advantage of this.
Dr. David A. Kessler was head of the FDA in the U.S. and fought big tobacco. So he is well aware of how marketing can create and sustain a market for consuming poison. In The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, he explores how the food industry has arrived at the “bliss point” by combining fat, sugar, salt and ease of chewing into the perfect combinations to be irresistible to our poor old brain, suddenly removed from the scarcity that it evolved to survive.
As The Situationist report:
The result is that chain restaurants like Chili’s cook up “hyper-palatable food that requires little chewing and goes down easily,” he notes. And Dr. Kessler reports that the Snickers bar, for instance, is “extraordinarily well engineered.” As we chew it, the sugar dissolves, the fat melts and the caramel traps the peanuts so the entire combination of flavors is blissfully experienced in the mouth at the same time.
I think the moral of the story is make your own. You can’t stuff the genie back in the bottle, you can only channel her/him. Now I’m not skilled in the domestic arts as anyone who knows me knows. My husband is the chef in our family thank goodness. But I like my characters to have skills that I lack and then they inspire me. I know this is a bit odd, but then anyone who decides to write fiction must be. My current protagonist cleans when stressed (something I can assure you I do not!) and bakes for fun. I have taken a leaf out of her book to make my kids’ milkshakes and try my hand at muffins. After this article, I think I am going to try chocolate chip cookies.
I can’t keep my kids from them, but let’s see if I can make yummy yet unblissful ones with fare-trade chocolate chips. I’m betting that the fragrance of home baked will outdo the seductive power of the food industry. Toll house anyone?