Skip to comments.Southern Food Frustrates Health Officials
Posted on 02/13/2005 1:43:27 PM PST by foolscap
DECATUR, Ga. (AP) -- When Becky Cleaveland is out with her girlfriends, they all pick at salads except for the petite Atlanta woman. She tackles "The Hamdog."
The dish, a specialty of Mulligan's, a suburban bar, is a hot dog wrapped by a beef patty that's deep fried, covered with chili, cheese and onions and served on a hoagie bun. Oh yeah, it's also topped with a fried egg and two fistfuls of fries.
"The owner says I'm the only girl who can eat a whole one without flinching," Cleaveland said proudly.
Amid a national obesity epidemic and the South's infamous distinction as the "Stroke Belt," health officials have been trying to get diners to flinch, at least a little, at the region's trademark fried and fatty foods.
But nutritionists have found it's hard to teach an old region new tricks. How can Southerners give up delicious staples fried chicken, fried seafood, fried green tomatoes and cornbread slathered in butter?
Even at the Atlanta headquarters of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leader of the nation's anti-obesity campaign, the cafeteria serves up such artery-clogging regional favorites as biscuits and gravy.
CDC nutritionist Annie Carr said the agency is working to get its house in order by pushing the cafeteria to serve popular foods in healthy ways. The broader goals of the anti-obesity campaign are to educate people to cook with less fat and sugar and to promote the idea of eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
And for the South, that doesn't mean vegetables and greens flavored with bacon and meat drippings
"I don't think anything is wrong with the kind of vegetables we eat in the South - it's the way they are prepared," said former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher, the interim president of the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, who grew up eating traditional Southern staples on a farm in Alabama. "We need more fruits and vegetables in our diet."
Health officials' concerns with healthy eating in the South date back to 1962, when the CDC noted a large concentration of counties with high stroke death rates in the coastal states of North and South Carolina and Georgia. More than three decades later, the high stroke rates in that region seem to have shifted west to counties along the Mississippi River Delta.
Health officials have spent thousands of dollars on grants to promote healthy eating, including sending nutritionists into community centers and churches. The food experts introduce healthier cooking practices, such as alternatives to frying and methods that reduce the fat in gravy and sauces. But those efforts have found resistance from some cooks who say the healthier recipes alter the taste of their dishes.
"Flavor is a big issue - when you modify Southern cooking, then you lose a lot of the flavor," said Laurita Burley, a clinical nutrition instructor at the Morehouse School of Medicine. "The reputation of the Southern cook is at risk when you begin to modify it."
Much of the South's traditional foods date back to the days of slavery. Frying was preferable in the region's hot climate, since it didn't take as long as baking and didn't heat up a house as much. Plus, Burley said, workers didn't have all day to prepare meals; they had to get back into the fields to work. Lard was also plentiful. Today, frying still is popular, especially in poor areas of the South, because it is also inexpensive.
While it's quick, easy and adds flavor, frying loads ordinarily healthy foods with calories and fat.
"One of the common things in the South is that you fry everything," said Dr. Nicholas Lang, chief of staff of the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System in Little Rock. "It's a major grease-transport mechanism - there's no idea how much calories you get when you get that."
Other research has found that frying, grilling and smoking certain foods can cause chemical reactions within the food that can increase the risk of cancer.
"The best advice is to fry less and to eat their meat medium rather than well-done - and do like their momma said and add vegetables," said Lang, also a professor of surgery at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Back at Mulligan's in Decatur, owner Chandler Goff is quick to point out that the bar also offers healthy alternatives, such as salads and sandwiches that aren't deep-fried.
But he acknowledged that the "Hamdog" and the "Luther Burger," a bacon-cheeseburger served on a Krispy Kreme doughnut bun, are what draw attention.
As for Cleaveland, she says she doesn't think about cholesterol. "I probably should, but I do not. I'm only 25, maybe later." For now, she's able to maintain her 5-foot-7, 115-pound physique without regular exercise.
Regardless of age, Lang doesn't recommend the Hamdog, even as a one-time snack.
"If you choke that down, you might as well find a heart surgeon because you are going to need one."
Maybe they should just start frying everything in olive oil? :)
Til they come up with a heart attack in pill form, this'll do.
This sounds like something out of the Simpsons. First we take one pound of pure beef, then cover it in rich, creamery butter...
Americans eat too much (in terms of portion size) and exercise too little. This is why we have an obesity epidemic.
Besides, maybe this food and early stroke allows them to die happy rather than live to 103 with no eyesight, no hair, no solid food and no memory.
My own wild guess is that it is no younger than anywhere else; in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they weren't a bit older.
Look out - the food police are coming!!
The world's best meal IMO would make them apoplectic:
Breaded and fried catfish, freedom fries, a thick slice of raw vidalia onion, lemon (fresh), tartar sauce, and hushpuppies washed down with sweet tea and lemon icebox pie for dessert. It just doesn't get any better than that! HE he he!!
Amen! Couldn't have said it better myself.
Oh good Lord the arrogant attitude towards anything Southern is ridiculous. Leave us alone already.
No wonder the yankees are so grim.
But although vegetable oils such as corn and canola don't have cholesterol, they still have calories.
When you pry it from my cold, dead, greasy fingers, THAT'S when.
Damn Yankee busybodies!
Why don't you go to New York and worry about the new strain of AIDS the buggers have managed to concoct?
Aggh! These people make me sick.
The sad thing is, I could probably bench press any of these pencil-necked fools, even though I DON'T eat what THEY think I should!
My arteries feel more clogged just reading that...
Not this yankee, My veins are filled with Crisco.
Sorry, privacy "rights"keeps the Gov out of pervert parked cars, alleyways and bathhouses...only in your kitchen can they interfere.
"If you choke that down, you might as well find a heart surgeon because you are going to need one."
These alarmists amuse me. As if a single meal will all by itself trigger a heart attack.
My grandmother, who will turn 92 years old this year, has spent practically every morning of her life eating biscuits soaked in bacon grease with eggs and sausage. Everyday she would fry something. Catfish, chicken, even vegetables like okra (a Southern specialty if there ever was one). For dessert, there would always be apple cobbler or some other "heart-attack inducing" delicacy.
Then again, she didn't sit around the house watching Oprah all those years. Even when she was well into her 80s, she would be out mowing the grass or doing other yard work. When she was younger, she could handle just about any outdoor chore that a man would normally do.
I'm sure she'd be just as active today but unfortunately she suffers from Alzheimers and is in a nursing home. Her heart is perfectly healthy however.
And for dessert, they serve Twinkies deep-fried in Capn Crunch, and topped with chocolate and whip cream.
"Your Department of Human Husbandry recommends healthy, delicious Purina People Chow to keep you taxpayers in good working order."
"I'm the only girl who can eat a whole one without flinching."
I couldn't look at it without barfing.
A guy at work thought that he could mess with my food, too, by taking my lunch from the refrigerator
Then he suffered 'Mama's Revenge'!
We call it canola in Texas. If we called it rape oil some of the cowboys might get ideas.
LOL! Wouldn't the health nazis just love it, though!
Here is a list of great wholesome Yankee food.
Dang, I got to find this place!
Wow. That sounds nauseating.
Of course, I'm still on the quest for the perfect chili cheeseburger so my judgment may be unsound.
I had a Krispy Creme today. It was a chocolate covered one with whipped cream filling. In fairness, I ate it while on a 10 mile hike.
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So much to worry about...
Sounds wonderful. How about deep fried chicken with gravy, mashed potatoes, collards cooked with streak o lean, sweet cornbread dripping with butter and fresh from the garden BigBoy tomatoes? Chocolate icebox cake for desert.
(Of course, I had brown rice and chicken with fresh greenbeans, no butter for dinner.) ~sigh~
You just got this damn Yankee riled! New England Clam Chowder should be at the top of this list, followed by Yankee Pot Roast.
"The dish, a specialty of Mulligan's, a suburban bar, is a hot dog wrapped by a beef patty that's deep fried, covered with chili, cheese and onions and served on a hoagie bun. Oh yeah, it's also topped with a fried egg and two fistfuls of fries."
Screw the Feds! Mind your own damned business you socialist b*stards.
You can't get those here. I'd have let the South win the Civil War for one of those...
The two strong correlations for strokes are age and race. The older you are, the more likely you are to have a stroke. Also, blacks tend to have more strokes than whites.
I found no published correlation between stroke rates and the consumption of southern cooking; if anyone does find anything, please post it, especially if it has an age and race breakdown.
Never do those kinds of things unless your car breaks down.
This native Texan also wants to add Maryland Crab Cakes to the list of good Yankee foods. Best thing I ever ate in a bar. Maine lobster rocks too.
When I went into a national steak house franchise in upstate New York and they didn't have salt and pepper on the tables, nor any sauces (the waitress had to hunt up a bottle of A-1) I knew I was in a different culture.
From what I gathered in my year and half living in NY (above Albany) - butter, salt/pepper, paprika - made the dish 'cajun' and unbelievably spicy for the natives.
Hot sauces of various kinds, peppers, heavy use of s&p, butter, etc. was anathema.
I was happy to get back to the land of deep fried pickles, BBQ, LARD!, pork rinds, Waffle House, real butter,spices, fry daddies, fat back, fat back fried chicken, fried okra, fried everything, and Sweet Tea. I can't take tepid and tasteless New England food.
That's gotta balance it out!
Don't you just love passing down recipes & traditions?
My daughters can't eat a hush puppy without me telling them the story of how it got it's name, even thought I've told it a hundred times.
At 11 years old, one of them is turning out to be a mighty fine cook...although her twin seems more interested in eating food than preparing it. :)
If you have a proper fryer AND you have your oil at the correct temperature, the chicken does not come up greasy. Also, if you dip the chicken in a beaten egg before you roll it in flour, it's lightly but uniformly coated and doesn't absorb too much oil.
Also you have to have the chicken near room temperature - you can't fry it straight out of the fridge. I guess this is stuff that you have to learn at stove-side or be told, you don't get it out of the cook books . . .
But my favorite meal is still lamb chops grilled with Blackened Steak Magic (no, really, try it - it's perfect), a nice rice pilaf with plenty of butter cooked in, romaine salad with a ranch or poppy seed dressing, and green beans cooked Gujarati style with mustard seeds and garlic. My home made Key Lime Pie (with real key limes) for dessert, or maybe my Scots Trifle.
Pretty eclectic menu, but our family's been in the South since the 1600s, we don't see any need to cook Southern all the time.
Of course, mama-in-law's fried chicken DOES form the centerpiece for a tasty traditional meal. I make rice-and-gravy instead of mashed potatoes, green beans, corn meal spoonbread (a REAL old fashioned southern specialty that I guess is a souffle), lime jello with pear halves (my grandmother's standby), and baked custard (that's creme brulee for you hoity-toity folks) for dessert.
Fry a whole skillet (iron skillet) of bacon. Lay lettuce down in a rectangular baking dish. Chop onions and boiled eggs and scatter across the lettuce. Crumble the bacon on top of that. Pour the hot grease on top of the whole mess. Eat (or not, LOL) That's all I remember because by the time the grease hit the lettuce I was sitting in the back yard.
I don't understand the health crisis from eating in the South. I'm 50 and have been eating Southern food all my life. My blood pressure is 120/72, my cholesterol is medium at 165 and I'm not overweight (5'6" & 130lbs). I'm active though. I personally think that is the key. Eat what you want but stay active.
You Northerners can keep your bagels too. I tried one once and it was like eating a rubber donut with no taste. LOL Not a big seller around here.
But there's nothing to compare with a Maine lobster - although crawfish are handier, you have to eat a lot of them . . .
It looks like soy bean plants. I think "rape" in Canada means "soy bean". Sorta like maize vs corn.
When did that abortion get appended to the old name?
Whoever came up with that should be drawn and quartered, then hanged then shot.
Nothing transforms a good institution faster into something totally useless and unacceptable than the ability to set rules of conduct for others...
I looked it up. Your right, it isn't soy beans.
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