I remember in the 1960’s there was something called the “generation gap” that was blamed for the inability of parents and teenagers to communicate with each other. And although it caused many a heated argument between hippies and their parents over dinner tables everywhere, I attribute the eventual reconciliation and the healing of these cultural rifts to the fact that while seated at those dinner tables everyone was eating a certain amount of fat. The generation gap gas now been replaced by the “fat gap.”
I tried to explain to my college-age daughter who recently visited for a week that in ancient times when I grew up, people used to gather around a large, disk-shaped object in the evenings and consume whatever was placed in front of them. Not only would they all eat the same thing but (and this is where her eyes grew as big as saucers) usually the food contained some fat. (Gasp!) This was called eating. We used to call them meals, I explained to her while she grazed on a bag of pretzels that she had opened for breakfast. Fat-free of course.
Over the years my daughter dallied in vegetarianism now and then, but would obligingly wolf down a grilled sirloin steak if she happened to turn up at dinnertime when her dad and I were grilling out. So when she e-mailed me some special fat-free food requests for our camping trip part of her visit I didn’t think anything of it. I agreed to pick up some Boca Burgers (whatever the heck they were) and some fat-free cheese. After about six trips to various stores rifling through the frozen foods looking for the mysterious Boca, I finally discovered them in an obscure freezer compartment near the back of the store. They looked like four frozen hockey pucks. Hardly any bigger than a respectable chocolate chip cookie, I thought to myself.
“Is that fat-free milk?” my daughter chirped as I set out the Half and Half on the picnic table to have with our morning coffee after our first night of camping. It would be the first of approximately three hundred times that I would hear the four-word phrase, “Is that fat-free?” over the next six days. Two hundred and ninety-eight times the answer was no.
The simple truth is, I love fat. I don’t mean just the taste of it – I mean everything about it. I love to bake with it. I love to share my fat with others, in the form of cookies and cakes, and pies that come from my oven. I love the look in people’s eyes when I give them a fat-laden Cornish pasty fresh from the oven. I love piecrust and French bread and butter. Oh, I love butter – salted, unsalted, light butter, flavored butter, melted, clarified, whipped – I could go on.
I love the memories of fat that I have. Somehow I am not horrified when I remember my mother frying up an entire package of pork sausage and eating the whole thing for dinner. I remember her placing gobs of butter all over the top of her spaghetti with meat sauce. I remember homemade potato pancakes and corn fritters floating in hot grease on the stove, and how delicious they were. We were a happy bunch eating fat.
I remember my grandmother lovingly buttering my grandfather’s toast, strategically placing generous chunks of hard butter all over it. “He likes it this way,” she would whisper to me. And my grandfather knew his fat. There was only one brand of butter he would ever buy, because it was the best. And one day he clued me in on a fat-specific discovery he made that I thank him for (and still eat regularly) to this day. “Put some of that Land O’ Lakes butter on some of that toasted Paielli’s round Italian bread,” he advised. “Boy is that good,” he beamed.
He enjoyed his fat for 88 years.
The other nice thing about fat is it’s quieter. Are we all just about sick of hearing people munching incessantly on fat-free pretzels and popcorn all day long? To them I say, have mercy on those around you and eat a Twinkie.
Fat has become as terrifying to generation X-ers as the boogieman once was to baby boomers.
What bonding can possibly take place in a fat-free upbringing? Fat is an essential ingredient of love. Will we soon witness the demise of frosting-filled surprise cupcakes sent to school for children’s birthday treats at school? Will there be no after-school homemade chocolate-frosted brownies baked by plump grandmothers wearing lace aprons? No coconut covered lamb cakes at Easter? No frosted sugar cookies for Santa?
You say you want a revolution? Burn your Boca Burgers now!