Just the fats, Ma-am.


Fact #1  America’s number one health issue is obesity. I’ve been aware of this perhaps longer than the average American because this hugeness issue first showed up at my house. Not saying we were the only ones, just that it was what it was already in 1969 and that’s a long time ago.

Weight is an issue I struggle with, yet while I type this I remind myself this obsession isn’t a weight issue at its core, it is a food issue. You see, my parents were foodies before foodies were cool. In fact, my parents were so uncool in their foodicity that many, many years ago I said that I hoped they lived to see their grandchildren graduate. I wasn’t a cool thing to say, more like a cruel thing to say. It was then my father took me out to eat, something he did when he needed to discuss some serious something. During that wonderful Italian meal, he said, “It cost a lot of time, money and effort to put on this weight, why would I want to take it off?” Why indeed.

Fact #2: Obesity spawns incredible health risks such as diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, breathing problems, sleep apnea, joint pain and strain, and the list goes on. It may be un – PC to talk about fat. Sorry. While there is a movement undertaken by overweight young persons to reclaim their sagging, uh, self-esteem, the monetary toll that fat takes on health care in general will only increase as the largest generation ever (pun not intentional), the baby-boomers, reaches medicare age as it is on the brink of doing.  Can we afford it, I doubt it.

My father did make it to my children’s graduation. Sadly, he died of pancreatic cancer (not known to be related to weight problems) and in his last year of life he lost so much weight I was begging him to eat.

My parents loved food. They took the family out to eat every week. I’m traveling down Memory Lane as I recall all the places we ate at. We hit every good place in Houston: The Golden Palace on West Gray, the original Antoine’s Imports and Deli, Valone’s  across from The Shamrock Hilton, Alfred’s on Stella Link, Captain John’s Seafood or the original Christie’s in the Med Center area. On Sundays after church we would sometimes take a drive (over 80 miles) to Don’s Seafood just this side of Beaumont or to Gaido’s in Galveston. (With the exception of Christie’s, Antoine’s, and Gaido’s all these places are gone.) When we kids left home the parents reported their visits to Tony’s, Brennan’s, Kaphan’s, Sonny Look’s Steakhouse (where an armored knight sat on a white horse in the parking lot), San Fransisco Steak House (a girl on a trapeze swung over the patron’s), Vargo’s (peacocks in the gardens), and all the ones in between.

My parents loved food. Not just at restaurants, my mother was an exceptional cook. My parents made a point of inviting the large families from church over for a meal – because who else would invite a family with four or more children to their home? Since we were a family with four children, we knew from experience. It was a great ministry they kept up for all the years we were growing up. My mother was an excellent cook and we children developed enduring friendships. It was all good.

Eventually their love of food caught up to them with lots of extra weight and later with diabetes, strokes, and sleep apnea.

Fact # 3: My parent’s generation grew up during the Great Depression. They didn’t have much food. If their families couldn’t grow it or raise it they probably didn’t eat it. And my parents were better off than many, at least they had a home. My mother in her old age tends to hoard her food. When my father passed away and we had to relocate my mother to a safer environment, I found food in drawers, in cabinets, hidden in bookshelves. Candy jars and cookie jars resided throughout the house. I’m not sure but that my parent’s love of food wasn’t colored by their childhood want.

This doesn’t excuse the younger generations of large people – generation after generation of fat. I worked for twelve years in a public school where I noticed a growth in numbers of large kids and fat families. There were always exceptions — large child, skinny parents, large parents, skinny children but the most common phenomenon were large parents with large children. And The Great Depression can’t be blamed for this.

So what can be blamed? We’ve gotta blame something. I say let’s blame Poncho’s Mexican Buffet. It’s those little flags that you could raise at the table when you ran out of something. It was non-stop, all-you-could-eat mexican food and it was cheesy, it was greasy, it was yummy. My parent’s loved that place. I loved that place. I can’t believe they went out of business.

Plenty of all-you-can-eat restaurants have taken hold and I see this no matter the size of the city or town. I saw an all-you-can-eat Chinese Buffet in Lufkin, Texas! Don’t-chu know that’s gotta be some good stuff in there, boy howdy!

I don’t even like to go in an all-you-can-eat place any more. Mainly because it’s a waste of good money. These days I try not to eat my weight in food. Also, it seems such a waste of food. Health laws require that any food set out in a service area can no longer be re-served, even if it was never touched. All that food must be tossed at the close of the day. Now don’t all rush to eat it up, ’cause they’ll just put more out. And isn’t it a shame with hungry people all over the world that so much food is thrown out every day? I say if no one patronizes those places they will gradually go away.

Fact #4: (Okay, opinion) Poncho’s was the first of its kind that I recall. I still say it’s Poncho’s fault we’re all fat.

4 thoughts on “Just the fats, Ma-am.”

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