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Mastering the Mundane
Modern Food Issues
A Gourmands Diary.
About Gastromancer.com and Jason Ryan
Gourmandiary, February 2004

McDonald's Downsizes

The French Word For 'Healthy' Fat

It was warm enough in Boston to fire up the grill this February and I would settle
for nothing less than the taste of a char-grilled steak.
Chewing on that steak it occurred to me that, while I knew what Mad Cow does
to cows, I really didn't know what causes it.  (Isn't that what
you think of when
you eat steak?)  The only thing that I have heard about the causal factors of Mad
Cow is that you should not feed the brains of infected cattle to other cattle.  OK,
what about the first cow that ever got Mad Cow?  How did it get infected?

'Infected' may be the wrong word to use when talking about Mad Cow. Infections
are caused by living organisms like bacteria or viruses.  Bacteria and viruses are
not a primary causal factor in contracting Mad Cow disease, instead, Mad Cow
results from a structural problem in a cow's brain where brain cells are killed by
twisted proteins.  These proteins, called 'prions', have both a good and bad (or
'twisted') form and naturally occur in most animals.  Prions are typically not
harmful.  What are prions for, and why do they sometimes kill brain cells?

When I searched for information on prion research I found a plethora of
information. Here are two of the most interesting articles...

It turns out that prions, in both their good and 'twisted' forms naturally occur in
most organisms.  
This article from Newscientist.com indicates that small quantities
of twisted prions, normally thought of as 'bad' prions are found in organisms
throughout nature.  In fact, organisms as small as yeast can naturally
make 'bad'
prions as a method of inactivating proteins that the yeast no longer needs.  This
suggests that 'bad' prions are a useful adaptation in the animals where they
occur, an on/off switch if you will, that helps an animal regulate cellular
metabolism.  If our bodies deal with good and bad prions all the time, then this
suggests that there may be a natural mechanism we can leverage to control
them.

Regarding how a prion becomes a killer, research is beginning to suggest that
antibiotics may play a part.   Remember, a prion is an on/off switch.  Twisted
prions stop certain proteins form working, but only those proteins that it can get
at.  
Research at the Scripps Institute indicates that antibody molecules can carry
a 'bad' prion across the cell wall of a neuron.  The article suggests that by
delivering the twisted protein into the heart of a neuron, antibiotics allow the
prion to halt the functioning of the neuron, killing the nerve cell.  Ouch.

Well, for this to be a problem, cows will have to be on penicillin.  That doesn't
happen does it?  Uh...yeah, big time.

The website of the 'Union of Concerned Scientists' indicates that..

An estimated 70 percent of antibiotics and related drugs produced in this country are
used for non therapeutic purposes such as accelerating animal growth and
compensating for overcrowded and unsanitary conditions on large-scale confinement
facilities known as "factory farms."  
(Click here for full text).

Animals get about 8 times the amount of antibiotics that humans get.

Houston, we have a problem.
McDonald's Downsizes.
out all 'supersized' meals in an effort to help people make healthy choices.

OK, so let's see how much more healthy my meal there will be...

Currently a supersized meal that includes a double quarter pounder with cheese
(770 calories), supersize fries (610 calories) and a supersized coke (410 calories)
clocks in at 1790 calories, or about 200 less than you are supposed to eat in an
entire day!

Well lets get rid of those supersizes
shall we?

My burger is still 770 calories,  my large fry sheds some 70 calories from my meal
and comes in at 540, and the large Coke shrinks by 100 calories to 310.  Phew!  I
knocked 170 calories off my meal!  Hey, with the 380 calories left to me that day I
can go back and have one of their crispy chicken salads for dinner (350 kcal)!  
Hold the dressing please...and the drink too I guess.

McDonald's nutrition information can be found
here...
Supersize the Movie!

What would happen if you ate three meals a day at McDonald's and said 'Yes'
every time someone asked you to 'supersize' your meal.  Filmaker Morgan
Spurlock wanted to know.  He spent 30 days eating nothing but McDonald's food
and made a movie about it.  

His film was shown at various film festivals around the country including the
Sundance Film Festival where "Supersize Me" was bought by MGM who intend to
distribute it nationwide later this spring.

In the meantime you can visit
www.supersizeme.com and learn all about how
Morgan Spurlock gained 25lbs, had liver trouble, and got moody during his film
shoot!  The movie's theme song is a hoot!  Enjoy!
Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror and said, "Jeesh, I'm not fat, but
like you're running with a load in your pants, but you're not quite what a younger
crowd would call 'buff'.  You're in between.  It's not a tire around your waist so
much as a doughnut.  What's the word for that?

I would like to introduce you to the French term Embonpoint.  Pronounce it with
as nasally a fake French accent as you can muster.

This word is described in Meriam Webster's dictionary as being derived from a
French phrase that means "in good condition".  My guess is that it started to be
used in the 17th century as a reference to those few French who didn't look like
they were starving.  Translated into the English as 'stout', it loses its healthful
connotation, but I think we could easily adapt this French word as a term
referring to those in our society who don't overeat, but don't exercise either.  
Hey, that's me!

HEAR the Gastromancer...

This is how I say
Embonpoint.

This is how I use
Embonpoint in a sentence.