Thursday, February 24, 2011

To-day's Ration of Oatmeal Blogging

The current most-emailed article on the NY Times website is a description of mounting civil war in Libya a Mark Bittman post unloading on how awful McDonald's oatmeal is, which is fun reading. McDonald's actually has taken one of the healthiest, easiest-to-prepare foods in existence and make it bad for you.

Interesting bloggo-processing of the post comes from Ta-Nehisi Coates, who highlights Bittman's making-oatmeal-is-simple argument:
Others will argue that the McDonald's version is more "convenient." [This is Bittman's quote here, not Coates'.] This is nonsense; in the time it takes to go into a McDonald's, stand in line, order, wait, pay and leave, you could make oatmeal for four while taking your vitamins, brushing your teeth and half-unloading the dishwasher. (If you're too busy to eat it before you leave the house, you could throw it in a container and microwave it at work. If you prefer so-called instant, flavored oatmeal, see this link, which will describe how to make your own).

If you don't want to bother with the stove at all, you could put some rolled oats (instant not necessary) in a glass or bowl, along with a teeny pinch of salt, sugar or maple syrup or honey, maybe some dried fruit. Add milk and let stand for a minute (or 10). Eat. Eat while you're walking around getting dressed. And then talk to me about convenience.
Coates finds a deeper "conscious"/"unconscious" behavioral question in whether you go to McDonald's or go DIY. Ezra Klein isolates a bit more exactly the key point of effort as opposed to time as being crucial to convenience. "Easy isn't the same as effortless" is a good point. It's an activity versus passivity thing.

It reminds me of the willpower thing again, how it takes actual resources for the brain to exercise the planning and control to carry out tasks. Presumably even small ones, like making oatmeal. Not that people shouldn't make the effort, but it's not really accurate to equate a short active task with a short passive one. Now how you might get people (not to mention, first, yourself) spending more of their day doing active tasks instead of giving in to accessible passive options, that's a question.

Anyway. Food for thought, and vice versa. I should specify (for full disclosure?) that I make my own oatmeal, although I may switch to bulgur wheat for a while, since I just bought some for an unrelated Mark Bittman recipe and there's an alarming quantity of it that I didn't use.

Completely unrelated but interesting: physicist Geoffrey West as quoted in the December 19, 2010, New York Times Weekend Magazine.
West illustrates the problem by translating human life into watts. “A human being at rest runs on 90 watts,” he says. “That’s how much power you need just to lie down. And if you’re a hunter-gatherer and you live in the Amazon, you’ll need about 250 watts. That’s how much energy it takes to run about and find food. So how much energy does our lifestyle [in America] require? Well, when you add up all our calories and then you add up the energy needed to run the computer and the air-conditioner, you get an incredibly large number, somewhere around 11,000 watts. Now you can ask yourself: What kind of animal requires 11,000 watts to live? And what you find is that we have created a lifestyle where we need more watts than a blue whale. We require more energy than the biggest animal that has ever existed. That is why our lifestyle is unsustainable. We can’t have seven billion blue whales on this planet. It’s not even clear that we can afford to have 300 million blue whales.”


Blogger Pete said...

I love that blue whales thing.

2/25/2011 6:25 PM  

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