Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

A Century of Food 1980 – 1989

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More Low Fat

In the 1980’s American Baby Boomers hit thirty. To alleviate their panic, they drank designer water, joined health clubs, bought herbal and vitamins to help alleviate some of the problems after being raised on fast foods. As the low-fat obsession grew. A new way of eating was introduced by Nathan Pritikin from the Pritikin Longevity Center in Santa Monica, California. In 1983, The Pritikin Promise: 28 Days to Longer Life became a New York Times Bestseller. The plan allowed no fat, sugar, or oil.


Italian Food Comeback

New immigration continued to augment the rise of the ethnic restaurants. The Hispanic migration was so massive that many of these cultures lived in parallel cultures without assimilation as previous immigrants had done. There were Islamic halal butchers, Mexican panaderias (bakeries), sushi bars, Hong Kong-style seafood restaurants, bagel stores, Argentine empanadas, Thai takeout and Iranian restaurants.  In the 1980’s, America discovered Italian food all over again but this time it was Northern Italian food which is essentially tomato-less. It comes primarily from Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna and Genoa. Pasta sauces were mainly cream and Parmesan cheese based, like Alfredo. Rice in risotto and corn in polenta replaced wheat as the starch in pasta. Tiramisu became a popular dessert.

Gourmet and Gadgets

We began to collect more gourmet foods and gadgets. Our cabinets contained $65 bottles of extra virgin olive oils and 50 year old balsamic vinegars. We were enthralled by stand mixers, bread bakers and food processors. We visited Williams-Sonoma collecting all kinds of culinary gizmos from garlic presses to food mills.


Comfort Foods

In October, 1987 the stock market once again plummeted 508 points. Spending stopped, high-end restaurants lost customers and more down-home eateries began to be more popular. Simple comfort foods like chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes, meat loaf (again), pot pies, pasta and chili became appealing to many.

Obesity Epidemic

One problem: All that comforting foods was taking its toll on the extra pounds were were accumulating. The number of obese Americans soared during the 1980s and 1990s, doubling among adults in the U.S. and tripling among children. The fact that obesity statistics have never been higher has raised a substantial amount of awareness and concern in regards to this issue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just over one-third of U.S. adults, about 97 million, are obese. This number is expected to rise to 42 percent by the year 2030; however, some forecasters have predicted the number could easily be over 50 percent. Uh Oh.

Diet issues and fads continue to dominate the culture. In 1981, the Beverly Hills Diet is introduced which recommended eating nothing but fruit for the first 10 days. Aspartame, another sugar substitute is introduced as NutraSweet in the same year. In 1982, liposuction is performed in the U.S. for the first time, and later became a popular cosmetic procedure with over 100,00 operations performed (still counting). In the same year, Jane Fonda’s Workout becomes a top selling exercise video. In 1983, Jenny Craig is formed which sells its own line of food and offers advice and counseling to people wanting to lose weight.

Weight Changes

Slow Food

After three decades of enduring a fast food culture, some people rebelled against this trend; therefore, the Slow Food Movement was founded. Slow Food is an international movement founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986. Promoted as an alternative to fast food, it strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem.

An Excerpt from the Official Slow Food Manifesto states:
“We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods… A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life… May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow, long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency. Our defense should begin at the table with Slow Food. Let us rediscover the flavors and savors of regional cooking and banish the degrading effects of Fast Food.



New Stuff

New products that were introduced in this decade included: Newman’s Own Oil and Vinegar Salad Dressings, Yukon Gold potatoes, Classic Coke, Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn and Snapple. We also acquired Boboli Pizza to make your own pizza, Fresh Express (salad in a bag) and Healthy Choice Frozen dinners.


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