Lessons from a Salad Bar

facepalmI had to have the AC in my car worked on today so while the car was in the shop I went to a local salad bar to have some lunch and do a little work.  I had some… interesting experiences;

Broccoli is corruptible apparently

The restaurant has a delicious salad with broccoli, cashews, onions, and bacon.   When I sat down with my plate, including the broccoli salad, I found a flyer at my table:

naughty broccoli
A picture of the broccoli salad with the caption “Healthy Meets Naughty” and the description “We take freshly harvested broccoli and corrupt it with salty cashews, red onions, smoky bacon, and a sweet tangy dressing. It’s decadent, nutritious and delicious

Oh for pete’s sake.  At least they’re not participating in the ridiculous messages that the nutrition of vegetables is “ruined” by the addition of things like dressing, but we’re seriously using the word “corrupt” here, as it relates to broccoli salad? Broccoli is not corrupted by the addition of vegetables, nuts, bacon, and dressing, and I like my food without a side of moral panic thanks, I’ll leave it to Santa to decide if broccoli salad is naughty or nice.

They are confused about what processed means

never processed
A chalkboard drawing says “All natural and never processed”

“Processed food” is one of those food moralizing buzzwords, but what does it actually mean? I googled it as I ate my delicious cup of clam chowder with bacon. Technically anything that changes food from its natural state – including cleaning, chopping, heating, cooling, etc. could be considered processing, a more conservative definition comes from the Economic Research Service (ERS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) processed food is food that has “undergone a transformation from the raw form either to extend shelf-life — such as the freezing or dehydration of fruits and vegetables — or to improve consumer palatability of raw commodities — such as transforming grain and animal products into bakery and meat products.”

In other words, if my clam chowder was never “processed”  by the USDA definition, it would contain raw milk straight from the cow, no butter, no cream, no bacon, no clams (unless they were fresh),  and no salt or pepper.  By the technical definition the potatoes would be whole, the clams would be in the shell, and the whole thing would be room temperature – never heated nor cooled. You know, never mind, it’s too hot for soup anyway.  These kind of buzzwords, often used passive aggressive food choice one-upmanship helps no one. If we want to have a discussion of health we need to do a little better than buzzwords and broad generalizations.

People Can still Be Ridiculously Inappropriate

As I finished my lunch and got out my computer, a gentleman who was with a small group at a nearby table came up to my table. And then this happened:

Him:  I’ve been watching you eat and can I tell you something?

Me: Maybe, can I ask you something first?

Him:  I guess…

Me:  Why were you watching me eat?

Him:  You were just sitting in my line of sight.

Me: (looking around) There are 5 or 6 of us in your line of sight, is it just me or are you monitoring all of us?

Him:  (getting irritated)  Look, I just wanted to say that I see that you’re choosing healthy foods and that you’re making a change in your life.  I was trying to give you a COMPLIMENT!

Me;  No sir, you don’t know anything about my life. You have stereotypes about fat people, you monitored my behavior because I’m a fat person, and you are congratulating me on rising above your stereotypes.  That’s not a compliment – it’s creepy and it’s rude and what other people eat is not your business.

Him:  You’re the rude one if you can’t take a damn compliment!

WT actual F?  In what world is it appropriate to go up to perfect strangers and comment on their food choices?  I’m just trying to eat my naughty broccoli salad and processed soup here. This idea that people should monitor the behavior of fat people and then comment on it has got to stop. I’m lucky that I think and speak and write about this stuff all the time so responding is almost a reflex at this point, but people shouldn’t have to practice rebuttals and prepare for battle just to go have some lunch.  The biggest lesson from my lunch – we have got to do better than this.

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42 thoughts on “Lessons from a Salad Bar

  1. The link on buzzwords was VERY helpful! And you know, I never fully understood what the moralization of food meant…then I saw your corrupt broccoli and that’s when it hit me!

    If I was in your shoes I would have smiled and thanked the man while feeling awful on the inside. I don’t have the guts to stand up for myself. I do try to make better food choices that suit my body, that is true…but why would you comment on that? You wouldn’t comment on a thin person eating “uncorrupted” food and you certainly wouldn’t comment on a thin person eating fast food, so why come and bother me you butt munch?!

  2. The food obviously gets some magic processing inside your body too, because you are made entirely of awesome.

    I am so gonna practice my “Maybe… Can I ask you something first?”

    ❤ ❤ ❤

  3. The rudeness of than man staggers me!!!! 😦 and then he tried to say you were rude for not appreciating his patronising reduction! SIGH

    1. It is the exact same logic that street/sexual harassers use. “Hey, lady! What’s your problem? When I said I wanted to “F*#& that a**,” I was giving you a COMPLIMENT!”

      No. No, you weren’t.

  4. Processed food by my definition (required by no one else) is toxicology-related. Being somewhat of a chemist, I think of it as the basic nature of the food has been chemicalized in a way that is toxic to life. That includes a lot of products on the market. The food scientists have a very chemistry-oriented framework. Sometimes I choose to eat it, but I know a lot about food formulation and many of its health impacts, so I consider myself making choices that are informed.

    1. I think of processed foods simply as canned or otherwise packaged for shelf-stability, versus freshly prepared.

      I don’t link toxicology to it, because my two sisters have to avoid fresh peaches, but canned peaches are alright to eat, because the processing actually removes the stuff that is harmful to them in the fresh peaches. This is just one example, but some people, with some conditions, actually NEED that processing.

      A much better slogan for the salad bar would be “All Fresh and Tasty.” Tasty is, of course, subjective, but much less likely to cause a big debate.

    1. Yeah, but that caries with it the “good fatty, bad fatty” vibe to it. The point is, he was rude and inappropriate to make that comment, regardless of if the person he’s talking to is training for a triathlon or training to be couch potato king of the world. lol

      1. True. Besides, this jackass would probably chide her for doing something so “impossible,” and that would destroy her precious, Precious KNEEEEES!

        You want to blow their minds, but then they prove their minds already have a slow leak.

  5. People are so rude sometimes! Thankfully I’ve never encountered anyone like that. You probably carry yourself with more confidence though, raven, which probably attracts attention. I just couldn’t imagine anyone actually saying that to a person!

  6. I am simply amazed at what that man did! Your response was wonderful, and right to the point. I am always surprised when rude people get called out and then think you are the rude one. This is another excellent example of the elitism of people who think they can feel superior by pretending to give someone a compliment when they are really just congratulating themselves on being better than anyone else. Newsflash- they aren’t! Thank you Ragen for another excellent post!

  7. I know I should not continue to be surprised and horrified that things like this happen, but I am. I mean, WTF?!?!?! I like how he assumes you are “making a change in your life.” You know, because obviously up until yesterday you must have been stuffing doughnuts and double bacon cheeseburgers down the hatch. And even if you were, still none of his business. Reading your blog has made me so much more aware of how people make other people’s (especially fat people’s) bodies, food choices, exercise habits, etc. their business and it is not okay!!!

  8. It really, really pissed me off that someone had the nerve to walk up to a stranger and say that bull@#$%. I’m so tired of this attitude from people. How dare we be fat in public and how dare you not take a “compliment” from a man?! That was quite the fat bigotry/sexism moment courtesy of that douche canoe. How does anyone convince themselves that a stranger gives any kind of a @#$# about their opinion of your dinner? This really makes me rage.

    You handled that beautifully, of course. You shouldn’t have to, though. WTF is wrong with people and how do we make it stop? This has to stop. Nobody should be treated like that. Nobody has the right to make another person feel like they can’t eat in public without comment and judgement.

  9. I don’t think I would have handled it that well. I probably would have just called him out for being creepy and told him to take a long walk off a short pier. I have also been told I am much more blunt then I used to be.

    I give you major props for handling it like you did.

  10. Woohoo! I was totally waiting for you to ask about his bowel movements but either way, it’s appalling how people think it’s okay to monitor gay people! I mea , would he have walked up to a rail thin gal eating the same and complimented her? No. Thank you Ragen for trying to educate people!

  11. I recently used a fake religion that demonizes lettuce and requires every other Wednesdays for religious services to illustrate what is, and is not freedom of religion. 🙂 It was fun to mix the absurdity of food moralization and the idea of being free to live your beliefs without impairing others’ ability to have the same freedom.

  12. Omg!! My post is supposed to say fat people not gay people! Wth autocorrect?

    Woohoo! I was totally waiting for you to ask about his bowel movements but either way, it’s appalling how people think it’s okay to monitor fat people! I mea , would he have walked up to a rail thin gal eating the same and complimented her? No. Thank you Ragen for trying to educate people!

  13. I cannot even imagine the hubris required to actually walk up to someone to give their “approval” of something that is entirely none of the business. It boggles the mind that this type of thing actually happens.

  14. You continue to be my hero, Ragan! I’m sure I would have just sat there dumbfounded rather than saying anything like what you did. I wonder – would it be too passive aggressive to compliment him on discontinuing the affair he was having with his secretary? After all, you know as much about that as he does about your eating habits…

  15. Thanks for posting this! I never know what to say. The rudeness just freezes my brain.

    I recently had a man walk up to me in a Chinese Buffet.just so he could tell me to stop eating while I was ahead.

    I hadn’t eaten anything yet, but was wandering around to see what looked palatable. It, of course, would have been just as rude if I were on my 2nd plate or my 100th plate.

    I kind of froze and then mover away from him. I never seem to manage to say anything.

    1. My dad did that to me at a Chinese Buffet. My first plate had salads only, as I wanted to go back for rice and stuff later. He flipped his lid that I took “so much”.

  16. OMG… I have to thank you for being so awesome. Maybe, just maybe he will refrain from going up to another complete and total stranger to comment on their food choices. Geez Louise!

  17. Thinking and acting are two different things. Anybody can think what they want period, but if you really smack him across the face he may smack you back, or hit harder.Where I live almost anyone can legally carry a licensed concealed weapon almost anywhere.The law says if you feel your life is threatened in any way, you can shoot to kill first and ask questions later. If a killing is found to be in self defense the killer walks away free without any penalty. I believe in nonviolence in most circumstances and and don’t own or want a gun but given the reality in this state I feel that courtesy is the best policy to avoid confrontations especially with guns.
    As an obese man, I have never been faced with a person commenting about what I eat.However sometimes a person will stare if I am with a very fat women. I stare back and that usually ends the matter.If it didn’t and they walked over to talk, I would quietly say we would like to be left alone and would appreciate your allowing us to do so.
    I think Regan handled the situation beautifully and as she said in the blog, she has thought about these situations and how to answer.
    I do think saying something is better than saying nothing and anything that keeps a person from endlessly thinking about a situation is good.
    The purpose of most of these intrusive characters is to make a fat person feel self conscious and afraid to do whatever they want including eating what they want. Answering back helps to stop their annoying behavior.

  18. I remember sitting down to eat my lunch – a large chicken salad sandwich – at my desk in the gallery I was working in at the time. I’d had no breakfast that day and was absolutely starving so I tucked into it with gusto. Some bloke, who I’d never met in my life, told me very earnestly that “compulsive overeating was a very serious problem”. I was absolutely flabbergasted. Fat girl+lunch= eating disorder. Riiiight.

    1. I didn’t eat at Subway for a few months, even though it was in the building where I then worked, because of the man who watched my tuna sandwich come apart in my hands while I was trying to eat it and then looked me up and down and said, in tones of contemptuous disgust, “Well, I just lost my appetite.”

      After I discovered fat activism, I made a point of ordering a package of chocolate chip cookies while they were gooey and still warm, sitting down with a bottle of milk, and enjoying every–single–bite. Chocolate on my fingers and all.

  19. Imagine an ad campaign for food that includes no references to sin, sneaking around, decadence, naughtiness, guilt, or thinness–and is targeted at women.

    “Hungry? In a hurry? Try one of our big, satisfying 8-ounce yogurts. Start with a creamy top layer to take the edge off your hunger, then dig your way down through thick, delicious yogurt studded with bits of fruit to reach the layer of chewy, filling wheat berries at the bottom.”

    “Crack the layer of chocolate at the top of a Daagen-Hazz ice cream cup and you’ll find the dessert you crave. Choose from chocolate with a raspberry ribbon, vanilla hazelnut, or mint with chocolate crispies. Daagen-Hazz…the perfect finish to a great meal.”

    “Summertime means salad days [crispy sounds on soundtrack], lemonade [clinking ice on soundtrack], and cool parfaits. Find it all at Bapplewee’s. Why heat up your kitchen when we can do dinner?”

    As it turns out, it isn’t that hard…

    1. This makes me wish there was a like button! Heheh We should fire any ad writer who uses “siniful”, “decadent”, or “guilt” in their food ads and hire you to write the ad instead. 🙂

  20. I really hope those cashews were processed properly because cashews are highly poisonous if they aren’t steamed. Even one that say they are “raw” have been steamed to remove urushiol which is the same substance that makes poison ivy cause skin reactions. And bacon is considered highly processed even by most people’s standards. It looks like whoever wrote that on the board was just using buzzwords without any thought as to their meaning.

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