Monday, February 8, 2016

Eat Like Your Grandmother?

"Eat like your grandmother" is a mantra oft repeated in nutritional blogs and on websites. But does it make sense?

My grandmother was a big fan of Crisco. That's the creamy white stuff that's full of trans fats. Unhealthy,  yes, although it sure made tasty pie crusts with half butter (for taste) and half Crisco (for texture). So should I go out and buy a huge container of Crisco?

What's silly about the statement about your grandmother's eating habits is that the eating habits of your grandmother depend on your age and how old people in your family were when they had children. I'm assuming about 25 years between generations, so if you're 20, your grandmother was probably born around 1945. That means she grew up with lots of frozen and processed food, including TV dinners, which were considered hot stuff in the 1950s.

But if you're 70, your grandmother was probably born in the 1890s, when eating habits were very different from what they were in the 1940s and 1950s. And obviously ages between 20 and 70 would have grandparents with birth dates varying to match. If generations in your family were 40 years instead of 25 and you're 70, your grandmother might have been born in the Civil War era.

That makes "Eat like your grandmother" pretty meaningless, except for the idea that her ethnicity, as well as her era, would have influenced her cooking and eating habits. I do think that if most of your ancestors ate a lot of rice, you probably have genes for processing carbohydrates, but if your ancestors ate mostly caribou, you probably have genes that mean you'd do better on a high-meat diet.

What most people mean by "Eat like your grandmother" is probably "Don't eat packaged and fast foods." But then why don't they just say so?

Maybe I'm just in a grumpy mood because I'm doing bookkeeping in preparation for taxes, but I just heard this imprecise mantra one time too many.