Extreme Eats: Everyting is bigger in the U.S.

World's Largest Burger

The Travel Channel is going EXTREME today with a marathon of shows with the word 'Extreme' in the title. My husband and I caught Extreme Pigouts, which focused on restaurants that catered to the ridiculous in portion and idealogy yet making viewers mouths water nonetheless.

Reader(s) you know I am a self-pronounced foodie and that I enjoy the finer things in life. But deep-fried pizza? Fourteen thousand calories in a tub of Ben & Jerry's? A faux doctor, who used to be a nutritionist opening a burger joint with ridiculous portions? America is indeed the land of the free, but a place where obesity trends have increased heavily from 1985-2007. Internationally the US is the first (We're #1, We're #1) nation in regards to percentage of population that is obese. And watching a show like Extreme Pigouts today further explains how we got that way.

Healthier eating and a healthier life have become a wave that many cable channels, cooking shows, and QVC segments have focused on a lot more in the past decade or so. There's a channel devoted only to fitness (FitTV) as well as a handful more shows on healthy cooking, and a slew of reality shows focusing on weight loss (The Biggest Loser, Celebrity Fit Club, Bridal Bootcamp, etc.). There are many vegan cookbooks available catering to that culture and books on macrobiotic diets and so forth. We still hear the promises of quick fixes with pills and workout DVDs and energy drinks or anything that has the word 'Special K' on it. So how is it that we're still an obese nation?

Because of supply and demand. Watching Extreme Pigouts and even Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, or anything with Paula Deen, one cannot deny that the deep or pan fried dish looks tasty and from what we're being told by the idiot box is extremely tasty. I won't feign disgust at the thought of deep fried mac n' cheese because I've tasted it from The Cheesecake Factory. I can't say that ice cream with brownies, cookies, nuts, and whipped cream on top doesn't appeal to me. And I certainly won't say that a big ole flavorful burrito doesn't make me drool a little. What I find to be the problem, and as Nutri-system commercials state, is that it's about portion control as much as it is about what you eat. The problem in watching Extreme Pigouts is seeing the lengths that these already-bad-for-you foods go to become a staple on the U.S. map. As the owner of Jack-n-Grill stated he always had a mindset that his stuff had to be the biggest since he was from Nevada originally and apparently there were some turf wars between the state and Texas in terms of which one really has the biggest stuff. (Just an extension of the male ego if you ask me, I mean look at how big all these new NYC condos are being built; extension of something, perhaps?)

In the words of the ladies in Gypsy "you gotta have a gimmick." And so on Extreme Pigouts places like Big Mama's and Papa's Pizzeria can't just make good pizza, but the largest pizza. A pie is 54 inches in length and width and has to be delivered in a flat bed truck. Suitable for parties yes, but what if someone just figured they could live on the food staple for a while and now has to down pound upon pound of pizza or else it's just a waste?

Places like The Chip Shop will deep fry almost anything and everything edible, except some animals I suspect. Deep fried egg, egg sandwiches, pizza, double fried donuts, twinkies, the list goes on and on. The announcer on the show said that a couple deep fried twinkies or other desserts go over the daily caloric intake of an average individual.

Ben & Jerry's in Vermont will provide you a tub of 14,000 calorie goodness with a bad ass brain freeze on the side in the form of a tub of ice cream with a brownie, three choco chip cookies, four scoops of walnuts, a ton of whipped cream, all residing on a bed of 20 scoops of ice cream that comes up halfway in the tub. On Pigouts we saw 8 teenagers take on this 8lb mass of sugar and fat, garnering about a pound per person, unless you have that greedy friend. And you know we all do.

And in the video in the link provided you see The Heart Attack Grill where patrons over 350lbs get to eat for free everyday and everyone else gets to enjoy the fry bar with a burger named after heart surgery. I won't even go into the waitresses dolled up as hotty nurses and the owner dressed up as a doctor touting a motto of prescriptions of deliciousness or whatever, even though he used to be a nutritionist and found that people were happier gorging on fat. Everything here is cooked in lard, lard people! Pure fat! As delicious as it may taste fat on fat is not cool, especially on the hips.

The gimmick is that we must be the biggest and the best because we're entitled as Americans to free speech and free reign. Yes, women fought for the right to make decisions on what happens to their bodies via Roe v. Wade. And yes, not all neighborhoods are equipped with the healthier resources we'd need to make our bodies big and strong. But proprietors of such places that go overboard in thinking they're giving you what you want need to be able to stand back from everything and say to themselves: "Hey, maybe a seven pound burrito is a bit extreme."

Of course individuals need to be responsible for what they're putting in their mouth and I wouldn't be so bold as to say go on strike from tasty treats like Krispy Kreme or Popeye's or for the love of God your local Chinese food joint. I just think that the fact that some could think that the gimmick of "bigger is better" is always a good thing think things over a bit. No one needs that much more of what we can get nearby. In New York City seeing the nutritional facts for most chain stores leaves me wondering why I'd want to Supersize anything if it meant I couldn't eat anything else for the rest of the day without seeing some nice cottage cheese thighs develop. I've backed away from Dunkin Donuts or IHOP after seeing the caloric count for foods I ate without a second thought in the past.

I was raised to eat everything on my plate and sometimes that thinking pervades still today. When going to fancier restaurants that aren't chains I look at the meat, carbs, and veg on my plate and think I won't be filled by this at all. Screw that, lemme hit up Applebee's and get the large chicken fingers and fries. But lo and behold at Bar Americain or Josephina's or Peep or Babbo I become amazed at how much my stomach contracts at my attempt to put in any more food. By Job those portions were just right and I might even have room for dessert!

Bigger does look better. Especially if it means you're getting more for your money. And hell yeah that's a great deal when in a recession! But, when looking back and thinking on how much gluttony has become a part of our culture I have to aire on the side of caution and say that when your tummy says stop, stop. And as good as that eighth piece of pizza looks or as tasty as the sound of deep fried snickers rings in your ear to try and think a bit about the gimmick and consider whether or not it's in your best interest.

I mean, doesn't this look tasty?!?