Eat As Much As You Want

(For regular readers, this entry is out of chronological sequence)

We’re in the Domincan Republic, as it happens, but we could be placed anywhere in the developing and money-dependent world, within this walled resort of 250 rooms or so.  Interesting word, ‘resort’, it has so many meanings.

We’ve been on hols like this before, where it’s all laid on.  We prefer the quiet and the out of the way and cooking on our own, but this year it had to be just a week, cheap, one flight-leg away from Boston, and Quan was tired of being the cook.

We can look out over the walls from our 3rd floor room to the extreme but gentle poverty of the tropics (which always seems to me so much easier than the fried meat, window-rattling poverty up north).  Nevertheless, the 200 or so staff here must be getting pretty low wages for this all to work.

It is unfortunate but true: On this island, the other half of Haiti, predominantly Hispanic but a mélange of races, those in the managerial positions look more European, and those sweeping the beach at 6am look more African – prejudice still runs in the Obama-rama world.

But the food!  It’s all free, tables laden, buffet style.  Always salad, meat, seafood, fruit, dessert, pizza, bread, as well as the day’s specials, and not bad quality either.  By last night I was so stuffed, but I accompanied Quan to the dining room anyway, and there is rock lobster – langouste – tons of ‘em, and I cannot resist.  Good, too.  Breakfast this morning is endless reams of breads, croissants, eggs, omelets, cereal, fruit, fresh juice, coffee, yogurt, and anything else your little heart and large stomach desires.  All the booze you can drink is free too – all included.

As you will suspect, many of the rooms are filled with Americans with large girths, and many more by college kids with not much on their minds beyond oblivion, but before we lay it on one country, I hear plenty of German, clipped British tones, a smattering of French and Italian, and an increasing amount of Russian and other Eastern European languages and accents I have not yet learned to tease out – Ukrainian, Polish, Azerbajian, and other tongues where natural resources has assured an energy-elite oligarchy in the post-Soviet economy..

Again as you might suspect, there is a tremendous amount of waste.  I have always found wasted food immoral, and the more so in these times, and in a poor country.  I have tried to ask without success (no hablo espanol), but I wonder if there is any organized attempt to capture the usable food and distribute it among the families of the staff or locally somehow.  Some parts of the world could easily live on what these people are leaving on their plates, let alone what must be thrown away at the end of each day.  And I wonder how much they are buying locally and how much is shipped in.

But to get off the political and global and back to the personal, what is it that makes us so hungry beyond the needs of our organism?  I could get along – in fact, am overweight right now and would prefer to eat less – on very little, especially in this hot weather.  But the temptation of fresh lobster or tasty bits of this and that … In spite of all the overdeveloped and redundant mechanisms that run from mouth and gut and liver to the hypothalamus, our anxiety, and the pull of socializing and variety, the end result is that I am always leaving the hall too full.

The evolutionary advantage in anthropological terms of the sin of gluttony is not hard to fathom: he who eats for a rainy day will have some reserves when that rainy day comes.  Of course, the reverse is also true: he who never fasts will be ill-equipped for the rainy day when it does come, having never learned to be happy and hungry at the same time.

It is so much easier to self-regulate at home – there is something about being away, being here, slightly bored

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