Sunday, June 7, 2009

Kentucky Fried Anything

Even when we aren't on any particular diet we do that to ourselves, don't we? We put different foods in little boxes labeled GOOD or BAD and as soon as we do we have to forcefully restrain ourselves from grabbing the BAD box and running off into the sunset with a load of Fried Chicken and Twinkies or maybe even a Fried Twinkie or a fried oreo or a fried Snickers's amazing what people are frying these days.

What is our obsession with fried foods?

I say "our" because I most certainly share this infatuation with things breaded and dipped in piping hot oil. Yesterday, I went out for Indian fare and ordered the vegetarian appetizer plate. Out came a glorious feast of fried flora. Rotund golden-brown samosas packed full of potato and peas and aromatic spices and then FRIED. Pakoras made of onions, potatoes and I believe some more peas, fragrant and delicious and FRIED. Finally something I hadn't had before and can't remember the name of, but I'm pretty sure it was mashed potato and peas formed into a pattie and then, you guessed it, FRIED. I'm surprised they didn't deep fry the bed of lettuce garnishing the plate. (Although to be truthful it probably would have made a prettier presentation as the iceberg greens were more than past their prime.) It was exactly what I wanted!

After the 1st pakora and about half of the samosa was gone I was beginning to feel the effects of my oil-soaked dinner as it began to reach my stomach. It was as if my digestive system had forgotten what to do with such foods as it sees them so rarely. Sure I could have stopped right then and probably not suffered anything worse than mild indigestion but the allure of the fried food item was too strong. I treated myself to another pakora, polished off the samosa and worked my way through the potato pattie. With fried food it's easy to use the excuse.."it won't keep in the fridge", as the reason you leave the restaurant sans doggie bag, but even if that veggie pakora came out of the chill tomorrow just as crispy as it came out of the kitchen it wouldn't make it through the car ride home.

What is it about fried foods? The answer lies in simple brain chemistry (is that an oxymoron?). Dr. David Kessler, former FDA chief, explains the phenomenon in his book "The End of Overeating". Here's a small taste...

"Highly palatable" foods -- those containing fat, sugar and salt -- stimulate the brain to release dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with the pleasure center, he found. In time, the brain gets wired so that dopamine pathways light up at the mere suggestion of the food, such as driving past a fast-food restaurant, and the urge to eat the food grows insistent. Once the food is eaten, the brain releases opioids, which bring emotional relief. Together, dopamine and opioids create a pathway that can activate every time a person is reminded about the particular food. This happens regardless of whether the person is hungry.

Good thing that paragraph wasn't fried or you might just want to read the whole book...

If you want a bit of a bigger taste here's an article about it: Crave Man


1 comment:

  1. I had a week this summer (well 2 days) when I found okra at the farmers market and my inner southerner came out. Fried okra, fried squash, fresh tomato slices (nope, one never fries red tomatoes, just green ones). I coated all (but tomatoes) in corn meal, fried in butter and sat down with tea and toasted my grandmother wherever she is. Fried veggies are southern and in summer when it gets really muggy I can't help my Alabama DNA - I fry! I loved your post.