Monday, November 9, 2009

“Calories should take work to access”

Ezra Klein offers another way to think about how we eat:
I'm convinced that how you lay out your kitchen changes both how you eat and how you cook. For now, I've got two main principles. First, you don't eat what you can't see, both for good and for bad. Second, calories should take work to access.

A year or so back, I was reporting out a story on the behavioral economics papers influencing the Obama administration. One of the sources for that story offhandedly mentioned a study that showed men eat far more fruits and vegetables if they're stored on the same shelf as the beer. Similarly, I've come across studies showing that storing fruits and vegetables at eye-level does more to increase consumption than subsidizing them. The irony of the crisper drawer at the base of the fridge is that it keeps produce fresh for longer, but since you also forget that the produce exists, it makes it more likely that it goes bad altogether. I've lost more produce that way than I'd like to admit. Good produce. In my fridge, fruits and vegetables go on the top drawers. The crisper area is going to get sauce overflow, or maybe bread.

Similarly, I like to snack. And I don't have much self-control, or really any self-control, when I'm around snack food. Worse, in my new place, I'll be a whole lot nearer to the fridge than I was in the large, rambling group house I previously inhabited. To keep myself from gaining a gut, I'm trying avoid storing much food that can be instantly eaten. Aside from fruits and vegetables, I'm trying to make the calories in my kitchen difficult to access: That means storing food I have to cook before it becomes edible. In my experience, the desire to not boil water is stronger than the desire to snack. That means crackers, chocolate chips, granola, and cereals are out.

In the last place, my pantry was a mess. I stored dried foods on three shelves of a fairly high, fairly deep, cabinet. Cleaning it out was a sad reminder of how much good food had disappeared beneath other foods, left to grow stiff, stale, and inedible. It was a good learning experience, though. In the new place, I had to choose between a standalone pantry or some sort of cabinet for dishes and cups. I went with a standalone pantry, as it meant I could leave it open. This one, in fact. The fact that visitors will see it ensure I'll keep it neat. The fact that I'll see it ensures I'll know what's there. At least that's the hope, anyway.

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