Alex and I have just returned from a wonderful trip, hiking in Arizona. My son, Daniel, is doing his phD in Maths/ cryptography in Tucson University of Arizona, so we had a good incentive to visit.
The longer we stayed, the more I became aware of the American food environment and how hard it might be to stay slim and healthy there.
Breakfast was an interesting place to start, where the carb count often went through the roof. We stayed in a variety of hotels and motels of different standards but there was a surprising uniformity to the breakfasts. They played lip-service to health e.g. with egg-white omelettes- a silly and unnecessary invention- and bland watery porridge (or oatmeal, as they prefer to call it). For drinks there were tea, coffee, hot chocolate and fruit juices. There were no decaff tea bags but luckily I had brought my own in a Beverley bag, (named after my friend Bev Fyler, who always carries her teabags with her.)
There were slightly stale bagels, baps and buns for self-toasting and a few slices of processed brown bread (definitely not wholegrain).
You may be thinking this sounds ok but it gets worse! For the children there was ‘Fruit Loops’ cereal containing over 3 teaspoons of sugar per portion. There were assorted Danish pastries, each wrapped in cellophane, (so not home- made) and with a generous dollop of fruit flavoured gloop on top of each. (I kid you not!) and shiny with icing sugar.
With the omelettes there were the hash browns, heaps of fried potato chunks, with a high surface area to soak in extra oil or else potato latkes.
Finally, there was the waffle maker with maple syrup on tap.
So, there was a full house of high carb, high sugar, highly processed foods. This didn’t give people’s waistbands a chance and the size of the eaters was testament to this.
Contrast this with the Israeli kibbutz style breakfast of assorted salads, natural yoghurt, fish, eggs and fresh fruit or the Scandinavian breakfast of herrings, salads, dark whole-wheat crackers and cheeses.
When we return to Arizona we’ll probably go self-catering, so that we can buy in the foods we prefer. However, we did love the countryside. The hiking was wonderful and the scenery spectacular. We developed a fascination with the cacti: the tall human-like Saguaro cacti, spiny agave cacti, with dramatic long- stemmed flowers and ocotillo plants with radiating branches covered in leaves and yellow flowers, to be shed at each dry spell and renewed with each rain.
We also loved the birds: red cardinals, blue jays, scrub jays, woodpeckers and my jewel-coloured hummingbirds. We also saw a huge osprey taking off close to us and circling for prey. This desert state was full of life and well worth the visit.