In the aftermath of holiday meals, our refrigerators and cupboards fill up with morsels that are too good to throw out, but may not be enough for a complete meal. Similarly, I find myself at the end of December with tidbits that I accumulated in 2010. By themselves they didn’t seem to be enough for a whole post, but together they might make an interesting stew, especially since they are about aspects of eating, biting, and swallowing…
• Early in the year we all enjoyed the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, briefly becoming experts in sports we have already forgotten until the 2014 Games. Think back to luge for a moment, though — remember those sleds zipping down the course? Following the Men’s Singles final, silver medalist David Moeller of Germany sustained an unusual injury. “The photographers wanted us to bite into our medals at the presentation ceremony,” he told the German newspaper Bild, “and a corner of my front tooth broke off.” That kept him from smiling during the celebration, but it could have been worse, I suppose — Moeller could have broken a molar.
• It seems obvious that the increasing number of people who are overweight would be associated with increases in the size of meals — “super-sizing”, in fast-food jargon. Two brothers, Brian and Craig Wansink, wondered when the trend toward larger portions began, and they came up with a novel study: they looked at paintings of the Last Supper from approximately A.D. 1000 to the year 2000 to compare serving sizes. The results were published in the International Journal of Obesity, which offers a lot of food for thought.
The Wansink brothers (both scholars, by the way) assumed that the head sizes of Jesus and his apostles would remain consistent in depictions of the event. With that as a baseline, they used computers to evaluate the amount of food that was shown on the plates. Sure enough, over the millennium the size of entrées increased by roughly 70%, and the bread was 23% larger. The diameter of the plates increased significantly, too.
Duccio’s Last Supper, done in 1311, shows the disciples eating what would barely be a snack by today’s standards. The most famous Last Supper, completed by Leonardo da Vinci in 1498, isn’t nearly the feast that Tintoretto painted in 1594. By the 20th century, Andy Warhol included potato chips at the Last Supper. At least Tintoretto gave the disciples some fruit and vegetables.
• In April, a 37-foot gray whale beached itself in West Seattle and died a few days later. Biologists examined its remains and discovered a lot of garbage in the whale’s stomach. Among other things, the poor whale had ingested a pair of sweat pants, duct tape, surgical gloves, over 20 plastic bags, and a golf ball. It seems to me that if you hit your golf ball somewhere that a whale might swallow it, the penalty should be more than one stroke.
Happy New Year, and eat responsibly. Don’t go biting any Olympic medals, OK?