Germany

Andere Länder, andere Sitten.

–German Proverb

So today I was in Germany for a while. I had a ten hour layover in Frankfurt and I took off into the city on the regional trains to spend three hours hiking about Worms. Running about it, actually.

If it’s getting hard to keep track of where I am, I’m sorry. A friend gave me this trip as a gift, to go see family posted abroad for work. I haven’t seen them in years, so that’s the background to this little story.

I got off the plane after a miserable flight (note: Lufthansa seems to have the smallest seats of any airline ever, and that is saying a lot. I’ve flown all over Asia 145 pounds heavier than I am now and I was never so cramped as I was on this trup.) I wanted some food when I got off, and the first thing I found was a little restaurant in the airport advertising breakfast. More than half the breakfast choices were very heavy in fat and protein with only some token carbohydrates to go with them.

The breakfast I chose was four links of fresh local sausage, some slices of equally good bacon–also clearly fresh–at least five eggs scrambled and two “fritas,” which are a delightful German potato pancake that absolute drowns in butter or lard, yet is deliciously crispy. Normally I don’t eat white potatoes, but this was a special occasion and I wanted to try them. Or “it” to be exact. I only ate one. You see, the meal was…wait for it…really filling. Yes folks, that’s right. When you eat plenty of good fat, you (say it with me now) Feel Full. I’m thinking of copyrighting that phrase and making everyone write it whenever they want to say “fat.”

Feel Full With Fat!

All those “healthy” whole grains do fill you up for a while.  But pretty soon Your Friend Insulin is hard at work informing you that you’ve run out of glucose and need to stuff some more in right away. And of course, you have to eat more “healthy” whole grains than you do fat to get full in the first place. Ever eaten two or three bagels at a time? Said you’d only have one Poptart and then ate four? Got through your second stack of pancakes? Ever actually eaten just one serving size of your favorite breakfast cereal? (1/2 cup). Now maybe you’ve eaten plenty of bacon and sausage patties too, but if you did it when you were also eating biscuits and pancakes, that doesn’t count. Insulin was there telling you to eat more than you needed. Sit down and try to eat sausage, bacon, eggs and cream without anything else, and you’d have to be a pretty hard laborer to get through all that much.

I ate my four sausages (they were small links) and my two slices of bacon. They were all amazing. I ate about one egg’s worth. I ate the one potato pancake, but I had a lot of trouble getting through it. Did I mention the coffee? That was good too, and the German waitress just brought me out full fat whole milk to put in it like that was good for you or something. I don’t know what all the fat Americans around me were doing without any skim or 2% to use.

I’m not trying to be hard on my own people. That’s just what all the Americans around me were: fat. Now don’t get me wrong. I saw fat Germans, too. And I saw people actually drinking a beer and a coffee together for breakfast, which, if you think about it, is pretty much the same thing as breakfast cereal for us: lots of carbs, some sugar, and coffee. The only difference is they’re downing alcohol sugar instead of a glucose/fructose blend, which is actually better for you and your liver.

Really.

I also saw plenty of bakeries all over Worms and along the way there on the train. Believe me, they smelled good. Everything is fresh baked every morning. And know what signs were splashed all over the front window of every bakery I saw?

Gut Butter!

I poked around, and turns out it’s the giant gobs of fresh churned butter that they liberally slather on the bread that they’re advertising.

So why aren’t there more fat Germans? Or as many of them as there are of us? Why were most of the fat people in the airport either American or Indian? I mean, what’s wrong with those Indians? I thought they were mostly vegetarian, eating pristine diets?

I think you know where I’m going. Germany obviously has it’s health problems and its share of fat people, but not as many as we do. And they also have lower rates of “diseases of civilization” like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Now maybe eating fresh food and less pre-packaged junk has something to do with it, but it doesn’t explain the heart disease when they’re downing fat like death row prisoners enjoying their last meal.

If the lipid hypothesis were true, people should have been dropping dead all around me while I walked through the cafe district of Worms. I mean there were grown women, perfectly normal-sized, too, eating plates of cold meat and cheese for lunch as if vegetables didn’t even matter. I went into a small grocery store and saw only one tiny aisle of snack foods–most of which were fatty–and a disproportionately enormous cheese section. They had some pre-made sandwiches for working people. They really stood out. There was bread, but you could see the meat and cheese pouring out of it on all sides. It looked nothing like those sad sandwiches American coffee shops serve, where you can’t quite locate the meat for all the bread.

You know what I didn’t see? I didn’t see anyone in the McDonalds at the airport except Asians and Americans. I didn’t see people walking around everywhere with sodas and energy drinks. Sure they’re for sale, but I spent some significant time just wandering around among normal people, your Average Olaf so to speak, and never saw anyone with a sugar drink, an energy bar, or a snack except one man. It was mid-afternoon, he was working hard, and he was eating a small, full-fat ice cream bar. It was not a sugar-laced, low-fat smoothie or frozen sugar water pop as big as his own head.

Of course this area of Germany does seem to be afflicted with a disproportionate number of Men Wearing Bright Green or Red Trousers in Public When They Are Not Professional Clowns, which is a shame.

As for me, I ate that breakfast at about 9am. I hadn’t eaten for 14 hours or so previously. I went on the strength of that breakfast until 5pm. I didn’t just walk around Worms, either. I bounded up stairs and dashed across lawns to figure out what that monument was. I ran around cathedrals to see them from all angles. At station stops I ran out of the stations to see what I could see before the next one arrived. I never took elevators up and down platforms, but enjoyed taking the stairs. I was full, was satisfied, and feeling great eating what was good for me–even though I hadn’t slept more than two hours the night before. Now I’m headed out to Greece to see family, and I’m already slicing grass-fed little lambs up in my head.

 

Plato says he’s hungry

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