Sunday, November 10, 1996
Maybe we're living by bread alone

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Why doesn't my generation support the arts? I believe I have the definitive answer, ladies and gentlemen: We are putting our money where our mouths are.

Communities all over the country are begging people to go to their symphonies and operas and theaters. Art museums are abasing themselves for federal dollars. And why? Because my generation is spending all its time and money on food.

It's true. You know it is, all you baby boomers out there with your disposable income and your lifetime memberships to Weight Watchers. We talk about pasta the way our parents used to exchange information about guest conductors. Paul Prudhomme and Wolfgang Puck are our heroes, not Zubin Mehta and Max Rudolph.

(Keith Lockhart is a fluke. The Boston Pops and Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra's maestro is just too nice and talented and young and cute to ignore. Imagine how popular he'd be if he were a chef.)

Obesity no mystery

We read restaurant reviews the way other generations devoured critical essays about avant-garde art. Food is adored and discussed, and recipes are passed along to friends like sheet music. Food is not the thing before the performance. It is the main event.

No wonder we're all fat.

The National Center for Health Statistics says for the first time that overweight Americans are in the majority. Big surprise. And I'll bet a significant part of the minority is just temporarily thin.

Chubby Americans spend an estimated $33 billion on fat-blocking pills, liquid diets, cellulite creams, Buns of Steel videos and weight-loss programs. Apparently, most of us are either eating or dieting.

Look at prime-time television. If every other commercial is not about some ever-bigger burger, I'll buy a round of 'em. A new sandwich being promoted right now is two quarter-pound patties with three slices of cheese. The whole artery clog-o-rama is topped with bacon.

Wouldn't you really rather put a down payment on a nice lithograph?

We don't even grow flowers anymore. We grow herbs. Our food comes to the table after somebody has played with it, swirling and drawing in chocolate or raspberry sauce with a little toothpick and making little sculptures out of miniature vegetables.

I'm telling you, we are squandering all our talent on food.

And we are shameless. (I use the term ''we'' advisedly. I myself would not dream of watching a movie unfortified by a swine-size bag of popcorn.)

A lard homage

In a grocery store last week, I actually saw people who couldn't wait to get home to start shoveling it in. They were opening packages of SnackWell's cookies and pretzels and eating them in the checkout line. Maybe the management could investigate the possibility of letting people bring buckets of chicken into the opera. Or at least Milk Duds. Maybe there's room for a pasta bar next to the Farney alcove at the art museum.

My fellow food worshipers, let's think about this. We have a big chance coming up after the first of the year. (It's no use trying to change your eating habits between now and New Year's Day.) The Fine Arts Fund (FAF) campaign, an efficient way to support the arts, begins Feb. 9 and lasts through April.

Instead of that next bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos or pasta with goat cheese and pesto, you could visit the Taft Museum.

This year's FAF chairman, John F. Barrett of Western-Southern Life Insurance Co., would be happy, I'm sure, to help you with this healthy new lifestyle.

This could be our big chance. Last year, the fund raised more than $6.7 million. With a little judicious eating, we could blow that number out of the water.

Please, baby boomers. Let's have some pride. Do we want our legacy to be a giant lard sculpture of Richard Simmons? Do we want to be remembered only as the generation that invented red pepper pasta? And blackened fish?

We have nothing to lose but our appointments with Jenny Craig.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM) and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.