18 MONTROSE VOICE/DECEMBER 12. 1986
Why Do We Eat and Splurge This Season?
Commentary by Franz Schurmann
Pacific News Service
The season for eating drinking and
splurging is on us again. These holiday
festivals once celebrated our emergence
from poverty. Now with oceans of food
and cash around, the lavishness no
longer serves any sensible purpose—
besides keeping the consumer economy
In fact, the U.S. and other parts ofthe
world are in the first stages of a nutritional revolution that is leading people
to cut back on red meat, fatty foods and
hard liquor. At the same time, a health
revolution is zeroing in on modern
humanity's greatest enemy—stress.
These dual revolutions aim at getting
people to lead a simpler lifestyle—one
which could make seasonal festivals
not only safer but more truly sociable,
as they were originally intended to be.
The heavy eating is a holdover from
the days when food was scarce. A
hundred years ago, most people made
their living from the soil, and the vast
majority were poor and thin. To be fat
was a sign of having left poverty
behind. A few times in the year, peasants would gorge themselves to celebrate the harvest. So did the Pilgrims,
whose daily life was harsh.
Now food is so plentiful in the U.S.
that hunger is entirely a matter of no
money and unjust distribution. A century ago, when new hard wheat varieties were introduced into Kansas,
American farmers started producing
one cornucopia after another. Today,
productivity is so high that only a handful of farms can feed much of the country with most of its staples and, if need
be, probably the world as well.
The season of splurging also happens to be one
of the most stressful of the entire year—"How
can I afford all that money for gifts ?"
The farming revolution has by now
spread to Europe, Asia, parts of I_atin
America, and a few spots in Africa.
Between 1965 and 1980, the amount of
rice and wheat—the world's caloric
staples—grown in developing countries
increased 75 percent, greatly outstripping population growth. The world,despite great swaths of hunger, now lives in
an ocean of food.
In the developing countries, people
still need calories in big amounts to give
them energy and protein to build body
size and strength. They have to eat lots
of grains and meats. Rut already in
many countries recently considered
poor, diseases of the "fat life" Americans arc well familiar with are beginning to appear.
In the highly individualistic Bociety
of the U.S., people do understand that
sociability is the real purpose of the
merry season. The eating and drinking
festivals are gatherings of clans—
whether of relatives, friends or coworkers. But while eating and drinking
are supposed to be means to the end of
reaffirming social ties, for many they
are often ways to ease the discomfort of
being around so many people.
So, too, with gilt giving, where people
wanting to be sociable take recourse to
something which these days is also
present in oceanic quantities—money.
The season is a time for lavish gift giving. One third of annual retail sales in
the U.S. depend on Christmas shopping.
A hundred years ago, cash, like food,
was scarce. But splurging was a well-
established practice, even dirt poor
countries. In India, for example, a poor
laborer will still spend thousands of dollars on a daughter's wedding to show he
is not poor. Now modern banking spews
forth great quantities of money the way
modern farming entices great amounts
of grain from the soil. The ocean of cash
and credit makes the potlatching all the
But the season of splurging also
happens to be one ofthe most stressful
of the entire year—"How can I afford all
that money for gifts?" People are constantly reassured by silken smooth commercials that endless easy payments
make it all feasible. But the mind says
otherwise, so the blood pressure goes up.
The nutritional revolution is directed
against the hinging and the health revolution against stress. Both point the
way to the need for simpler ways of living. Ironically, they are pushing people
to go back to a slower rhythm of farm
life that existed before consumer capitalism brought us such monumental
PNS editor Franz Shurmann teaches history and
sociology at the University ot California. Berkeley
Now, an estimated
TWT and the Forum do not come close
Our main (Friday) edition for several years has had
a slightly higher Houston circulation than TWT's and
about twice the circulation ot the Forum. But now, with
our new Midweek Extra, we've even expanded that lead.
If you pick a publication to advertise in for reasons
other than our circulations, go ahead and pick any of
us. We're all pretty, in different ways. You may like one
or another for this feature or that convenience.
But if you pick a publication because you want your
advertisement to reach the most people in Houston's
gay community (for the lowest cost-per-thousand, to
boot), pick the Voice. We will put your ad in the hands
of about 40,000 prime potential customers weekly.
And we will do it for only about $4 per 1000 readers
for a typical-size 1/4 tabloid-page ad.
The Montrose Voice
ADVERTISING SALES DEPT.
Jerry Mulholland Monte Hill Ken Boge
Estimated Readership assumes a pass-on rate factor of 2 8
1732 Westheimer 523-2213
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year
from Our Staff
Friday, Dec. 12: First Male Strip Night 10pm
$100 Cash Prize $25 Second Prize
Gary Podgrtt Birthday Party Sal., Dec. 13
Thrusday, Dec. 18, The Dating Game, 10pm
(Prizes Include dinner lor two at The Hunt Room and Steak Ir Ale)
Sat., Dec. 20, Christmas Party
Home of Eagle Learner