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Fad company


In a bar almost within walking distance of Atlanta, where scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are trying to figure out how badly they overstated the number of obesity-related deaths widely reported last March, you can buy a house specialty called the Hamdog.

It’s a hamburger patty wrapped around a hot dog that’s deep-fried before being laid to rest on a hoagie roll and covered with chili and cheese, onions, a fried egg and a generous serving of fries. The same joint also sells the Luther Burger, just a simple bacon cheeseburger — using a Krispy Kreme doughnut as the bun.

Closer to home, a wowser of a hog trough at Birch Run, Tony’s I-75 Restaurant, has outlet-store bargain-shoppers lined up out the door, waiting to dig into portions that are meted out by the pound, not the ounce. There, a single serving of bacon alone could feed a family of Congolese refugees for at least a day.

We are, of course, a nation of extremes, and the poles seem to be getting farther apart. For every slob who ram-feeds himself on hamdogs and Luther Burgers, there’s somebody way on the other end of the spectrum who sneers with disgust at the fatties, when not puking after every meal to maintain a skeletal mien; or others who shriek about animal rights while polishing their leather shoes.

I put the no-carbs people in the same category. They idolize Doc Atkins, who weighed 258 pounds when he died after telling the world to stop eating carbs but to chow on meat, fat, bunless hamdogs and all that great stuff.

No doubt, many of them are lining up for Hardee’s newest addition to American cuisine, the Monster Thickburger — 2/3-pound of beef, four bacon strips, three slices of American cheese, mayo and a buttered bun. They’ll order this heap without the bun, of course.

So it was heartening to read in Crain’s this week about businesses that scrambled furiously to get a piece of no-carb bonanza and now have been caught with their fad pants down. Just like the bubble, this one seems to be about to burst. In a survey on the subject last fall, researchers found that the number of Americans on low-carb diets dropped from 9.1 percent to 4.9 percent, according to San Francisco’s KRON-TV.

Unfortunately, bakeries that didn’t buy into this lunacy took a big hit, including our own Awrey’s, which saw sales slide in a big way during the last three years or so before filing for bankruptcy, Crain’s reports. Of those customers who stayed away from carb-rich Awrey’s goods, a company officials said, “We never told them to eat the whole cake. Just a slice.”

That would be a perfect epitaph for American culture.

The late chef and food writer Julia Child, who was criticized over the years for preaching the pleasure of all things in moderation — a concept totally foreign to our national psyche — once beautifully explained her reasoning, saying: “Life itself is the proper binge.”

As America eats itself to death and business happily caters to our grotesquely ravenous appetites not only for too much of everything, but also for promises of quick fixes to undo the disastrous results, I just hope that the one-fad-too-many, the tipping point, happens before much more damage is done.

Because we’re already a pretty peculiar people.

Even as those CDC scientists try to refine their obesity figures to ensure an accurate picture of the deadly-but-preventable problem, good ol’-fashioned biscuits and gravy, a heart-stopper by at least two definitions, is on the menu in their own cafeteria.

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