Oliver Twist Today

Oliver Twist Today

By David Wantz, University of Indianapolis

In a dramatic scene in Charles Dickens’ story, Oliver Twist, thin and hungry, begs of the workhouse master, “Please, sir, I want some more.”

Were Dickens to visit America today, as he famously did in the middle of the 19th century, he would observe a nation eating itself to death. Lionel Tiger in a Wall Street Journal article (8/21/2010) observes Americans live “lives of full-time clumsiness, maladroit mobility, chewing their way to a premature grave.”

Even at home, Dickens would notice English kids becoming overweight and obese twice as rapidly as their American cousins. In fact, all over the industrialized world, including India and China, people now eat an “American” diet laden with fat and sugar.

Certainly, there are many at home and abroad who, like Oliver Twist, never get enough to eat. Please, sir. I want some more. For most of us, though, the problem is plenitude rather than privation.

I am one of those Americans fortunate to have a surfeit of food. A formerly skinny kid, I joined Weight Watchers in June trying to shed the same weight I lost three years ago. With the help of a handy slide rule device, I can calculate the interaction of fat, fiber, and calories on my daily food point allowance. I get 33. If I stay within my food allowance, drink plenty of water, and get 30 minutes of daily exercise, I will lose weight.

The WSJ article points a finger at me when it says Americans seem to be “training for the Vanity Olympics, boasting about pounds shed…. ‘spending’ calories as if they were rare dimes.” Yes, and I wear the thinnest of cotton shorts and socks when I get weighed in so I can maximize my progress.

I don’t worry where my next meal will come from. My problem is not having too little to eat: It’s having too much, too convenient, and too cheap. Today, I find myself in the odd position of begging:

“Please, sir, I want a bit less.”

This year’s Spirit and Place Festival theme is Food for Thought. I hope you will join the conversation. The festival runs from November 5 through 11 with events hosted all over town. I am David Wantz and serve on the S&P Advisory Board. I am sure you have ideas about food or eating that you would like to share with others. Please plan to attend the events being held during this year’s festival.

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