September 17, 2014 by gregrabidoux2013
The Olive Garden, an Italian-American food franchise, well-known for its unlimited breadsticks, all-you-can-eat pasta bowls and overstuffed salads is under attack. No, not from kitchen pests or “Mama Linguini” because they “stole” her secret spaghetti sauce. And, surprisingly, not because they no longer keep those addictive breadsticks coming to your table.
It’s because they still do.
Let me, in between bites of my penne pasta, try and explain.
The Wall Street based hedge-fund Starboard, recently lambasted The Olive Garden for, among other things, “overfilling the salad bowls, adding too much dressing to all salad items, not keeping the amount of olives (6) to corporate policy per bowl” (wait, isn’t this the “Olive” Garden?) and perhaps, the most egregious, unforgivable act of all?, “not limiting each customer to one (1) breadstick and not bringing another basket of breadsticks unless specifically requested by the customer.”
Did Starboard go a bit overboard in its red-hot critique of the restaurant, a grilling that went on for over 300 pages?
Well, the deeper we dig into our pasta bowl the more we find and not just macaroni. We also find that Starboard is seeking to wrestle away control of the Board of Directors of Darden Restaurants, Inc., which owns The Olive Garden. And, until very recently, also was in the “Bubba Gump” business, aka, The Red Lobster.
Starboard claims it just wants The Olive Garden to be more competitive with rivals like Chipotle, The Macaroni Grill and Fazolis, but it seems clear they want more from The Olive Garden than just a tasty, sampler-size appetizer.
Regardless of whatever chicanery Starboard has up its well-pressed Wall Street sleeves, have they stumbled upon a greater evil?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) thinks so. Now, for those of you who are repeat readers of this blog you know I like the CDC. I really do. They do lots of important, though sometimes bizarre work (see my previous blog on tanning beds and sex and drugs and maybe a little rock ‘n roll).
Their recent research on our ever-expanding American bellies, published in this month’s Journal of Medicine (American Medical Association) cites some alarming though hardly shocking news. We, Americans are getting fatter. More specifically, our bellies are getting more apple, um, grapefruit, no, basketball-shaped. Yep, that’s it.
In fact, now over 55% of Americans are considered “abdominally obese.” (What I said above just more medical-speak). With the greatest increase in obesity among women, who now join the over 2/3ds of adult men in the obese category.
That would be women with a waistline of 35″ or more and men with a waistline of 40″ or more. But other than no longer fitting (stuffing yourself in?) into your 80s inspired spandex (please, don’t) this gut-busting trend has very real health consequences.
Seems that the more belly fat we get the more “visceral fat” we store in and around our major organs and arteries and that means while you may still be able to waddle up to the buffet bar our heart and lungs may simply say “No mas.” Or, as Ralphie on The Simpsons says, “Time to put granny in her forever box.” Ouch.
But are all-you-can-eat pasta, endless buffet bars, mountains of sugar in everything we eat and drink and cheese-infused pizza crust (Peyton, you and Papa J should be ashamed) really to blame for our basket-ball sized bellies?
Short answer? Yes.
Longer answer? Still Yes, but with a qualifier or two.
According to the CDC, plastic additives (BPA) as well as common pesticides all tend to reduce our good hormones that combat fat and lethargy and increase our bad hormones which makes us go, “Sure, I’m not really hungry but why shouldn’t I eat another triple-meat patty with a secret sauce made of fat?”
Why not indeed?
Now, in fairness, the svelte folks at the CDC also cited factors such as a reduction of daily exercise, too much time on the computer and/or X-box and less recuperative sleep (not getting at least 7-8 hours a night) as well as a continuing trend of literally larger dinner plate sized portions as all conspiring to make all Americans “plus-sized.”
Which of course, brings us full circle back to The Olive Garden. Or as the spoil-sports at Starboard probably call them “Those evil breadstick bandits.”
So, who is to blame here? Starboard for threatening to cut off our breadsticks and pasta (which just makes me angry, and I tend to eat more when I’m angry), pizza-makers for injecting even more cheesy-fat into our crust, Ponderosa for its eternally-flowing chocolate fountain desert or us for our seeming inability to say No?
I think we all know the answer to that question. It must be the pesticides.
Now, pass the breadsticks and let’s hope our waiter didn’t read that dang Starboard report.