It’s been a while, but I’m back, I think.
This past week I was at a conference at a small ex-teachers’ college rebranded not very long ago as a university on the role of the humanities in making contributions to other fields, such as economics or the health sciences. The longer keynote presentations were very good, and worth the time, whereas the others were a mixed bag. But I am not going to talk about that.
I had arrived in town on the previous evening (the conference ran from Thursday to Friday) and had a bad-to-mediocre dinner at a restaurant adjacent to my hotel (the said establishment’s lower level doubles as the hotel’s breakfast buffet). After a good night’s sleep, I headed down to breakfast and was pleased to find scrambled eggs, along with franks sliced on the bias, but also pickled herring (sweetened with sugar, a Norwegian habit, alas), gravlax (farmed, of course) and the other staples of the Norwegian hotel breakfast buffet. My only carbs at breakfast were from the herring in tomato sauce, the starch filler in the franks and a fairly unripe pear. I won’t guess how many grams, and I don’t obsess over things like that anyway. After my second cup of weak coffee, I returned to my room, put on my jacket and headed for the city bus to take me to the conference venue, which was the university campus. I had been at a translators’ conference about ten years before held in more or less the same location, so I had more than an inkling of where to go.
I arrived fairly early (my habit), about an hour before the conference was slated to begin, so I took the opportunity to log onto the campus WiFi network as a guest and waited to register. It was not long before some friendly students showed up with our name tags, programs and large dispensers of coffee and tea just for us, along with two trays of pastries and some cut fruit (no cheese cubes with toothpicks, please note). I thought: Who would be hungry so soon after breakfast? Some attendees, perhaps, will have skipped breakfast in order to make an early morning bus, train or flight, but if I had shown up in a fasted state from the previous evening, I would stick to coffee. But that’s just me.
What was interesting is that during the fifteen-minute break between 11:30 and a quarter to twelve, both the coffee and tea and the pastry and fruit tray had been replenished, now with the addition of three or four “gluten-free” treats, and quite a number of people tucked in. During the following session, which was slated to run to 1:30, I heard something about “lasagna for lunch” (included in the conference fee). The next session went over the allotted hour and forty-five minutes, so we ended up at the end of the lunch line in a part of the canteen reserved for conference attendees. I left the line to get a look at what was on offer. Yep: institutional Norwegian lasagna, with iceberg lettuce salad, and did I see rolls? I said to myself: Nothing is better than lasagna, and that goes double for the institutional large-pan variety. So Nothing it was, washed down with half a liter of fizzy water purchased at a mini deli that only takes payment cards, and I waited for the next session to begin.
During the break before the last session of the day, the pastry tray was filled again, and not a few attendees took some, even though they had eaten lunch a little over an hour before. How hungry can they be? And then it dawned on me: They really are hungry. That is the logic of what I call the high-carb “feedlot diet” (Follow that pyramid!). Keep people hungry and you’ll keep them eating.