Saturday, June 23, 2012

Enjoy Food and Drink, Don't Fret Over It

In the United States if there's a problem, we fix it. For the most part, we're an optimistic nation with a "can do" and "fix it" attitude. When faced with a terminal illness, we seek the latest "cure," no matter the cost, discomfort, or effectiveness. If something can extend our life for just a few months, it's worth a try. This uniquely American characteristic extends to disease prevention as well.

The story goes that if you exercise regularly, eat "right," refrain from smoking, and drink moderately, you'll live a long and vigorous life. We've become a nation preoccupied with health. (Unfortunately, our quest for health belies the fact that many of us our overweight and unfit.)

The next time you go shopping, look at the number of products aimed at "health." There are diet potions, organic foods, anti-aging lotions, dietary supplements, and all sorts of elixirs claiming health benefits. The list goes on and on. We almost believe that we can avoid death by consuming the right things. 

The European attitude toward health and longevity is very different. Life is to be lived, not worried about. Try and find a sugar free, fat free, caffeine free, or reduced sodium product in a German store. Good luck. If you're lucky, you might find Coke Zero or some decaffeinated coffee. In Europe, food and drink are to be enjoyed, not fretted over. 

I'm reminded of this European joie de vivre lifestyle now that the summer holidays have begun. The high school term has just ended, and for the next six weeks, young people will be flooding my neighborhood to enjoy the plethora of bars, restaurants, clubs, and cafes. 

As I look down from my balcony, I see hundreds of kids laughing, flirting, and enjoying the warm summer evening. The air is filled with cigarette smoke, the streets littered with broken beer bottles, and the night air filled with music. In the morning, people stagger home after a night of wanton excess. During the day, the cafes and restaurants are crowed with patrons eating, drinking, and smoking. Healthy? It doesn't matter. After living in Berlin for awhile, I realize that this is just another part of the Berlin lifestyle.

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