To stay thin: eat canard à l'orange

Is the pleasure of eating well a hazard to the waistline? Not necessarily—many great dishes have fewer calories than pork and beans
August 26, 1962

The conscientious epicure is a man who all too often finds himself trapped between two fires: the flame of his desire to sample the great dishes of many countries and the slow-burning inner fire caused by the calories he consumes. How much is too much? If he asks himself the question he will get no satisfactory answer, for reference books that list the calorie content of a baked Idaho, say, or steak medium rare are silent when it comes to gourmet food.

Originally, calories were computed by placing foodstuff inside a small bomb which was then filled with oxygen at high pressure and submerged in water. The food was then set on fire and burned to ashes. The temperature of the surrounding water was measured, and the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water one degree centigrade was designated a calorie.

Such a method seems hardly suitable for canard à l'orange, and no one wanted to go to the trouble of cooking a really great gastronomic dish only to burn it to a crisp in a hermetic explosion for the sake of science. Fortunately, calorie counting has become a less violent affair. A dish, whether as complicated as canard à l'orange or as simple as steak, doesn't have to go into a bomb anymore, and calorie counts are now usually made from statistical tables based on food analyses.

Calories have taken on a somewhat sinister meaning in the popular mind; they are now generally considered as indicators of how fat you are going to get if you eat certain foods rather than how much energy those foods can give you. Thus, the poor gourmet sits on the horns of a dilemma, contemplating on the one hand the joys of gastronomy and on the other the price he must pay.

Let him take comfort now in certain facts. For one thing, when gourmet foods are counted up for calories, they turn out to be pretty much like any others in their capacity to nourish in just the right amount or, if carelessly handled, to overnourish. It would be difficult to eat a gourmet meal with greater calorie content than that of a good old home-cooked dinner consisting of baked ham with black-eyed peas and candied yams, followed by a dish of ice cream and cake for dessert.

Some foods, which because of their delicacy are associated with gastronomy, are almost Spartan in comparison with so-called plain foods. Abalone has 240 calories for half a pound, whereas half that amount of simple spaghetti will provide you with the same number of calories. Caviar—the best black Russian king—comes 75 calories to a tablespoon; a single cup of ordinary ginger ale counts 150, and a chocolate malted will set you back 640. Even Jell-O has 100 calories to a helping. That great and extremely rich delicacy, p√¢té de foie gras, contains 30 calories per teaspoon. You can get 40 just by eating half a handful of stale crackers while waiting for your drink in the local bar.

Equipped with a knowledge of the caloric content of the food he loves, what can the gourmet do to offset its waistline-building qualities? Since calories are, after all, measurements of energy, it would seem that the expenditure of energy should neutralize them. And, up to a point, it does. New York has at least one confirmed gastronome who has figured out a system that seems to work. It is simplicity itself: he opposes eating with exercise, and usually manages to come out even.

Thus, on almost any evening, this gentleman can be seen, dressed in a black tie and a dinner jacket, a distinguished and very fit fiftyish, moving along at a steady dogtrot, head high, arms bent and thrust forward, spring in his toes, on his way to his favorite French restaurant. About two hours later, back he comes, bounding along merrily in the direction of the evening's nightspot.

On what he calls his "running nights" this man is all set for a high-calorie dinner: smoked eel (385), entrecôte à la moelle (375 for the steak and 175 for the marrow) with pommes gaufrettes (540), a half bottle of Gevrey-Chambertin (180) and perhaps a chocolate mousse (400). He knows that 20 minutes' running each way will take care of about 850 calories. If he has really overdone it, he will perform an hour of the twist, which, along with competitive rowing, reaches one of the highest calorie-consumption figures science has been able to calculate. Thus, by the time he retires, he may have expended nearly 2,000 of the 2,055 calories he took in.

There are days when he walks in a leisurely fashion to the restaurant of the evening, plays bridge after dinner and then takes a cab home. On such an evening he eats an excellent meal in reasonable amounts—six cherrystones (65), chicken tarragon (250) with watercress (3), a piece of Pont l'Ev√™que (70), preceded by a Martini and two Triscuits (140 plus 40) and accompanied by half a bottle of Pouilly-Fumé (175). Total: 743 calories.

When the calorie intake is too high, whether from tournedos Rossini or cheeseburgers, the excess can be taken care of in any number of ways. Sweeping the floor of the restaurant, for example, will consume 84 calories an hour, and washing the dishes and ironing the table napkins will use up 59 an hour each. Listening to a lecture on physical fitness does not help much (only 13 an hour), but riding a bicycle to the lecture and back will use up 180 to 300 calories an hour, depending on the hills. If you lecture on the subject yourself for an hour (without gestures) it will cost 85 calories. Or one can work at a hobby: violin playing at 46 an hour, bookbinding at 81, carpentry at 180. Swimming burns from 300 (breaststroke) to 700 (crawl). Rowing, running and twisting are the great calorie consumers, burning off around 1,240 calories an hour, and mental work is the least helpful (only 7 or 8), even less helpful than just standing still (20).

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ILLUSTRATION

CALORIE COUNTS FOR GOURMET MENUS

Hors d'oeuvres (average helpings)

Plover's egg

40

2 to 3 slices smoked salmon

90

Melone con prosciutto

140

3 sardines à l'huile

165

Chinese preserved egg

285

1 artichaut vinaigrette

336

6 escargots à la bourguignonne

340

Saucisson d'Arles

350

Half avocado with crab meat

355

Homard froid mayonnaise

408

Cuisses de grenouille sautées

420

Jambon sauce mad√®re aux épinards

429

Raie au beurre noir, pommes nouvelles

471

Vitello tonnato

478

Truite aux amandes

508

Tournedos Rossini, pommes frites

570

Saumon poché, sauce verte, salade de concombres

616

Plats du jour

Pigeon aux petits pois

175

Pintade rôtie

240

Perdrix aux choux

265

Caille aux raisins

285

Turbot poché, sauce hollandaise

295

Filet de sole meunière

317

Half shad roe with two slices bacon

362

Gigot d'agneau aux flageolets

391

Cervelle au beurre noir

400

Canard à l'orange

405

Plateau de fromages (1 ounce of each)

American Brie

75

French Brie

85

Camembert

85

Liederkranz

85

Bel Paese

90

Roquefort

111

Gruyère

115

Stilton

120

Gorgonzola

123

Reindeer

155

CALORIE CONSUMPTION (PER HOUR)

About the house

Dusting

110

Sweeping bare floor

84

Dishwashing

59

Ironing (with five-pound iron)

59

Dressing and undressing

33

Sewing

25-30

Writing

20

Standing relaxed

20

Sitting at rest

15

Hobbies and do-it-yourself

Sawing wood

420

Woodcutting

388

Stonemasonry

330

Carpentry

180

House painting

160

Metal work

141

Locksmithing

117

Bookbinding

81

Drawing (standing)

40-50

Thinking

7-8

Physical exercise

Running

1,242

Rowing

1,240

Wrestling

980

Cycling (against wind)

600

Walking very fast (5.3 mph)

565

Climbing

400-900

Skating (quick)

300-700

Swimming

300-700

Cycling

180-300

Walking slowly (2.6 mph)

115

Standing at attention

16

Adapted from Jean Mayer's "The Role of Exercise and Activity in Weight Control," published by Iowa State College Press, Ames, Iowa

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)