Wednesday, June 23, 2010

In Defense of Austria

I received some comments (that I totally expected to receive) from Europeans defending their way on my post last week. I was a little feisty about ole Österreich's grocery system and was a bit of an Ugly American. All you Americans would probably experience it the same way and have the same shocks and reactions I did, BUT, it IS actually BETTER.
I've come across this book several times now on the internet and would like to read it, but kinda got the main point down, which he states in the opening:

"Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants."

That's what people do here in Austria. What our grocery stores are mainly missing over here is not the produce or's the crap, packaged and processed foods. American grocery stores fill aisles and aisles with it. Yes, they have some of it here too, but not nearly as much and people don't seem to care too much about it.
An aisle in Ameri (source)

"America's a society obsessed with eating healthily while its eaters are growing unhealthier."

In Austria, there aren't sections of PowerBars, weird drinks with soy, cholesterol reducers AND omega 3, 6, 45 and 68. In fact, this author claims that if an item has any health claims slapped across it, stay away from it. It has to compensate for the fact that it's not real food. (I don't think a lot of these foods are necessarily harmful (some possibly), but that they are expensive and you don't need them if you are eating enough real food.)


Stick with "real food"...the kind that your grandmother would have eaten as a child...more fruits and vegetables and whole grains, less meat (especially beef) and you're doin' good. And make it's prettier and vitamin-ier.

Now, I ain't saying I eat like a perfect little bimbo...I don't, but we eat A LOT better over here and we don't even think about it. It's just how it is. We can't afford to go out very much, so we almost always eat at home and cook. We know what we're eating and with the help of our wondey cookbook, most sauces and things are homemade and not processed.

When I went to a restaurant in Houston, which was frequent, I almost always left feeling so full it was a bit uncomfortable. You have so much food on your plate and you're talking and eating and it's all so good (that queso, those salty chips and delish enchiladas) and you don't realize you need to stop before you feel full because it takes your body about 15-20 minutes to let you know you're done, dude.

(sometimes, a little velveeta processed love needs to be shipped on over and devoured. this is all in moderation. if you consider 2 logs consumed in 4 days moderate.)

We barely eat any beef because it's just not very good or readily available here. Austria is one of the only countries in the EU that doesn't allow genetically modified crops (or at least gen. mod. corn). Our chickens are raised on real farms in the area and a lot of the produce comes from less than an hour away.

A comment I almost always hear from visitors: "There are barely any fat people here". And it's true. It's a huge difference coming from a city that annually ranks in the Top Ten Fattest in the U.S.: Houston, Texas.
Houston: you do have some of the best restaurants in the world..and I do miss you sometimes..xoxo.

When Art goes to work, he walks. Elsie and I usually go meet him halfway at lunchtime, which isn't a huge distance, but every little bit like this during the day adds up. I walk to the bus stop, walk to the grocery store, walk to the eye doctor... When I lived in Houston, I lived caddie-corner to my office building and I still DROVE MY CAR! What a fatty. The main reason being that Houston drivers aren't used to looking out for walkers and I would have to cross a busy intersection where the street curves and cars can't see you until they are very close. That and wearing heels and I needed my car real close...I had a reserved parking spot that just
had to be used.

I do have Eis about an average of EVERY DAY...but even that is one small scoop of gelato that has way less fat (you can's not as rich as ice cream) and you have to walk yo' buns to get it, so you're basically burning half of that scoop-de-scoop off anyways.

Oh, and we eat more 'real food' here too, because I go to the grocery store almost every day (because that's about all I can carry or that the Austrian glares will allow for) and that keeps us buying fresh food and eating more of it. I feel like when you go to the grocery store once a week, which I did in the States, you buy a lot of some that day...forget about the rest during the week when it rots and have to resort to more processed foods that don't spoil. Maybe this isn't how it is with other people who are possibly more disciplined...who buy the fruit and eat it and don't forget about it...who plan their meals and don't opt to just go out to lunch cause it's easier and totally more fun.

Freshly cut Speck (bacon) is real food...right?..and YUM in my tum.

So, there you go. A little Austrian livin' pride. Happy with our new way of life here. Think more people in America should be able to experience the same. It seems to be changing some. It takes awhile to 'detox', but it feels oh so much better.

note: And I know there are a lot of healthy's just harder with the lifestyle and temptations. Let's just say I'm not Willpower Wilma. More like "Cave-in Coco".


Juliette said...

ok, walking in heels. Would a European please comment here and explain how you ladies manage? I see heels on cobblestones all.the.time here in Germany and it baffles me. Maybe it's just growing up being chauffeured in a car all my American life, but since moving here my feet have begged me to really start hunting for shoes that will keep them comfy with all this walking!

Carolyn, do you find frozen whole foods in Austria to be pretty darn good? I'm so impressed with the frozen veggies and fish here in Germany! Sort of takes the edge off of missing my Trader Joe's frozen fish section. =P

Carolyn said...

I know...I haven't put on a pair of heels in over a year. Tried some high wedges once when we first moved here and that was the end of that. I do think some of the frozen foods are pretty delish, but we don't get them too often.

Molly said...

i'm glad to hear i won't gain 15 pounds when we visit!

Cathleya said...

Michael Pollen has somewhat god-like status here in Berkeley so we know his "teachings" well. Here at home we try to go to the store 4-5 times a week to cook, and cook out of the fresh food section... and I believe this is how they do it in Europe as well... people go to the market many times a week rather than big bi-weekly trips to costco to stock up on canned goods, etc. Unfortunately it's the more expensive way to eat (although the heavier you rely on veggies and not meats or processed foods the costs go down) but I wouldn't have it any other way. I think meal planning (like a week in advance) is such a drag... it's so fun to just go to the store every day and see what looks fresh and good and cheap because it's in season design a meal around that. Going to the store every day is almost as big of a ritual as cooking the meal :)

jules said...

I hardly eat any meat myself but if so I tend to buy it at the farmers markets (like the Kaiser Josef market, where they sell excellent quality of styrian beef or the St. Peter one)
not cheap, but worth the price now and then.
Mosshammer is a butcher close to K.F. Uni with a good reputation.
and in case you like markets, check out the one on Lendplatz, I really like that one too!

Vanessa said...

(Test test test, is that thing on?)

Hi there, Carolyn!
My name's Vanessa, I'm German and since the love of my life is Austrian (living and working there as well), I'll be moving to Austria in about 3 months.
The differences between Germany and Austria aren't as overwhelming as the American/Austrian are, I'm aware of that, but you have no idea how difficult certain things are, even for a German.
Everything is so expensive, some words - which seem to be totally made up, 'cause they don't make any sense at all- are difficult to accept or even to be taken in consideration on a daily basis.
The list goes on and on... but!
What I actually wanted to say is every once in a while, when I stumble upon your blog, it makes me laugh. Not because it's ridiculous but it's ridiculously well and especially funny written. I love to see (read) how you cope with the daily problems or everything new; how much of a culture shock it's gotta be, besides being totally different on every level.
I want to thank you for that. :)

Also, since I'm a soon-to-be-neighbour I wanted to ask you if you'd mind adding me on facebook, for example.
Oh and please excuse my exceptionally awful writing, grammar and interpunctuation but yeah, english is not my first language, as you can tell.

Take care,

Carolyn said...

Thanks, Vanessa...that's so nice. I'm not on Facebook anymore or I would add you. I've talked with several Germans that live here and it does seem to be pretty different..esp. the German. Your English is good..I would never be able to say all of that in Deutsch!

Unknown said...

You're welcome :)

Too bad, I'd love to stay in touch somehow, although you don't know me at all but I feel like I have so many questions (i.e. ensurances, local agencies, Elsie...)

Carolyn said...

vanessa...shoot me an e-mail at carolynmvalentin ((at)) gmail dot com. when i click on your profile it gives me an error link.

Dana said...

You just described living in Italy. . . .

Christian said...

Congratulation for your article! I like your comparisons between live in the usa and live in austria.

Btw. my hosehold is shopping every saturday to fill up the refrigerator (with fresh things from Bauernmarkt :-) )

Rachel in Graz said...

Here's to daily ice cream!! Meat from KJ-Markt is not that expensive & tastes so much better than Spa!

jja said...

Sticking to a real food is whole mistery. Buying not or less processed food, buying vergine olive oil and some real parmesan and makin your souce by yourself. Making your ice cream (it takes less then 5 Minutes, cooking every day - for some fresh fish and salat one really neeed 20 minutes.
Not eating those super sweet super artificial cerals, buying whole grain without any sugar, buying plain yogurt and adding some fresh fruit, tasting REAL food. And moving, walking using a bike every day. It is cheap and healthy.

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Thanks for leaving me a comment! You know I love it so.
- Carolyn