The lucky one per cent

Dear Uma: Although I was not surprised to learn pretty people are smarter and city birds have bigger brains, it didn't make me feel really good.

Dear Uma:

Although I was not surprised to learn pretty people are smarter and city birds have bigger brains, it didn’t make me feel really good.

The articles were unrelated, but I couldn’t help combining them in my mind and, being neither pretty nor a city bird, I can’t say I revel in this breaking news. In fact, I find myself feeling a wee bit defensive about my appearance and my choice of habitat. I realize that was not Jason’s intention when he forwarded these nuggets of information; maybe I am just feeling oversensitive.

It seems to happen every year about this time as the bright light of spring and the donning of less clothing reveals new sags and wrinkles. And my rural social life, while being a source of great comfort to me, is not peopled by anyone who could be described as scintillating and big-brained, but, then, neither am I.

The bigger brains that the article speaks of is a development said to make a species better able to survive in novel and changing environments and this is neither; it is rather bland and smooth, like custard, and offers the same ease and simple pleasure. Novel experiences are few and far between; I don’t imagine the arrival of Hougen’s new spring Columbia sportswear would count, and though climate change is an actuality in the North, I don’t think it classifies as change in the way the article addressed change. I guess as I age I am more and more content to be just a plain rural bird who is not clever. Sigh.

Why wouldn’t pretty people be smarter? The article didn’t say so, but I suppose those bigger-brained city birds are also prettier than their country cousins. I don’t necessarily like or approve of this being so, but I accept it. In a culture that adores symmetry, a pretty person has all the advantages. I myself have often found attractive folks to not only be smarter, but nicer; after all, life has generally been good to them. It seems natural that someone who is pleasant to look at would be more fun to talk to; they usually have a history of being admired to make them confident which would lead to them being happier in the world and happiness is a powerful attractant.

Yeah, huge generalizations here, but with an element of likelihood, you must admit. This notion has caused me some grief over the years, mostly when I lived in cities and my brain was bigger, because not many people want to ascribe to the idea, even those pretty people, who are not only smarter but kinder as well.

The movie MegaMind proved my theory to my own satisfaction and now I offer it as a sort of proof because when the nice but homely guy got super powers, did it make him a good guy? Hell no; he became a greedy selfish monster who was demanding and a bully. I rest my case.

At any rate it is not in a spirit of retaliation that I send my own gleanings, and I expect you to share them with Jason. I realize as committed organic farmers and consumers of only the purest of foods, neither you nor your family will be likely to share my excitement over the news that the addition of cellulose to manufactured foods turns out to be a good thing nutritionally, but so it is.

I won’t be the only one rejoicing to learn that those additives that make low-fat ice cream taste as good as actual ice cream and are also used to thicken jams and stop shredded cheese from clumping in the packaging have been blessed with the decree that it is ‘a natural substance.’ The government folks who decide such things have declared it to be a plant product, which is good as it is used liberally by most food product makers.

This natural substance is technically powdered cellulose, mostly wood pulp, and the process of turning raw plant fibre into human food does appear to involve various chemicals. But hey, what doesn’t involve chemicals these days? The benefits of having a tasty source of fibre for those who don’t eat their veggies far outweigh any little quibbles about chemicals.

Manufacturers use cellulose to thicken or stabilize foods, reduce fat, and boost fibre, as well as creating the desirable creamy taste we have been taught to love and crave. An added bonus in the use of wood pulp in manufactured foodstuffs is it reduces the need for oil and flour, which are getting more and more expensive. It’s just a win-win situation, for producers as well as consumers. Although, it must be acknowledged, the savings on the part of the manufacturers has not trickled down to the consumer, we have come to accept that that is not how this world works, and are simply grateful for yummy goodies to eat.

Kraft Foods, that giant in the world of processed foods, uses cellulose quite lavishly in their products and they not only use the common wood pulp but also add cotton to their fibre-rich goodies. Wow! We can now have cotton on the inside of our bodies as well as the outside; so much better for us than synthetics.

The labelling of food products is a testament to the skill of the manufacturers and the inertia of the consumers; if a label declared there to be cotton and wood in the Cheez Whiz one would assume there might be some hesitation on the part of the buyer.

Where I live, labelling is not a problem. Most of the available food is processed and, even if the labels were large and easy to read, it would not be of much account because the news is many of our high school students, our residents of the not-too-distant future, can’t read anyway, and the price wouldn’t matter because they don’t do math.

From what you tell me this is a problem not confined to Watson Lake, which carries far more implications for the country, yours and mine.

At least here in the Yukon most of our illiterate kids can chew, thanks to health programs that insure good dentistry to a population of youngsters who appear to live on soda pop, fast food and candy, if the roadside litter is any indication. With the future cuts to the federal monies that come to the Yukon, I imagine those programs will not last much longer, and why would they? No one will need teeth when the food is sweet, creamy mush.

Years ago, I read somewhere that in all the population there is only one per cent who are beautiful and then, recently, I read that all the money in the country is controlled by one per cent of the population.

Put those together and the picture is grim for the rest of us; we will be getting homelier, dumber, poorer, and nastier while we dutifully eat our fibre in the form of grated cheese and ice cream. Unless we morph into beavers, it is not a nice picture.

Back in our present reality, my reliable website for information of world food prices showed that we will be needing more money in order to eat or drink anything at all, including the stuff with fabrics in it. This site makes a good argument for not being able to read and figure; I was happier before read it. I have seen the future, and I can’t afford it.

Once again, thank you for reiterating your offer to come and live on your farm. Pete and I appreciate the gesture, and who knows, someday we just may take you up on it.

Meanwhile, as summer creeps slowly into the North, Pete can talk of nothing else but fishing as he happily sorts through gear and makes plans with his buddies about where they will go in their quest.

As for me, I sit on the deck planning my garden. This year it is to be all flowers because why eat broccoli when I can get my fibre from a chocolate milk shake?



Heather Bennett is a writer who lives in Watson Lake.