Also the noisy restaurant scale
There are high-caloric foods and low-caloric foods. You could easily make a scale of foods on which the calories of each food (let’s say, for one ounce of food) can be measured against other foods. On the bottom of the scale would be an ounce of water, which has no calories, even when the water is heated. Calories are a measure of how much heat the food gives off when it’s burned. It’s impossible to burn water. That’s why some people recommend drinking huge amounts of water– to leave little room for high-caloric foods and to put out any fire if there is some high-caloric food left in the stomach from the last meal. (This is not exactly right; but you get the picture.) On the other end of the calorie scale is Mayonnaise, and right under that, candle wax. Someone whose diet is exclusively Mayonnaise or candle wax would get sick. As in most things in life, balance is all. So much is known to everyone, since most everyone is out of balance in terms of their caloric intake. Take heed, all of you fat people, stick to foods in the middle of the calorie scale.
Closely related to the calorie scale is the “food desirability scale” –the higher the calorie count, the more desirable the food. Or so it seems. Water is once again at the bottom of the scale, unless you have been lying on a hot beach all day in the sun, in which case water shoots to the top of the scale. There is dispute among experts about what foods are on the bottom of the scale, although, as far as I’m concerned, uncooked kale comes in first, or last, depending on which end of the scale is up. Mustard comes next, although kale that has been cooked in mustard is probably even worse. On the other end of the scale is ambrosia, which they used to serve on Mt. Olympus; but which you can’t get anymore. Probably steak and ice cream are near the top in desirability.
To some extent, the food desirability scale is regionally based. In Africa the inhabitants like termites, which you would never find in a French restaurant. The Eskimos, on the other hand, really like seal liver. They eat hardly anything else. Living in Westchester, I can’t think of a single person I know who would eat seal liver, even on a dare. Judging from McDonald’s signs, the most popular food in Western civilization is their hamburger, of which they have sold, last time I looked, three trillion. I don’t recommend eating McDonald’s hamburgers exclusively, though. It’s been tried, and it’s very unhealthy, even if you leave off the French fries and the Coke.
Some people have proposed a “healthy scale,” which is more or less the inverse of the desirability scale.
Similarly, someone has already thought to devise a scale measuring how hot (as in hot peppers) a particular pepper may be. This is called the Scoville Scale, known to the cognoscenti as the Scoville Organeleptic Scale. Restaurants are supposed to post this information in their window, but they don’t. Water is at the bottom of this scale again, along with bell peppers. Paprika is about a hundred. Something called “Peach Ghost Scorpion” is 750,000 SPU. The “Carolina Reaper” is about 2,200,000. The scale goes up to around 16 million which is enough to burn a hole in your gullet and fall to the floor in around three minutes. People will eat anything.
An often overlooked facet of food is how slippery it is. Relatively unimportant to people of a middle-age, the slipperiness of food matters greatly to children and to the elderly. Babies cope with peaches in syrup by wearing a bib. The elderly wear a bib-like napkin tied around their necks by the person who has been hired to look after them. They need the napkin for anything that has gravy. Soups are at the bottom of the scale, but I’m really not referring to soups or other liquids that can be handled with a spoon. Foods like spaghetti and oysters are at the bottom of the slippery food scale. At the other end is hard salami. The longer the salami hangs from the ceiling, the harder it gets. During the Second World War, hard salamis were used by our G.I.s as a weapon. They cannot be cut or chewed or anything. My dog recently got hold of a hard salami and couldn’t dent it. Candy-coated apples are not far behind. I can tell you from personal experience, you should not venture to bite into a candy apple unless you have extra teeth to spare.
Of course, the slippery food scale becomes more important if you are using chopsticks. That is why the Japanese are behind the recent drive to flesh out the slippery food scale. I once saw a Japanese person eat a raw oyster with chopsticks; but I didn’t believe it.
By the way, I would like to take this opportunity to suggest that someone, Zagats perhaps, should rate restaurants on a noisy scale. This would have little to do with the food itself, but it is important, nevertheless—especially to the elderly, of whom I am one. The conversations I have with my friends in a noisy restaurant runs like this:
“What did you say?”
“I said, what?” This from a group of writers who had theretofore been known as “witty.” (c) Fredric Neuman Author of “The Wicked Son.”