The winter Olympics are here. This week, I’ve temporarily given up reading, puzzling, baking, and even (as of last night) showering in order to keep up with the goings-on in Pyeongchang. It’s not only that I love witnessing world-class athletes do their thing on the slopes and the ice and … the ice. The Olympics also make me — the person on the couch — feel like I’m really doing something. And that’s because I resolutely adhere to the unstated rule that if you’re watching the Olympics, then you’re not being lazy. Instead, you’re honoring a cultural rite of passage — nay, a patriotic duty — by flopping down in front of the TV with an extra-large bowl of kettle corn and cheering on every athlete with an American flag embroidered on their jacket. So far, my favorite Olympic moments have been the gold-medal runs by snowboarders Chloe Kim and Shaun White. Both times, I celebrated their achievements with hot cocoa and whiskey-spiked whipped cream. Vicarious victory is sweet. (Go America!)
Here are this week’s links.
These Days, Champs Eat Clean
Gone are the days when a bowl of Wheaties was the breakfast of champions. Now, as reported by Vox, Olympic athletes work with nutritionists and dietitians to create healthy, low-calorie meals that even Gwyneth Paltrow would deem medal-worthy. I learned all sorts of things from this article, which details Olympians’ dietary needs and daily caloric intake, broken down by sport. Of all the athletes, cross country skiers eat the most, taking down 4,000-7,000 calories a day. The most restrictive diets belong to ski jumpers, who eat as little as 1,300 calories a day, depending on their training schedule. (I mean, ski jumping is a sport that requires being light enough to fly.) And while energy-consumption needs vary from sport to sport, Olympians have, across the board, jumped on the clean-eating bandwagon. I guess devouring a double cheeseburger and a sundae no longer qualifies as “eating like an athlete.” [Vox]
Answers To Our (Justifiably Paranoid) Flu-Related Questions
For this piece on the 2018 flu, The Cut asks a professor of epidemiology the (slightly paranoid) questions that a lot of us probably have and might be Googling. Given that this year’s flu is claiming more lives than usual — and even claiming the fingers and toes of a healthy adult — it’s nice to get some reassurance that we’re not all doomed. Some of the answers are surprising and informative; others echo common-sense advice: Don’t sneeze in other people’s faces and wash your damn hands. [Science of Us]
Our Bellies Dream Of Starch And Cream
In an online world that encourages us to sip spinach juice fortified with blue algae, turmeric, and bio-fermented mushrooms, it’s nice to know that there are humans among us who still recognize the soothing effects of a simple béchamel sauce. Here, the writer reflects on his personal history with starch and cream — most memorably in the form of macaroni and cheese. I took inspiration from his coping strategy and made a delicious, butter- and milk-heavy white sauce lasagna. It took me three hours. It was worth every minute (and calorie). [Taste Magazine]
Do We Need Happiness To Survive?
Spurred by a question from her child about why she never laughs anymore, writer Angela Palm decided to explore the importance of including happiness in the conception of survival mode. Palm leaves it up to readers to decide whether or not food, water, and the other basic needs listed by Maslow are truly enough to get by in this world. But she also includes scenes from her own life that heavily favor one conclusion. This stunning essay is a good reminder to seek out moments of joy in a world filled with anxiety, despair, and Trump tweets. [Longreads]
Land Of The Free, Home Of The All-Beef Patty
This is a quirky but comprehensive overview of the hamburger or, as writer Carol J. Adams calls it, “the citizen’s food.” Adams traces the rise in popularity of the ultimate cheap eat and discusses how it became intertwined with the experience of being American. As pointed out here, the hamburger is so emblematic of inclusiveness that politicians have used it to shape their image. Bill Clinton, for instance, famously made a campaign out of showing up at McDonald’s for lunch. This is a fun read, and exemplary of Paris Review’s recently revamped blog. [Paris Review]