Readers respond to "The Chinese Discovered America!" and a review of "Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World."

Published January 10, 2003 8:00PM (EST)

[Read "The Chinese discovered America."]

As I read this story, all I could think was "Who cares?" Throughout the article, people were quoted as saying that these findings would revolutionize history. Even if the Chinese did discover America, what exact difference would it make to history? Columbus still discovered America (from the European standpoint) in 1492. The effects of that discovery were earth-shattering. The most important effects being the destruction of the Native Americans and the ascent of Europe to the highest reaches of power.

If the Chinese discovered it, then what were the effects? As far as I can tell, none. None to the Chinese and none to the Native Americans.

Ultimately, even if this does turn out to be true, it will fall into the interesting but irrelevant category of history, which is already populated by the earlier Viking discovery of America.

-- Patrick Luck

So now the Chinese have joined the Welsh, Irish, Vikings, Phoenicians, Ancient Romans and who knows who else as the "real" discoverers of America.

Who cares?

What all of these pre-Columbian discoveries, real or not, have in common is that they had no impact on the course of human history.

Columbus' discovery was followed up by a massive colonization effort by Spain that created Latin America. Other nations, like Britain and France, also followed Columbus' lead and the result is North America as we know it.

When Europeans arrived in America 500 years ago the natives weren't eating General Tsao's chicken. Even if Chinese ships touched on America decades before Columbus -- the Chinese and their culture had no effect whatsoever on the history of the Americas.

-- Thomas Wood

[Read "The Obesity Gap."]

I'm growing weary of the attacks on restaurants that offer huge portion sizes. They do it because that is what the consumer demands, not because of a secret conspiracy to turn us all into fat asses. It always comes back to personal choice. That same fast-food menu loaded with biggie and super-sized extra value meals also has jr. cheeseburgers, small drinks and salads. You don't have to be a pig just because you have the option to be one.

-- Matt Jones

This is a surprise to anyone, Ms. Miller? I've been making the argument that fending off fat was too costly for the poor for a dozen years.

At 6 feet and age 44, until recently my weight was between 175 to 185 pounds.

When, as part of a political protest, I went on a hunger strike in 1995, forgoing solid food for 14 months, my weight plummeted to 132 pounds.

As a result of muscle tissue lost during that fast, age, and undertaking the management of a friend's campaign for state office last year, my weight jumped to 224.

Cheap cuts are fatty; lean cuts are expensive. They must be adding gold dust to chickenfeed. What working family's budget can afford daily fresh fruit (and adequate storage) in compliance with the USDA's food pyramid?

Moreover, how often can one put one's hectic world on "PAUSE" to sidetrack for oranges and whole berries at the local grocers for a family of four?

Thank goodness my local YMCA bubbled over the outside pool and my son is turning 18. I can now afford to return to my weekly five hours of hard swims.

-- J.J. Brannon

Some of what was mentioned in this review parallels something that I can't help but notice myself: health and wealth go hand in hand. Healthy food is for the rich.

Say you're a single welfare mother with five mouths to feed and about $10 worth of food stamps to last the next five days before the next ones come in. Do you go and buy a little $3 bag of organic, chemical-free whole-wheat pasta and a half gallon of non-irradiated, free-range, local dairy milk at $2, and some fresh vegetables that never saw insecticide for the remainder, and feed half the kids and yourself for one night? Or do you go down to the local discount house and buy a flat of generic instant macaroni and cheese dinners, another flat of ramen noodles, $3 for 5 pounds of fatty hamburger, and three 1-liter bottles of store-brand soda, a couple of candy bars and some no-name-brand potato chips to shut the kids up on the way home because they won't stop squabbling otherwise?

It's one thing to tout healthy eating, but when you have many mouths to feed and not much cash, you tend to take the path of most food, never mind that it's making your kids' teeth rot and their bodies groan under the excess weight.

And to be blunt, sometimes it's flat-out ignorance that contributes to obesity: For the money spent on the second menu, the same mother could have purchased a big bag of carrots, whatever bulk fruit was on sale, cans of beans, corn and greens, a smaller but leaner cut of meat and a gallon of 2-percent milk. The kids could have eaten apples on the way home, saving money on the candy bars and their teeth at the same time. Perhaps less ranting at the unfairness of the distribution of wealth in this country and more time spent educating us all on how to eat is a better way to solve this problem. After all, nobody held a gun to the Krispy Kreme customers and ordered them to eat three boxes of the little devils!

-- Chris Geary-Durrill

By Salon Staff

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