By Ezra Klein
Think all that talk about the French being more conscious eaters than we are is just noise? Hardly. New OECD data brings the numbers, and they’re striking: We spend 74 minutes a day eating. The French spend 135 minutes. (The average resident of Turkey spends an impressive 162 minutes!) And to properly understand those numbers, remember that the French consume fewer calories than we do. So they’re spending more time preparing and eating less food. Which helps explain why their food is better and their people are thinner. But if not for our cornfed bomber pilots (and 22 million Russians), they’d all be speaking German, blah blah blah.
Some folks have taken this data to suggest that eating quickly ensures weight gain. Matt runs through some of that evidence below. But that’s not my understanding of the data. The OECD numbers don’t merely count time spent chewing. The actualy number we’re dealing with a subset of the “leisure” category, and so it more precisely measures how much leisure time is spent on things related to eating. This includes, I’d imagine, time related to meals, which means cooking. So my hunch is that what you’re really seeing here is a lot more time spent preparing food. Americans spend a lot less time because we eat a lot of takeout. Takeout, of course, is less healthy than your average homecooked meal, and is thus correlated to obesity.