Scotch Bonnet Sauce, Curry Chicken, And The Rendezvous Cafe

IMG_1387They say that confession is good for the soul.  I therefore desire to confess to the world that I am mildly addicted to the curry chicken over beans and rice served by the Rendezvous Cafe, at the corner of Third and Gay in downtown Columbus.  When I absolutely have no choice but to eat at my desk, and my stomach feels like a yawning, grumbling, unfillable chasm, nothing else will do — particularly if Scotch Bonnet sauce is liberally applied.

The curry chicken and beans and rice is excellent and is prepared by a delightful woman who hails from the Caribbean.  It was she who initially suggested that I might try some Scotch Bonnet sauce on the dish.  I found this to be curious indeed.  Scotch food, in the Caribbean?  The land of unseemly dishes like haggis somehow influencing the sultry, tropical offerings of the islands?  But then I learned that Scotch Bonnet is simply the name for a spicy red pepper frequently used in Caribbean cooking, and it presumably has that name because, with stem attached, it looks vaguely like a tam o’ shanter.  Whatever the derivation, the Scotch Bonnet sauce adds a warming kick to the already spicy curry.

I relish the Rendezvous Cafe for its hearty and delectable portions, which can satisfy even the most insistent appetite.  For only $7.99 you get a styrofoam container filled to bursting with large chunks of tender, cut with a fork chicken, rice and beans, and Scotch Bonnet sauce.  I also love the place because of the friendly people behind the counter, who recognize me and often sing my order.

I leave, clutching my carryout bag, with a spring in my step and my mouth watering, knowing that when I return to my desk I’ll be able to leaven my reading with forkfuls of meaty, savory chow.  It makes working through lunch a bit more tolerable.

Body Mass Buttinskys

Lilly, a sixth-grade girl in Florida, is the star player on her middle school volleyball team.  According to her mother, the girl is 5′ 5″, weighs 124 pounds, and is “all muscle.”  So the mother was shocked when the school sent her a letter advising that the girl is “overweight.”

How could such a letter possibly be sent?  Because Florida is one of a number of states that has begun sending letters to parents advising them when their child is viewed as overweight and warning of the dangers of childhood obesity.  Florida mandates “health screenings” for kids, and then uses a body mass index calculation to determine when a child is overweight.  Experts recognize that body mass index statistics are a crude means of determining whether a child is overweight, and in Lilly’s case the measure was made even cruder because she was reported as being two inches shorter than she really is.  The so-called “fat letter” was the result.

Childhood obesity is a concern, but sending “fat letters” based on rough measures like the body mass index hardly seems like a prudent way to address the problem.  We live in an age of eating disorders and concerns about the messages popular culture sends to girls about their bodies.  What does it say when a healthy, active volleyball player gets a letter from a government agency saying she is teetering on the edge of obesity?  Why send such personal, stigmatizing letters to kids who are already wrestling with the incredible self-consciousness and self-esteem issues that are an inevitable part of the teenage years?

Moreover, why are schools involved in this process?  The last I checked, American public schools were struggling to educate kids and, in some instances, keep order in school buildings.  Saddling schools with the job of policing childhood obesity is just giving them another task that distracts from the basic mission of education.  And when governmental entities are involved in making broad generalizations about health, mistakes such as the misreporting of Lilly’s height happen, letters that should never get sent are posted by mistake, and the damage is done.  I think the weight of individual children should be left to their parents and pediatricians and the children themselves.  Government buttinskys should butt out.