Food indulgence in America: How attitudes weigh us down

By Paula Minahan
Green Right Now

Piles of cracked and broken shells. Gnawed bones pushed aside. Remnants of what tempted with shameless excess. And in the background, a young Army recruit observes, “This is what we fight for, you know. Not so you can waste food, but so you can have plenty.”

It’s just another day at one of Sin City’s copious casino buffets as depicted in the award-winning documentary, Buffet: All You Can Eat Las Vegas. The film, shown on PBS and at indie festivals nationwide, is MIT cultural anthropology professor and filmmaker Dr. Natasha Dow Schüll’s sometimes humorous, often outrageous look at American indulgence.

“Las Vegas is a great exemplification of things that are shared, that are afoot in American culture in a very extreme way,” says Schüll. “All over America, the buffet amplifies things endemic to our society. It doesn’t surprise me this kind of waste, which is celebrated as a public ritual at the buffet, is carrying over to the more private domain of the household. It’s very OK to throw out food.”