Monday, June 16, 2008

Curried Zucchini Soup: This One's For the Ladies

I was eating my 90-calorie Light Probiotic Pomegranate Berry Medley La Yogurt this morning when I ran across this:

Her name is Sarah Haskins, and she’s hilarious. Beyond that, she also has a great point: yogurt? And diet products in general? They’re all aimed at women. Beyond the occasional NutriSystem appearance by Dan Marino, I can’t think of a single diet ad directed towards men. Can you picture one? Can you even make one up? What would it look like? Maybe four or five John Goodman-esque frat guys, standing around an untouched pizza, moaning about their flab? Or John Madden and Charles Barkley trading tips on the lightest Subway sandwiches? Maybe a re-animated John Wayne espousing on the wonders of fat-free cottage cheese? (“Well, there are some things a man just can't run away from … like his love handles.”)

I bet it’s hard to imagine ads like these, because they don’t currently exist. Somehow, diet products have become a stereotypical chick thing, like pink toenail polish and caring about The Hills.

Why does this happen? Why do diet campaigns specifically target women? Do we naturally worry about our weight more than guys? Are we more health-conscious in general? Do we inherently dig lighter foods? Or, do the ads tell us we should worry about our weight? Do they say over and over that we need to be on diets, so we can look and feel like the beautiful stick people pushing Yoplait?

Me, I think it’s a combination of both. I’m all for free will and self-control, but it’s hard to deny advertising’s role in our self-perception, from what we eat to what we wear to what color pink we paint our toenails. Even at 30, even with an MA in media analysis, commercials affect the way I think about myself. And I don’t like it. Just once, I’d like to see a gang of happy, curvy moms throwing down over who gets the last super-sized Snickers bar. It might not win a Clio, but it’d make me feel better.

Which brings us, in a (very, very) roundabout way, to Martha Stewart. I would guess that 99.9% of her fans are women, and between her magazines and television show, she creates a lifestyle that’s nearly impossible to attain. Yet, I cut her way more slack than easy-solution diet products. Maybe because she doesn’t pander as obviously. Maybe it’s because her DIY lifestyle is way, way healthier than quick-fix yogurts. Maybe I just like her nail polish.

Whatever it is, she made this Curried Zucchini Soup. And a soup that’s delicious hot and cold can never be a problem.

Curried Zucchini Soup
Makes 4 generous servings
Adapted from Everyday Food.
Note: I apologize for yet another incredible picture. ("Incredible" here meaning "terrible.")

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
Kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 pounds zucchini (about 3 medium), sliced 1 inch thick
1 baking potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

1) In a large pot or dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and 1 tablespoon salt (not a typo). Cook until onion is tender and a little translucent, 4 or 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and curry. Cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fragrant, stirring constantly.

2) Add zucchini, potato, and 4 cups water. Jack up the heat. Once it comes to a boil, drop heat to medium-low and cook for 10 or 15 minutes. Veggies should be tender at the end.

3) Add half the soup to a blender. (If blender is more than half full, you might have to split this into three batches.) Puree soup. Repeat for second half of soup (and if necessary, batch #3). Serve.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
142 calories, 3.8 g fat, $0.67

1 tablespoon olive oil: 119 calories, 13.5 g fat, $0.10
1 medium onion, chopped: 46 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.18
Coarse salt: negligible calories and salt, $0.01
2 garlic cloves: 9 calories, 0 g fat, $0.10
2 teaspoons curry powder: negligible calories and fat, $0.20
1 1/2 pounds zucchini (about 3 medium): 109 calories, 1.2 g fat, $1.48
1 baking potato: 284 calories, 0.3 g fat, $0.61
TOTAL: 567 calories, 15.1 g fat, $2.68
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 142 calories, 3.8 g fat, $0.67

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Ms Meghan said...

There is the interesting paradox of Jared the Subway guy. I mean, he's at once a mascot for a brand and an idea (that you can eat healthy and still eat fast food), and unlike, say, the Hamburgler he is a real representation of what the brand can conceivably help to achieve.

But primarily diet products are marketed towards women.

Hops said...

How many calories are in the carnation?

Lazy Rani said...

ooh, someone beat me to "what about jared?" good point about how he markets the concept and the brand. been reading your naomi klein?

but you will note another difference with jared, too. he is a real person doing a testimonial aimed at not one gender or the other, unlike the story-ads marketing the idea of a desirable life via dieting.

kind of going off topic but not really, there's the studies about how girls and boys read J and YA literature with boy-protagonists, but only girls (not boys!) read the books with girl-protagonists--i think this is good folk evidence that jared is for everyone, yoplait ladies are only for other ladies.

and, finally, men are not judged by their looks the way women are. go ahead and call me a feminist, but this harkens back to the days of stricter gender roles when women were less regarded for their actions and more for upholding their men's self-esteem/egos/you get what i'm saying already, right?

Kelly said...

I have seen that video something like seven times, and it still hasn't gotten old.

She also did one on wedding shows, but I think the yogurt one is the best.

Jill said...

I agree that Sarah Haskins is hilarious! I also worry about how the media influences me, but more importantly is how it influences my kids. I have three girls 16, 15 and 11 and I worry all the time about what the media says to them - too fat, not pretty enough, teeth not white enough, not the right clothes, hair, makeup. I don't want them to grow up with that voice in their head that I have! (I have a son also, but he's only 6, so other than the constant need for toys and that one cereal, I'm good for now).


Griffin said...

I disagree that men aren't judged by looks, fat guys get judged at least as harshly as fat women. And at least women have the stereotype of the sassy intelligent woman (who happens to be fat), while fat guys are just considered slobs or lazy.

It's very frustrating for me (as a guy losing weight), that so many diets and support systems basically ignore men entirely. Weight Watchers comes to mind, men aren't even allowed at a lot of their meetings. Eating Disorder support groups are also big on declaring a "women-only space," even though research has shown that men with eating disorders have the same triggers and they face most of the same issues as women who have EDs.

I think Jared is somewhat of a fluke when it comes to being a spokesperson for a diet or diet food. I think it is/was a good move on SubWay's part, since men are traditionally underserved in that area, it helped them tap into that market segment.

Griffin said...

That soup also looks good, I am a total soup nut :D

I like your blog, I'll definitely be adding it to my list ^_^

Kris said...

Man, I can't believe I didn't think of Jared. Good call, everybody. He's an anomaly and a great example simultaneously.

Here's something kind of related - I wonder why diet foods are directed towards women, while Super-Sized snacks and fries and pizza ads are generally more masculine-seeming. It probably comes down to good, ol-fashioned gender roles, but wouldn't it be refreshing to see them reversed for once?

I wonder who'll be the first diet company to start a man-centric ad campaign. What would it look like?

Amy K. said...

Coke Zero is targeted toward men. I heard the first Radio ad this morning. However, it wasn't really a diet ad, because after the waitress delivered his drink, the man ordered a steak, with a baked potato AND fries. Specifically, fries on TOP of the baked potato.

It was an odd ad.

I don't watch TV, so I'm not sure if Coke Zero has targeted men on TV also. It seems like the first salvo of turning men toward calorie-free options.

Money Maus said...

I made this soup today - and it was great! There was a nice kick at the end of every bite. My roommates (who aren't big fans of the green things) even loved it. Woohoo - a keeper. :)

Anonymous said...

I just made it and it's AMAZINGLY good!!!! I just skipped the curry, because i didn't have in the house, but i'll add it next time!
I really hope that my kids will like it too!!! :)


Kay said...

This looks awesome. You know what would be cool? If you posted the fiber content of your recipes as well for those of us who are tracking points on WeightWatchers.

Kris said...

@Kay: Wish granted! We started posting fiber about 1-1/2 years ago, and protein about six months ago. (Maybe even more than that.)