Thursday, March 25, 2010


Let me preface this article by saying that I think we have here an excellent candidate for the next Ig Nobel Prize [explanations].

Two brothers—one a marketing and economics professor at Cornell University, and the other a professor of religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College—decided to examine 52 famous paintings of the Last Supper with a view to determining whether the size of food helpings has evolved over the last millennium. Well, the answer would appear to be an emphatic giant-sized yes. And they suggest that this might explain why many people today (at least in the USA) are gulping down bigger portions of food, served up on bigger plates. In other words, this study of religious art has provided them with God-given evidence for the dawning of the Age of Obesity.

The study, to be published in the next issue of the International Journal of Obesity, indicates that, over the last ten centuries, the size of food helpings in Last Supper paintings has increased by 66 percent. Not surprisingly, the diameter of Last Supper plates has increased to exactly the same extent. Curiously, the size of the hunk of bread accompanying the meal seems to have increased by merely 23 percent... which no doubt gives weight to the Biblical saying about man not living by bread alone.

To my mind, this study offers some great ideas that could be exploited by the marketing people in good Christian fast-food restaurants. In bars and pubs, there are so-called "happy hours" when the price of drinks drops considerably. In restaurants of the kind I've just evoked, there could be "multiplication hours" during which lucky customers would receive extra helpings of fish and bread, and "Cana hours" during which the Coke cups of a happy few would be refilled, free of charge, with Californian wine.

I'm proud to think that, in spite of my excessive age and atheism, I can still come up with a few great ideas for America.

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