Unhealthy Habits on Capitol Hill?

If you believe the New York Times, D.C. isn't exactly a healthy city. In "Junk Food Is a Source of Comfort on Capitol Hill," columnist Jennifer Steinhauer laments the seeming hypocrisy of a population that dictates health legislation and downs cheeseburgers with equal fervor. The problem? It's not true.

Well, it is true—but D.C. isn't any more junk food-crazed than other major American cities. Steinhauer points to Matchbox Food Group's Capitol Hill pizza joint and their latest ventures in the neighborhood, 1920s-themed eatery Ted's Bulletin and aviation-tinged hotdoggery DC-3, as evidence of D.C.'s gluttony.

"Over at the White House, a farmers’ market has sprouted, a garden has been cultivated and holiday guests are being offered poached fruit. But the area surrounding the Capitol is awash in milkshakes, grilled cheese sandwiches and mildly baroque pizza."

Sure, Ted's Bulletin's Bailey's Caramel Macciato adult milkshake and DC-3's Jersey Bacon-Wrapper Ripper with a deep-fried Angus beef dog aren't exactly a dietician's dream. But since when is New York City-based burger joint Shake Shack considered health food? What about Chicago's DMK Burger Bar? Or Boston's Spike's Junkyard Dogs?

On the contrary, D.C. is a meter for food trends nation-wide. Washingtonians are rarely born-and-bred locals and tend to bring aspects of their own hometown cuisines to D.C. restaurants. As a result, D.C. is a mixing bowl of food styles and is arguably representative of a broader American food culture.

And as the New York Times has often remarked, America has a bit of a weight problem. In the last two months alone, it decried rising domestic sales of fatty cheeses and expounded on ways to fight the nation's alarming obesity rates.

However, the most compelling evidence that D.C.'s junk food problem isn't a local one lies within in Steinhauer's own article. Citing Matchbox co-owner Ty Neal, she notes that "for DC-3, his group studied the regional dogs of the nation, then interpreted them."

Perhaps before anyone points a finger in the obesity debate, Americans should take a look at our national diet.

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