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Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

Culinary no-no #247

Culinary no-no's



December 19, 1961.The Dick Van Dyke Show, co-starring Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam.

This week on Culinary no-no...

We're headed to the cinema.

Roll 'em Lester.

Ask Yahoo says:

“No trip to the movies is complete without



an overpriced tub of popcorn covered in goo.”

Popcorn first was served in movie theaters back in 1912. Citing, Ask Yahoo reports:

“Apparently back in the old days, popcorn vendors would ‘set up shop’ outside theaters. The theater managers didn't like this, thinking it was a distraction. But moviegoers disagreed, frequently ducking out to buy popcorn and then ducking back in to see the movie. As Buzzle further notes, ‘it wasn't long until the theatre owners realized they could set up their own popcorn popper’.”

Ninety-nine years later, movie-goers still hunger mightily for movie popcorn despite knowing it's an
Oscar-like rip-off.  

But that's not our no-no. Not exactly.

To clearly demonstrate that Culinary no-no is not just an ordinary puff piece, that on the contrary this weekly blog is thoughtful, analytical, compelling, provocative, and egghead informational, we highlight  the very recent work of David T. Neal, Wendy Wood,  Mengju Wu, and David Kurlander.

Uhh, who?

David T. Neal, Wendy Wood, Mengju Wu, and David Kurlander.

Oh, yeh.


David T. Neal, Wendy Wood, Mengju Wu, and David Kurlander are smart. They are very smart. They are researchers at Duke University that, believe it or not, is not just known for basketball.

So this Culinary no-no segment is pretty highfalutin stuff.

Repeat after me.



If you thought this was going to be one of those ingenious Journal Sentinel food fights like goat milk cheese vs. Colby, you’re sadly mistaken.

The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin has published a study written by Neal, Wood, Wu, and Kurlander entitled, “The Pull of the Past: When Do Habits Persist Despite Conflict With Motives?”

Nope. This isn’t ketchup on a brat material.

If you’re not a longhair, not to worry. After all, we’re talkin’ movies and popcorn. But you’ve gotta stay with me, folks,

The researchers write:

The basic question in our experiments is: What disrupts habit performance? The design pitted negative attitudes toward stale food against established habits to eat in a given context.”

Got that?


Let’s keep moving. Follow along closely.

“To test the factors that can alter habit performance, we conducted two field experiments varying the conditions under which people consume popcorn at a movie cinema. Some participants in our research had strong habits to eat popcorn at the cinema (i.e., a history of frequent popcorn consumption in that setting), whereas others had weaker habits. We chose to study eating behavior in part because it is a significant social problem and in part because eating provides a strong test of the sensitivity of habits to changes in motivations. People believe that their eating behavior is largely a motivated activity in response to the way food tastes (e.g., Vartanian, Herman, & Wansink, 2008). Indeed, 17 of 22 participants in a pilot study provided ‘tastes good’ or a close synonym when asked why they ate popcorn at the cinema. Thus, in the present experiments, we manipulated attitudes toward the food through its palatability. For some participants, the popcorn was fresh, whereas for others it was 7 days old and stale.”

Here’s what happened.


“Participants were randomly assigned to receive popcorn that was either fresh (popped 1 hr before the session) or stale (popped 7 days before the session. Participants entered the theater with their popcorn and water and, to reduce potential social influence, sat as far as possible from other participants. The lights immediately dimmed, and a series of six movie trailers for unreleased films was shown, totaling 15 min of viewing time. All popcorn boxes and water containers were collected immediately after the final trailer.”

Some participants were placed in a meeting room and were also given popcorn and water but instead, they watched and rated music videos.

As the Ventura County Star reported, “
The popcorn served in the theater was 7 days old, rubber-band-chewy and about as inviting as four hours of someone else's home movies. ‘Actively unpleasant,’ said David Neal, the psychologist who used the stale bird feed in a study on human behavior that is turning heads and stomachs.”

And what did our brainiacs discover? When you give moviegoers who are used to eating popcorn at movies popcorn that is “7 days old, rubber-band-chewy and about as inviting as four hours of someone else's home movies,” out of habit, they will still eat that stale junk.

Gotta have popcorn!

But it’s 7 days old.

Gotta have popcorn!


It’s rubber-band chewy.

Gotta have popcorn!

It’s stale as hell.

Gotta have popcorn!

How do our definitely smarter than a 5th grader researchers explain it?

“Strong-habit participants acted on habitual responses in memory to such an extent that they ate even food they disliked.

“Obese individuals are more driven by external cues and less by internal cues than are nonobese individuals. Obesity has been linked to eating patterns such as nocturnal snacking that are repeated consistently at particular times of day.

“It is not always possible for dieters to avoid or alter the environments in which they typically overeat “

In a nutshell, and I state the following even without a psychology degree:

Bad habits are hard to break, Surroundings make matters worse. Large screen, Comfy seats. A two hour video story ahead. A lobby filled with goodies. Hey. Last time this happened, didn’t I gobble down a bucket of popcorn?

There’s a larger issue here. With all due respect to researchers Neal, Wood, Wu, and Kurlander, may I offer the following.

You can pontificate and lecture all you want from Pennsylvania Avenue. You can make laws limiting the number of fast food restaurants in a specific area. You can mandate calorie counts on restaurant menus. You can impose “sin” taxes on unhealthy items. But unless an overweight, unhealthy, possibly obese individual refuses to change his/her personal behavior, it’s all meaningless.

The movie’s about to start. Quick, sweetheart. Go get me a tub of that week-old popcorn.

(Like the legendary Liberace told then-NPR host Bob Edwards that he took classical music and removed all the boring parts, I did the same with the popcorn study, but if you’d care to read, ZZZZZZZZZZZ).


No way.

We've got Culinary no-no bonuses!

Infected cantaloupes were sold in Wisconsin.

I had no idea diet was a prerequisite for running for President.

Funny stuff: "Voluntary advisers" to a restaurant manager.

The Sandwich Hall of Shame.


Yes, now!

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