This week I ate in Pittsburgh, being there for work.

I prepared for the trip by scouting out the chowhound.com boards — the wise masses haven’t steered me wrong yet. Within walking distance of the hotel I sampled lentil-corn fritters and paella; after a presentation to the big shots I went for spicy sausage and tomato linguine, the pasta handmade and cooked perfectly.

When I travel I’m just happy to get decent calories without busting the bank. But this time around I noticed how buttery the paella was, the stinging saltiness of the tomato pasta, how I couldn’t drink enough water to keep up. The fats and salts really felt cumulative. I needed a vegetable chaser but there was nothing on offer.

Yesterday, between workshops, a colleague described for me preliminary data she’s collected in her recent research on weight regulation. The brain scans light up all over the place when her subjects stare at photos of burgers and chocolates, she said. The scans are silent when it’s fruits or vegetables they’re looking at.

The smart money says these responses evolved during starvation times, but I can’t help wondering how much of it is what we’re accustomed to eating, what we’re trained to like. I’ll always remember Pittsburgh for the rivers, the stained glass, and for how badly I craved a fresh vegetable. Our evolved eating habits must have something to do with why I look at a plate of grease and salt and long for a good salad instead.

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