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I don't want to sound like a pain in the ass, but please do show me a state, region, county or what have you in America where you can't find at least 15 different types of very fatty salad dressings in a grocery store.

Then do the same experiment anywhere of your choosing in Italy.

Then maybe find me a state in the U.S. with less "ALL YOU CAN EAT" restaurants than all of Italy... I lived there for years, traveled all over, lived in the south, in the center and in the north, in large cities, and small towns, and I've NEVER SEEN A SINGLE "ALL YOU CAN EAT" restaurant.

Do not confuse gluttony with simple freedom of choice.

We live in the U.S. of A. Sure we can go to the grocery store and find 15 fatty salad dressings. We can also find 15 non-fat salad dressings. We can probably find specialty salad dressings as well and that's at the regular grocery store. Go to any gormet food store (and you don't have to be in a huge city to have one) and you can find zillions of varieties of numerous foods from all over the world.

Yes, there are "all-you-can-eat" restaurants here. That doesn't mean everyone goes to them all the time. I have a fairly large circle of friends and we go out to eat occasionally together. We never go to those places. When we did was when we were poor college students and could survive on one large meal a day. The cheaper that meal was had, the better.

There are other advantages to those places. One instance that comes to mind is in coastal areas of the US where there are all-you-can-eat seafood places. For one, most people in those areas are on vacation and in the mood to be a little over-indulgent. For another, it gives you the opportunity to sample many foods you wouldn't normally eat without paying for separate dishes. You can try a little of this, a little of that -- oh wait, you don't like that? well try a little of this instead.

But far and away, those all-you-can-eat places are overrun with families with numerous kids. Children under a certain age often eat for $2 or $3. Heck, at Ci-ci's Pizza even adults eat all they want for $3.99. The children eat for even less. Where else can a busy family satisfy Suzie's no-sauce request, Tommy's pepperoni fetish, Mom's all salad diet, and Dad's pasta craving without Mom cooking 4 separate meals? Then when the kids are done eating they can run off to the arcade room to play games with the other kids while Mom has a moment of peace and quiet. Lazy? Maybe. But at least we have the luxury of treating ourselves to that once in a while.

Yes, there are those who take advantage of the gluttonous nature of the buffet. Once, several years ago, DH and I went to Golden Corral's buffet breakfast. We got there around 10:30 and ate what we wanted and finished around 11am -- also the time the buffet breakfast ended. We noticed several tables around us of Hispanic patrons (nothing against Hispanics but this was the case) who had finished eating a little earlier but, they weren't leaving yet. DH and I lingered a while having a leisurely Sunday brunch. Well, when 11am rolled around the waiters cleared the breakfast buffet and set out the lunch buffet, which cost several dollars more. Turns out, once you were in the restaurant you were in. You could sit there and eat all day if you wanted. The people who had been there before us got up and proceeded to eat off the lunch buffet. What a feast for a poor Mexican worker who makes a minimum wage to fill his belly all day on 4 bucks without having to cook!

This does not mean we all eat like pigs. We (fortunately) live in a land of plenty. One cannot blindly translate that the choices we have mean that the majority of the population takes advantage all the time. Yes, it is easy to abuse our freedoms, super-size our meals, and over-indulge to the point of making ourselves fat. That doesn't mean we were all brought up to do so.

Comparing the cultural habits of America to any other country must also include a comparison of their socio-economic climates, politics, and personal freedoms for for past few decades. That, my friend, is comparing apples to oranges to say the least.

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