Are we as a community eating better? Are more of us working towards healthier lives? Is there a growing movement away from fast food and towards food that is cooked using simple, nutritious ingredients. What does the research show?
The CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) tells us that Australians eat far too much junk food.
When a lot of people eat a lot of junk food, eating a lot of junk food becomes the norm and not eating a lot of it the exception. A critical mass of people making bad food choices influence others to make those choices too. When you are surrounded by individuals, communities and organisations that keep offering unhealthy food options, and junk food becomes far more accessible than healthy food then it gets harder and harder for individuals to hold on to their vision of a healthy diet. What does healthy food look like? Is it a sugar filled muesli bar? Is it a meal at Subway? Is it a nori roll snack or sushi?
When you are surrounded by people who eat healthy food; food made with the use of whole primary ingredients: brown rice, lentils, chick peas, fresh meats, vegetables and fruits, barley, beans, etc it is harder and harder to eat junk food. In a community of independent thinkers and educators eating well, using whole primary ingredients to create delicious meals becomes easier and easier. A critical mass of health food eaters leads to more health food eaters, as each healthy meal interaction inspires another healthy meal creation.
Schools are a revelation. Very few schools provide truly good health lunch options and most workplaces have no kitchens or proper dining areas. Our culture denigrates the importance of the lunch hour, the dinner hour. Eating is squeezed in between really important meetings and other really important commitments.
Michale Pollan, in his documentary series Cooked, chronicles the demise of home cooked meals. Processed, instant foods developed for the military needed a new target audience once the war was over. Advertising campaigns were quick to take advantage of the woman’s liberation movements. Instead of encouraging men to share the work involved in preparing healthy meals, the advertising world went all out to denigrate the work involved in cooking. The answer to eating healthy meals was not in sharing the responsibility of its preparation with family members, the answer was in a tin can.
This post is dedicated to Matt and Lentil, from Grown and Gathered, who inspired me to take my family to the pink lakes near Dimboola, to harvest salt.
Their book ‘ Grown and Gathered’ presents a strong case for the immense beauty that is found in a healthy food culture. When as a community we allowed the fast food industry to tell us that cooking at home was a meaningless task and a waste of time, we gave them permission to strip our culture bare.
What after all is culture, if not the food that we eat and the way we prepare it? The songs we sing as we come together, the rituals we create in its preparation, the activities we engage in and the relationships we build as we search for simple ingredients and forage for wild foods? When we go to Japan or Italy or Spain is food not one of the most important cultural experiences we look for? Do we go to Spain to eat MacDonald’s in Spain? Is Spanish food culture defined by the Fast Food Industry? Is Italian food culture defined by the fast food industry?
The very worst thing about fast food is not its lack of nutrition, nor its high levels of sugar, salt and fat, but its power to strip us naked of the rituals and skills, the knowledge and resourcefulness that are essential ingredients in the preparation of truly healthy food.