Friday, January 23, 2009

Food ponderings

I live in the Amazing Adelaide, and within a few km of where I live, I have a Foodland, the Central Markets, and the Farmer's Markets. We shop for and eat fresh food most of the time (though of 21 meals a week, we eat out maybe 4 times a week? Monday night, Tuesday night, Saturday morning, and maybe a lunch), and prepackaged food is definitely a treat around here. I have mad cooking skillz (tm) and TheMan makes a mean sandwich and salad (two things which I hate to make but love to eat) and even my quasi-instant food is fabulous! I am a student and ManFriend works hard to support both of us, and so we don't eat spectacularly fancily or at the top end of the range - but we do eat well, and eat vegetables and vegetarian more often than not. We eat on a budget and it can be a bit dull by some measures, but we eat regularly and Identifiable Food.

But I'm currently watching Jamie's School Dinners and am kind of horrified.

Actually - I am freaking horrified. The kids on here eat crap, 5 days a week. (I say this as I'm heating up chips and fish fingers for the first time in abut 6 months, because I feel like it). But the school dinners (lunch) is actually the main meal of their day and many of them eat even more poorly at home. Many of them have no idea what vegetables are - as in, hold up a vegetable and they don't. know. WHAT. they are. No idea what an onion looks like, or what rhubarb or asparagus is.

Ok yes, I know that the video is completely edited to prove a point, and the ones that the kids got right probably weren't shown. But it is scary when you watch what the kids are eating every day.

Jamie fed his daughters leftover chicken and veges with cous cous (? I think) and pureed veges, and his daughters are aware of Food at a very young age, whereas the school children don't seem to have been exposed to foods, so I can see that as a simple pathway to exposing kids to food. Cookies are a sometimes food. So are chips, and sausages, and processed meat, and custard and lots more. But seriously, these kids eat this stuff every day. Their packed lunches are no different which is inicative of their parents not having an idea. Which is even scarier to me because it means it's a generational thing.

The fact that there is a Constipation Clinic at the local hospital made me feel a little queazy. The x-rays of intestines was gross because these are KIDS. It is HEARTBREAKING to think of parents having kids that are in this kind of situation, and to think of their pain and the lack of quality of life and their future...

"If you're hungry, you'll eat" probably won't work on these kids. But that's the apporach that worked when I was a kid because I wasn't GIVEN another option. I was just given food and that's what was for dinner. It wasn't dramatic and wasn't an issue - it was what my parents ate and that was fine. But back then, there wasn't the advertising that there is these days around crap food and fast food and instant food. That is a huge challenge to parents to get involved in

But the last thing I've noticed is that most of the people on this show don't like food. They don't love food in a tactile, get your hands in, slice that vegetable, massage that chicken, squeeze that tomato, sniff that herb. And I don't know how to teach that to people so my hat is off to Jamie for pursuing it.


aunty-del said...

I agree, it's horrifying. I have mixed feelings about Jamie Oliver, but I at least admire him for using his celebrity to try to tackle this problem.

The children of chefs probably aren't a good example for the filmmakers to compare to - they'll have been fed the finest produce since they were on solids and will grow up as familiar with cooking as a newsagent's kid is with the paper delivery route.

I hadn't heard of couscous until my 20s or tasted fresh asparagus until I moved out of home, but I grew up in a home where fresh food was cooked daily. This still happens at my place, partly because there's almost no gluten-free frozen meals and partly because my boyf and I enjoy each other's cooking.

I agree with you - there's no excuse to leave kids so completely ignorant of nutrition. I dread to think what these children's cardiovascular systems will be like when they're 30!

aunty-del said...

...and the reason they don't love food in a tactile way is probably that they've never seen it, never tasted the sweetness a fully ripe tomato or the fragrance of a bunch of coriander.

What sensual delights are there in a packet of frozen reconstituted additives and gravy, or cylindrical meat and tomato-coloured sauce on white bread??

Kate said...

I will forever have a very big soft spot for Jamie. When I was a teen and just starting to realise how food came together as a process I was involved in rather than an abstract, his first show was on. It taught me things like how to peel garlic and slice an onion and little tricks like that. I loved 'ministry of food' because it's packed full of the little stuff that makes cooking FUN.

But the most important thing I got from that was that cookign is not scary, it's not a mystery, you have to do something pretty extreme to muck it up. You can mush it and substitute and cut corners and PLAY and it's all part of the process. It's about food being a part of your whole life, rather than something to go in your gob at regular intervals...

Apparently something like 10% of Americans are horrified when you tell them that the meat in their burger came from a cow. Myself I can't comprehend such a deep level of ignorance, but I am assured it's true...

ophelia tudeaux said...

We have "school dinners" here and they are fine, actually. I've gotten quite used to having a nice hot meal in the middle of the day and making something lighter at home in the evening.

It's sort of like "camp food", fairly healthy if a bit on the bland side.