Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Saving the world, one meal at a time

So much debate about food right now, in fact Australians are obsessed with food, but has it improved our lives?

I don't think so.

  • We have more TV chefs and celebrities but don't cook or eat any better.
  • We have more information about food on packets but still have one of the world's highest levels of obesity.
  • We have access to some of the best food in the world and throw a huge percentage of it away.
  • We know sugary foods contribute to diabetes but we still have one of the highest levels of Type 2 Diabetes in the world. 
  • We're obsessed with diet and cook books – but we still seem incapable of following a basic balanced diet or getting enough daily exercise.

I could go on.

And I think most of us are aware of those contradictions – which is why book such as High Sobriety, about Jill Stark's year without booze, and the 5:2 diet book are alongside Julie Goodwin's Gather cookbook and all the other gorgeous gorgeous foodie delights.

But at what point did we lose the common sense our grandparents and parents seemed to have about sensible eating? Or is that a myth, too? After all, there wouldn't be so many modern families struggling to find a sensible lifestyle if their parents had shown them the way, would there - isn't that where we learn most of our cooking and lifestyle habits?

Or did the baby boomers and flower power generations become so rebellious that, while they knew the secrets themselves, they chose to bring their children up differently, embracing every fast-food option and modern convenience that came their way?

My gran certainly loved any energy saving or modern device and held no nostalgia for the 'Olden Days'  when she had to get up a dawn and milk the cows then churn the butter. But even her Fish fingers, mash and peas that was our staple diet on holidays with her looks healthy compared to some items in supermarket freezers now.

And there's at least two 'Granny's cooking'-style books in the bestseller lists, I notice.

So, two things from this. More if I allowed myself to go off on tangents but I'll try to keep it contained.

I've been Living Below the Line this week, doing the challenge to buy five days' worth of food for $10, in order to raise money for educational opportunities where that sort of budget is a daily reality, not a cute event. It's made me realise not only how tough and tedious it is but also how much money and food we waste normally. And I don't just mean at big events where food has to be thrown out because it's been out for too long to keep, but at home when we buy too much because we can then it goes off before it's eaten, or our fridges are so full stuff gets lots at the back until it starts growing mould. Or we just can't be bothered finding a way to use leftovers, so we buy more.

Secondly, this wastefulness with food has become a disease that's spread across all aspects of life, from upgrading our phone just cos the new one looks cute, to turning up the heating rather than putting on a jumper when it's cold.

Again, I think most of us are aware that Australia is pretty greedy in terms of using the world's resources – or our own, for that matter, but how many of us doing anything about it? It might not be fun to live through war-time or depression-induced constraints, but surely we can show some sort of self-imposed restraint if we're so worried about the economy.

But somehow it all becomes the government's problem, or the fault of the opposition, or the local council's fault or the school/businesses etc.
It's true that, as a total amount, the same percentage of waste is naturally going to be larger for a bigger organisation, but all of those companies and departments and schools and groups are run by individuals who make individual choices.

And if we're not in the habit of thinking about waste at home, then it's certainly not going to happen at work, is it?

So I think the only solution is for every one of us to start thinking, and living, much more simply. To be satisfied with less. To be willing to put in the effort it takes to be less wasteful – because it is mostly the effort that puts people off – and maybe we can surprise ourselves with how much we can save.

Some further reading: Is there such thing as the 'priviledged poor'?
My LBL blogs:

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