Tuesday, 10 June 2014


“Hunger is the best sauce in the world.” – Miguel de Cervantes

I witnessed quite an amazing scene at a little place I stopped for lunch the other day. It was a family who had sat down to eat at one of the tables of the shop I had stopped at to get a couple of salad sandwiches cut. The mother was obese and the father was overweight. The little boy accompanying his parents was about 8 years old and also quite overweight. I don’t know why he wasn’t at school, but never mind that.

The whole family was consulting the menu and the mother was trying to tempt her offspring by reading out the typical fare of a café/take away eatery.

“Would you like the ham salad Johnny?”
“What about some lovely fish and chips?”
“Oh, here we are, pie and chips then?”
 “Spaghetti on toast?”
“Hamburger and chips?”
 “What about sausages and eggs on toast, you like that!”
“Joyce, let him choose on his own.” The father interjected.
“But dear you know that I have to look after his diet, otherwise he won't be eating well.” And undaunted she persisted:
“You must have lunch, Johnny, what about some sausage rolls and chips?”

At this stage I was gritting my teeth and looked up at the woman who was making my sandwiches. She smiled a rather pained smile while I raised an eyebrow meaningfully and she looked down at the tomato she was slicing so that she wouldn’t start laughing. I turned slightly and looked at the family. The little terror had all of his attention turned to a hand-held electronic game and was oblivious to his parents. A waitress went to the table where the mother was continuing her suggestions of “healthy fare”:

“What if we get a pastie some chips and some ice cream afterwards?”
“Naaaah, I want some dim sims and potato cakes.” Johnny spoke at long last, his attention diverted momentarily from his game. “And ice cream after…”
“Well, all right, but you’ll promise to eat your meat and veggies tonight. Is that OK, darling?”
“Yeah, yeah…”

The waitress who had been waiting patiently wrote down the order. My sandwiches were ready at this stage, but I dawdled at the refrigerator deliberating over the selection of juices, so that I would see where the saga of the “healthy lunch” would terminate. Here is what the order that the waitress wrote down consisted of:

For Johnny – Five dim sims (deep fried), 4 potato cakes, some chips, a can of soft drink and ice cream afterwards.
For Mum – Two sausage rolls, chips, and a dim sim (deep fried), a low-calorie soft drink (she made a great deal of fuss over this), and no dessert.
For Dad – Steak, two eggs, grilled onions and chips, a ginger beer and an apple turnover (deep fried) for afters.

I sat outside to eat my sandwiches and drink my apple juice, positioning myself so that I could watch the family eat. Johnny was a sight for sore eyes. As soon as his food came he placed the electronic game to one side and then with his fingers attacked the dim sims after drenching them with soy sauce. The potato cakes were accompanied by potato chips and now and then a greasy finger was thrust towards the console of the game while his mother protested, taking the game from him. He sulked a bit and crossed his arms over his chest. The mother made a great deal of fuss, Johnny made a lot of noise and finally the game was restored to him, who attacked it and the food at the same time, with great gusto and quite a smug grin on his face.

The scene I have described is real, only the names have been changed to protect the guilty. In Australia presently we are struggling with an obesity epidemic and the incidence of childhood diabetes has sky-rocketed. We are bombarded by advertisements in the media about a healthy diet and yet the message does not seem to get through. How many little Johnnies and families are out there eating too much, too fatty, too processed, too meat-rich food? How many families are eating take away foods rather than home-cooked healthy meals with lots fibre, fresh fruits and vegetables? How many children are out there that get their way and blackmail their parents into providing them with all the wrong things to eat?

Children are not to be blamed overly for what they eat. It is largely the family environment and the family’s eating habits that will make for the child’s eating habits. As a child I remember never being having been forced to eat anything. If I did not like eating something that had been cooked that day there was always salad, bread, cheese, fruit on the table. As Cervantes says, hunger is the best sauce in the world! If the family eats well, the children will grow up and they will have learnt to eat well also. If the family eats badly, don't blame the children for eating rubbish…

•One in five Australian adults is obese, and a much larger proportion (67% of males and 52% of females) is overweight and obese.
•Over 5% of children are obese and 14-18 % are overweight.
•These children have a very high probability of progressing to adult obesity.
•Obesity in general trebled in the 10 year period from 1985-1995.
•Annual direct costs of obesity in Australia are between $680 - $1239 million (for 95-6).
•Childhood obesity leads on to other health risks: heart disease, elevated insulin levels, lower self-esteem, and orthopaedic complications.
•These risks continue and worsen into adulthood.
•Type 2 diabetes, (formerly termed ‘late-onset’ diabetes) has now begun to appear among Australian adolescents and is being diagnosed in increasing numbers. This is an ominous development in view of the potential complications of diabetes which include heart disease, stroke, limb amputation, kidney failure and blindness which may occur at a much earlier age…

It’s time that we learnt what “eating well” really means and to really put it into practice, as early as possible in childhood!

1 comment:

  1. Oh dear! I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when reading this, Nicholas. We in the Western world certainly have to learn a lot about healthy eating.