Why are we a nation of fatties?
So we might be forgiven for thinking that we Brits are increasingly facing a future of morbid obesity due to our national culinary prowess. Indeed the recent cries for ‘charge them!’ when looking at the treatment of fatties on the national health would appear to blame this condition on an addiction to Michael Roux’s complex recipes rather than a genuine ignorance of all things foodie.
And yet a recent survey backed by the Department of Health’s Change4Life campaign revealed that as many as 85% of people knew very little of the ‘hidden nasties’ (saturated fat, sugars and salt) in their food.
What then is the answer to this food-based conundrum? Well I’m with Ruth Bond, the head of the Women’s Institute who, last week called for the return of cooking on the school timetable.
It seems beyond incomprehensible to me that with a nutritionally ignorant, yet food obsessed country we do not teach our future generations one of the fundamentals of life itself – how to prepare and cook the fuel for the human body!
I remember fondly my own ‘home economics’ lessons – frowned upon by the ‘real’ subject teachers and considered the ‘soft option’ for the less academic girls. And yet everything about food is up there in academia - chemistry (hot air expands making cakes rise, gluten relaxes when cold) human biology (calcium is needed for bone growth, iron is an element in required for healthy blood) physics (thermodynamics) maths (percentage of fat to flour in pastry how and many vol-au-vonts for a buffet of 60)
Cookery was without doubt one of the hardest exams I took at GCSE level ( yeah I took 10 you doubters – and ok they called them O’levels then) was my 3 hour practical cookery – a triumph of planning skills, - ordering ingredients (if it wasn’t on the list you couldn’t have it – however much you wept), measuring and co-ordinating cooking order and baking times , balancing the menu with knowledge of the food groups and their importance for health, and creating dishes that demonstrated flair and skill in the kitchen.
I wonder how many of today’s fifteen year olds could confidently prepare from scratch a balanced three-course meal on their own, within a limited time frame?
I guess there are so many feet at to which to lay the blame for our food-obsessed ignorance but to me, the starting place is in school. It’s too late to leave it to parenting – so many parents are beyond helping and are perpetuating food ignorance through their own obesity and lack of knowledge.
In my opinion, until an inability to cook and feed ones-self properly, and to know what to eat, and in what quantity to avoid becoming obese, is as unacceptable as illiteracy and innumeracy in all our school leavers; we will continue to skirt around the edges of this bonkers situation - food obsessed and yet food ignorant!