Gary contemplates the changing nature of his family’s diet.
As I sit here munching on some wholegrain crackers packed with linseeds, chia seeds and sesame seeds, but not packed with gluten or MSG, and definitely not packed with artificial colours or flavours, I ponder the question: When did eating get so complicated? It used to be simple.
When I was a kid, there were three broad categories of food: Firstly, there was food you ate on special occasions. Secondly, there was going out food, which was Chinese or Italian. And then there was everything else.
Special occasion food pretty much only appeared when we had guests over, sat in the dining room on the velour upholstered chairs and ate off the white plates. The only other times it might have been sprung for was when interest rates had gone down or Australia won the America’s Cup or something.
Special occasion food was camembert, or any cheese that wasn’t cheddar and came in a shiny paper wrapping. It was mangoes, avocados and nuts that weren’t peanuts. It was fish that didn’t come in a tin or a packet.
“Special occasion food pretty much only appeared when we had guests over, sat in the dining room on the velour upholstered chairs and ate off the white plates.”
I don’t mean to imply that my mum wasn’t creative with her food preparation, or didn’t have the health of her family at the forefront of her mind. Quite the opposite – we at least had real cheddar in our wholemeal sandwiches, while some of the other kids at school had Kraft Singles in their white bread ones. It was just that special occasion food was special because in those days, it was – relatively speaking – scarce, and therefore, expensive.
These days, we’re spoilt for choice, and everything is cheap (with the exception of my favourite fish in a packet, smoked salmon – each time I buy it I still can’t believe it costs $12 for a few slivers) and plentiful and available all year round.
Of course, these days there is a much greater awareness of the impact unhealthy eating has on our bodies and especially the development of kids. In our house, this awareness has recently heightened, as The Omnipotent One has embarked on a whole and organic foods journey.
Now this has led to a number of changes in my diet. My Sustain breakfast cereal is now pearl tapioca and amaranth porridge or buckwheat pancakes. My lunchtime sandwich is instead now based around whole grain quinoa, soaked to reduce the phytic acid content. For dinner, my meat wouldn’t dream of feeding on anything other than grass. Even my yoghurt afternoon snack – something I would have thought immune from accusations of being anything other than perfectly healthy – is only able to be consumed in biodynamic, non-homogenised form.
For someone who a) eats a lot; and b) isn’t great with change, this has been an interesting experience, and I’m trying to embrace it. But to go without the cereal that I’ve had every morning for most of my life, and that I could probably survive on exclusively for breakfast, lunch and dinner?
I’m just not sure I can do it. And I suspect it will lead to going to some extraordinary lengths to get my fill. On a work trip, I can see myself going down to the $40 breakfast buffet at the hotel and instead of getting the best value by having the full cooked breakfast, gorging on five of those mini boxes of Sustain. Or I’ll keep a box in the office and start having my breakfast at work like those people I despise, using up all of the milk that was meant for tea and coffee.
But I will keep trying. I will smile to my kids across the breakfast table as we eat our tapioca porridge. Because even though food isn’t as simple as the days when I was a kid, my mum and The Omnipotent One are coming from the same place, and their intentions are as pure as organic extra-virgin coconut oil: they know that eating as many natural, unprocessed foods as possible is one of the keys to a healthy, happy life. It just takes a bit more effort.
And with that, as I polish off the wholegrain crackers-with-three-kinds-of-seeds, I contemplate what I may have munched on while studying at my desk in my parents’ house. Some mouth-drool starts to form as I vividly recall the unmistakable taste of chicken Twisties.