When Mr Badger creeps out of his hole this Sunday he will be looking for his usual grubs and worms to feed on. Not me though, its Easter weekend and I’ll be looking to snuffle up some chocolate eggs. At least that’s what I was planning until my son helped me catch a glimpse of something odd about our eating habits.
There I was having breakfast with my son Ed who’s a professional chef. We were talking about one of our favourite topics, food! He was describing an elaborate ‘amuse bouche’ he had concocted. (If you haven’t heard the term before, it’s a bite sized offering not ordered from a menu but given free to stimulate the palette for the next course and to offer a glimpse into the chef’s approach to the art of cuisine.) The one Ed had created was a small glass of sweet potato soup with herbs, honey, a chip dipped in sour pomegranate molasses dotted with melting spots of marshmallow and a sprinkling of seeds. Wow, apparently it was considered a great hit by his culinary colleagues. However, it got me thinking. Here they were going to great lengths to prepare a complex recipe for a food dish that is not designed to feed us, but is simply art to impress and stimulate us. In a world where for many there is not enough food to go around, I wondered if we are losing track of the purpose of food?
I started investigating and came across a report saying 90,000 people had entered a ballot to be allowed to pay $525 per head for a meal at The Fat Duck. Heston Blumenthal’s famous English restaurant has opened in Melbourne for a few months only. The whole British crew of about 50 have been shipped over, oh and by the way if the ‘lucky few’ who got a seat want matching wines their price will rise to $1,150 each. Clearly people with a lot of money need to find things to spend it on to feel good about themselves. Somehow though for this to be happening in the hospitality industry where wages are notoriously low despite the shifts being erratic and demanding seems a gross anomaly.
However, perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised about odd behaviour around food, after all every year we Aussies waste 4 million tonnes of the food we buy, that’s $8 billion worth, or one third of all the fresh food we buy. And we consume far more than we actually need and often eat highly processed foods, all of which drives up our obesity levels. Of course, while we are using our bodies like test tubes to grow slabs of fat around us (no mere six packs for us!) we are able to turn a blind eye to the damage our farming habits are doing to the soil and water which are critical to our survival. And as for those countries where hunger and starvation is still a regular feature of daily life, well it’s not really our problem, is it?
Oh dear what have I done?! It’s Easter and I should be getting into the spirit of this grand tradition, but I don’t really feel like extra chocolate. After all, like most of us I can now afford a little chocolate anytime so why eat more to add to my fat slab just because it’s Easter? I guess for this weekend I’ll take a leaf out of Mr Badger’s books and eat my normal food. Not food as art, but the type I love like homemade soups and casseroles which feed my body and nurture my heart and soul. As for the Easter eggs tradition, apparently the chocolate version is no more than a modern marketing myth anyway. The real tradition of Easter eggs is a Pagan one symbolising spring and new birth, so I guess it’s a great time to turn over a new leaf and start a positive habit.