A guest post by Enlighten Education’s Queensland Program Director Storm Greenhill-Brown
I have been thinking, as we approach the frenzied lead up to Christmas, of the rituals of preparing, sharing, and receiving food. I have also been thinking of how I am going to really miss eating when I have my 4 impacted wisdom teeth removed this Friday. I have been mentally cataloguing food that I may or may not be able to eat.
Food is always welcome at my table and I have always admired those who give it due respect and care. When I first joined the Enlighten family, Francesca prepared a meal with such ease and grace and stated very humbly, “Keep it simple”. Wise words from an Italian mamma. You may have heard or read about the Slow Food Movement, which was naturally founded by an Italian fellow called Carlo Petrini. The Slow Food concept essentially helps people to re-discover the joys of eating and helps them to understand where their food comes from, who makes it, and how it is made. Part of the Slow Food Manifesto states, “We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus – Fast Life”. Slow food cooking aims to combat this 21st century disease that nutritionists believe is contributing to the obesity epidemic, especially in western children. To know intimately what we are eating and to allow ourselves to be seduced by flavours and aromas and to accept that this is just one part of being human, may go a long way to creating a generation of kids who are “food educated”.
It is true that Europeans allow themselves to create space in their culture for food. French cuisine is usually 6 courses and wine is taken with meals. Once, I shared a taxi into Rome with a girl who was heady with the thought of her first espresso and antipasto and I’ve never forgotten her passion. She had no thoughts of the Colosseum – food was integral to her journey through Italy. The aesthetics of eating play a large part too in the Slow Food way. The table is set and the anticipation is that this will be a meal of sharing, of intense pleasure, of laughter. From having a connection with the food on a basic level (perhaps you have grown some of it or you sourced it from a farmers’ market in your area that buys from local growers), you derive pleasure from each mouthful and allow yourself to love food and what it can do for your body and brain. The Slow Food movement is widely recognised in Australia and is growing in popularity.
Recently I discovered that a two-litre bottle of Coke is cheaper to buy than two litres of milk. In many families, money is readily available for KFC but not for groceries and whole foods and from generation to generation we stagger.
In South Australia in the coming years a French program called EPODE will be trialled in many schools. The focal question of this programme, which is based on the belief that childhood eating habits and obesity must be tackled at government and community levels with a variety of stakeholders involved, is “Can giving nutritional information to children change the eating habits of the whole family?” I agree strongly that changes are more likely to occur when a community works together for a “culture change.” Jamie Oliver gets it and his nutrition-in-schools crusade in the UK seems to me a step in the right direction.
The more I reflect on our society’s increasingly strained relationship with food, the more I am convinced that there is a fundamental lack of education about the centrality of food to human wellbeing. More and more I find myself doing as my Nanna did and giving my girlfriends great recipes out of her little handwritten black book!!