Friday, September 12, 2008

Eating Between The Lines, by Rebecca Huntley

Eating Between the Lines purports to be about food inequality in Australia. It sets out to explore why the poorer you are the more likely you are to have a poor diet, and consequently be fatter. For example, author Rebecca Huntley cites statistics that demonstrate how poorer suburbs have more nasty take-away food outlets than in the posher areas.

Fair enough, this is a subject worth exploring. Problem is, Huntley pretty much drops her subject after the first chapter and before you know it, you’re in the middle of chapters with titles like, Sex In The Kitchen. As you read things that seem entirely unrelated to the topic, you wonder: how did we get here?

Before you know it you’re at the conclusion with a grandly sounding chapter heading, Republic of Food, and the author ties everything up with a lot of broad statements. Yet nothing has really been revealed.

To be honest, this book is like a lot of glossy weekend supplement features all strung together and then called a book.

There were some interesting factoids along the way, like I didn’t know that 80% of the traditional Aboriginal diet was plant based, and only 20% meat based. No wonder those 19th century pictures you see of Indigenous people show them in such splendid shape. The ‘superior’ Western diet put an end to that.

This book doesn’t say a lot that is new. As I said, it reads like a lot of magazine features strung together.

My personal theory on obesity, for what it’s worth, is that modern processed foods are really like drugs now, backed up by million dollar advertising campaigns. People are getting hooked on sugar, fat and the empty calories in white flour, rice and pasta. Plus the chemicals that make up fake flavourings have corrupted people's tastebuds. We don't know what real food tastes like.

The only way to substantially turn this around, in my humble opinion, would be government intervention in the form of tax on junk food, with the money being used to, at least in part, subsidise fruit and veg (hooray for us fruit and veg lovers!).

Yes, people on the ‘free market’ side of politics will argue that people should be free to eat what they want, and this is not a nanny state. Fair enough. But why should my taxes be used to prop up a crumbling healthcare system due everyone being hooked on this junk food?

I want my healthcare system in good shape, and more people looking after their health would help that.

You’ll probably want to read this book if you work in the food or nutrition industry. Or if you want a book with a decent overview of Australian eating habits today, then on this front the book’s not that bad either. It's just not rivetting stuff.

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