This is believe: food is a blessing, a life-enhancing gift to be savoured, shared, and most of all, respected.
When I was little and attending my first school, I have a vivid memory of one long hot summer and in particular, a day spent with my class picking up litter following a lively fete. At the end, sweating and thirsty, we all queued up patiently to receive our reward- a can of fizzy drink of our choice. The cans nestled together on a bed of ice, their cold aluminium surfaces glazed with condensation in the sun. When I peeled back the ring pull and heard the fizz and took my first delicious, intoxicating draught, the bubbles of orange exploding on my tongue, I glimpsed nirvana. Never had I been allowed such a drink, never mind a can all to myself, but so strong was the mantra of healthy eating instilled into me by my mother, that it never occurred to me afterwards that I could- or should- make a habit of it.
Fast-forward twenty years and as an illustration of where we’ve got to in the developed world, it’s perhaps not such an arbitrary example as it might first appear. Where I live I might pass a gaunt-looking man begging for food on the street; passing him, a teenager obliviously downing a bottle of garish-coloured soda, his flesh wobbling at every step, thighs so fat they chafe like tree-trunks. It’s hard to believe that, despite appearances, both are malnourished. I’ve known these kids, I’ve taught them while they fiddle and fidget, too wired by caffeine and sugar to concentrate or zombified by a lunch of fried food shaped and battered to resemble fish, smiley faces or human feet. I’ve seen children in the aisles of supermarkets repeatedly kick their father for not opening a packet of sweets quickly enough and mothers pacifying screaming toddlers with lollies so brightly coloured they might be irradiated. For too many people, sugar is a daily fix they can’t do without.
Nobody doubts it’s a hard task bringing up children in a fast-changing world in which food, like every other commodity, can be marketed, cheaply processed and thoughtlessly consumed without knowing where it comes from, or indeed, caring. Show a kid a leek and you’ll be lucky if they even recognise it as a vegetable. But I’ve learned the hard way: as someone who has virtually cured myself of a three-year-long bout of CFIDS through nutrition, I am better placed than most to know that food has the power to heal, to create healthy beings full of energy, who are sound in mind as well as body, and who, upon waking, relish the challenge of each day. Oh, and fizzy drinks? The novelty’s not gone. I still have one in a blue moon, even if these days it’s organic and low in sugar.
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