The ‘good food’ factor!


Friendly Fire

Khalid Saleem

IN this glorious age of technology, try as one might there is just no getting away from scientific researchers. One can hardly go through a paper without coming upon the result of some scientific research or the other; each aimed at changing the way of man’s life. A recent scientific study to adorn the pages of the daily papers reached the staggering conclusion that eating eggs was actually good for the heart! There you have it; another precious theory turned on its head. One hardly knows whether one is coming or going.
If the aforesaid bit of news gives the perspicacious reader food for thought, how about this one for an encore? Not all that long ago, Professor Andrew Prentice of the London School of Hygiene of Tropical Medicine, after some tedious research, had come up with the revolutionary conclusion that ‘fast food’ actually makes you fat! Now, before the reader comes up with a wisecrack about ‘stating the obvious’, a closer look at the researcher’s line of argument may well be in order. A typical ‘fast food meal’, states the learned professor, has a very high energy density. This energy density, according to his calculations, happens to be one and a half times higher than ‘an average British meal’ and two and a half times higher than a ‘traditional African meal’. He argues that consumption of ‘Fast food’ thus increases a fast food lover’s risk of weight gain, even though he may feel he has consumed no more than “an average meal”. There you have it in a nutshell, as they say.
While the trendsetters feast on ‘fast food’ and designer beverages, a sizeable proportion of what can loosely be described as the world’s population suffers from hunger, malnutrition and want. Even clean drinking water is denied them! And what is the International Community doing about it? Precious little, one would imagine. Multilateral diplomatists go about their business of merry-go-rounds in far out exotic locations, making loquacious speeches in favour of “reducing poverty”. Catchy slogans, like “War on Want”, are conjured up and bandied about. The United Nations, meanwhile, rests on its laurels (read Nobel Prize) in a world in which every norm has gone haywire. Makes one wish one were back in the good old days!
Remember the time when FOOD was just that, to wit, something to be consumed, savored and enjoyed? Alas, no more! Thanks to the advance of technology, ‘food’ has been repeatedly analysed, dissected and anatomised to a degree that it would require a specialist to discern its exact nature. Once the scientific researchers were through with it, food was no longer what ordinary mortals had mistaken it to be. Man realized, to his cost, that what he was ingesting was not a delectable repast but in reality a conglomeration of proteins, carbohydrates, polyunsaturated fats and similar compound words. What used to be a pleasurable interlude in one’s daily schedule was, thereby, reduced to something little more than a calorie counting exercise! Such terms as cholesterol, triglycerides, lipoproteins and the like were thrown in to muddle an already confused mind. Given this state of affairs, what choice had the younger generation except to fall back on ‘fast food’?
A word or two about the “Fast Food Saga” may not be out of place here. The ‘Fast food’ revolution did not materialise over-night. Instead, it evolved like a deadly virus. The technological transformation provided the trigger. This came in the form of man’s growing propensity to adopt a culture of hurly-burly in everything he did. And, thus, it came to pass that to whatever man indulged in, there was added an element of speed. Looking around, one finds people of all shapes and sizes rushing around madly as if they have a train to catch. Well, maybe some of them do; but the vast majority of them merely do it for the heck of it.
In the world of today, speed, apparently, is the name of the game. As a direct consequence, people have come to believe that if a thing has to be done well, it must be done in a hurry. An ordinary man’s way of life has been hit where it hurts most. Leisure was one of the essential ingredients of good life. Our forefathers led life at a leisurely pace. They took things as they came. There was little that panicked them. In particular, mealtime was something of a ritual. Food had to be savored and enjoyed at leisure. To hurry through a repast was to them akin to sacrilege.
“Fast food’ has not only disturbed the tempo of man’s mealtime, it has also contributed to making his meal lop-sided. His intake of calories, proteins, carbohydrates and what have you is no longer balanced as it, somehow, used to be in the meals of yore. Consumption of ‘Fast food’ ensures that some ingredient or the other is always in excess of the essential requirement. The inevitable result is that the digestive system of the one who ingests it is thrown horribly out of gear, to use a mechanical term. One visible manifestation of the ‘fast food’ revolution is the widespread incidence of obesity that is causing so much concern in the West. The pity is that even the developing countries have caught the bug. The number of fat persons that one comes across on the roads these days is enough to take away one’s breath. Could this be nature’s revenge for the way man continues to play fast and loose with the laws of nature?
— The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of OIC.