Tuesday 2 October 2007

Lifting the lid on lunchboxes.

Imagine being greeted seven days a week with an enormous spoon brim full of cod liver oil, 365 days a year for the whole of your childhood. Welcome to my world. I may have skipped to school, the abhorrent stench of fish organs in my wake, but rarely did I so much as sneeze. Lunchtime would arrive and I would happily chomp away at my perfect little package of dried prunes, inspecting the utterly horrified faces of my classroom comrades as they comically screwed up their noses.

My mum had to be the original, undisputed Queen of the Lunchbox. With my munchables safely clad in wonderfully nostalgic, sanctimoniously old-school and uber-eco-friendly brown paper, there was not a sniff of sugar, a whiff of e-numbers or a puff of additives in sight. In fact, perhaps our family’s Sweety Day should be at the top of Gordon Brown’s agenda.

I still stand flabberghasted at the thought of my genuine retort to my mum’s otherwise predictable question, “What would you like for a break-time snack?” What always followed was a lengthy, lip-smacking list worthy of any organic enthusiast or healthy-eating hanger-on. “Mango, Greek yoghurt, pineapple, carrot sticks, coconut!” Is this some sort of joke? Did I, a six year old, seriously request kumquats ahead of Krispy Kremes? What was the world coming to?

Well apparently, in my abode a healthier, happier place. But nowadays, outside my nutritional haven, and despite Jamie Oliver’s most valiant efforts to banish burgers, pack off pizzas and chastise chicken nuggets from school dinners, greedy kiddies still want to guzzle garbage and clueless parents still dish up the dirt. It seems to me that no number of National Lunchbox Weeks, 5-a-day campaigns or frightening statistics will stop children from snatching the nearest Snickers or reckless mums from feeding chips through school railings.

Funnily enough, the problems do not stop at childhood. Oh no. When walking into my flat kitchen at University last week, I found my nostrils assaulted and my stomach churned at the sight of a Fresher’s choice of tasty treat – a steak and kidney pie. In a tin. So it may cost only £1.25. It may be quick and easy to cook. It may also rot your insides and keep you on the toilet for a week.

So here we are, university students, old enough to drive a car, vote and have sexual relations, yet these walking time bombs still have no knowledge, or perhaps no conscience of what should pass from hand to mouth, lips to hips. "Leave them to it," I would be inclined to sigh in a moment of despair. But then what artery-clogged future would their offspring have to endure?

My mum was no superhuman. Neither had she cracked a cryptic hieroglyphic code to healthy eating. She just used common sense. And common sense does not say pile up the penny sweets. But neither does it say forbid all treats. It simply says that man did not evolve through gobbling e-numbers and gulping additives. We should stop looking in pots, tins and freezers to satisfy our stomachs and simply go back to our roots.

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