Fresh vs Takeaways

If there's one thing that visiting chefs, cookery writers and foodies agree on about New Zealand, it is that our fresh produce is absolutely superb, whether it's meat, fish, vegetables or fruit.

If there's one thing that visiting chefs, cookery writers and foodies agree on about New Zealand, it is that our fresh produce is absolutely superb, whether it's meat, fish, vegetables or fruit.

It's human nature to take for granted the things that we see and use daily, so maybe it's time we all took another look at the bounty this land provides.

"Of course," you're saying, "we know that, and we eat lots of fresh food of all types; what's she banging on about?"

So, what's on my mind? With the ready availability of fresh, reasonably priced produce of all kinds, why is it that so many New Zealanders are eating expensive fatty, sugar-rich, nutritionally poor foods and getting tubbier by the minute, to the point where obesity and accompanying ills like diabetes are reaching epidemic proportions in this country?

I suppose there are lots of reasons, but two strike me as particularly important.

Older generations learned to cook at their mothers' sides - and mothers were remarkably patient about ensuring that the skills and food knowledge was passed on. It doesn't matter what your ethnic background...that's what happened. Children, girls in particular, learned about food and cooking in the family kitchen and, in turn, passed the art down to their daughters. Nowadays, with so many working mothers, fast foods - not just from restaurants, but ready-made meals from the supermarket - and things that can be prepared quickly and easily are all too prevalent, and all the kids learn is how to undo packaging and reheat things in the microwave.

When did you last suggest to your child/children that it would be fun to spend time together cooking - and let them loose in your kitchen to make their choice of dishes?

For the same reason, people don't bake...remember when your mothers or grandmothers had a baking day, filling tins for the week with biscuits and cakes, and making scones and teacakes? When did you last "do a baking" for the family, instead of rushing round the supermarket picking up expensive, sugar-packed biscuits or snack bars?

Further, in our Politically Correct education system, what used to be known as "Domestic Science" or "Home Economics" has all but disappeared and there's little schooling in nutrition, let alone teaching the skills of homemaking, including basic cookery and baking.

There's something far wrong in a society that can deep fry pizza slices and Mars Bars as happens in some places in the UK, or, as in this country, where people would rather have a burger, fish and chips or chicken (apparently fried in glue to make it palatable!) when they could be having fresh fish, meat, chicken, vegetables and fruit, cooked simply to provide maximum nutrients and minimum sugar, fat and salt.

You may recall a few years ago, Delia Smith was scoffed at when she launched her basics cookbook, with instructions on how to boil an egg - in fact, sad as it may be, she had a point and it might surprise us all how few people, given the task, could boil an egg successfully.

It may be a sign of the time, but it's a scary thought that the recently opened supermarket at Auckland University is roughly divided into "foods to eat now" and "foods to eat later" sections...and the biggest seller is instant noodles, to the point that the hot water is at the end of the gondola, so the students can whip the top off the noodles, pour in the water, and be gobbling them up on the way out of the store! Even allowing for the fact that there's a big Asian student population, there must be a lot of others from European and other ethnic backgrounds who've decided that two-minute noodles take too long!

That's kind of might be salutory to survey just how many Auckland University student shoppers know how to boil an egg...or make anything else to eat from fresh ingredients, come to that!

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