Eating Out – Restaurant Junkies

In Japan, the guilty pleasure of the Haves (and Have Nots) is designer goods.  You live in a shoebox but you  wallpaper your pad with Roberto Cavalli scarfs and “it” bags as objets d’art.  What’s Australia’s guiltiest pleasure? Gourmet grazing (gutzing). We’re the restaurant-junkie nation, eating our way to rotundity instead of healthy wholeness.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Australia’s Food and Nutrition 2012 report released in July, says the average household spends $95  ̶   40% of a $237 weekly budget  ̶  on restaurants, take-away and the obligatory wine or beer chaser.  While chowing out, we’re probably recording TV’s top-rating Masterchef, our other national obsession.

Unless you’ve been vacuum-packed and exported, you’ve probably heard about the obesity and Type 2 diabetes epidemic  ̶  more than 1 million Australians are estimated to have Type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes, and growing, which cost Australia $216.7 million in health issues over 1993-1994 ($89 million of that due to people being overweight and obese).  Yet the Mexican wave hitting Restaurant Land whitewashed us all into submission with a single, cheesy quesadilla. What hope do we have around Dude Food?

We’re all so invincible in our 20s, we think our poor habits will never catch up, but the stressful lives we lead accelerates all bodily functions. If you’re gourmet gutzing your way to an out-of-whack BMI, you’re ageing faster. When was the last time you jumped out of bed feeling light, free and easy? (All the 6 year-olds can put their hands down. Thanks for participating.)

Sydney Morning Herald writer Jessica Irvine reports that cheap food (take-away versus nutritious and expensive meat and fish options) and lack of education on healthy eating are partly responsible for our unsavoury food focus. Thankfully, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolutioneducation road show, and locally,  Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Program are making strides there. Add Baby Boomers, Bellies and Blood Sugars to the book list (for all ages) for its simple explanation and illustrations of the biochemical science behind eating well.

I have a few more theories about the aiding and abetting of gourmet gutzing. . .

When it comes to applying Masterchef’s 2 Golden Rules, “season!” and “sauce!”, the average householder baulks at tossing the tablespoon of salt or 50gm of butter required to plate a tasty dish. Better to eat out blindly. Second, we’re raising a generation of kitchenless kids in apartments with cooking spaces smaller than the loo and a bar fridge for leftover take-aways.

In truth, we Lucky Country folk comfort “treat” to suppress larger, deeper issues like: my world is moving too fast and I can’t be bothered or don’t have time to shop/cook or change my reality; I’m unhappy for I-don’t-know-what reasons, but a nice din-dins out will stifle that gnawing inner knowing. After a week off indulging in all my favourite treats recently, I felt foggy, clogged, heavy.  There was a big decision looming that I longed to avoid!

Those of us looking for succour in suckling pig will be heartily disappointed. It’s no coincidence that Eastern inward-gazing disciplines like yoga and Buddhism are on the rise.  Only by tuning in to the feelings that surround a craving, and shining the light of curiosity on our choices  ̶   “What was I thinking, feeling, doing, avoiding when the impulse to dial-a-pizza strangled me?”  ̶   will we learn what truly underpins our food fest.

As gal-pal Beverly mused on her return from yogic studies in India last month: “It was so wonderful to just eat to live, rather than live to eat”.