The thinness of modern existence

11/04/2013 § 3 Comments

Picture 5I got hungry yesterday evening and went downstairs to the cupboard to see what I could snack on. I ended up chomping my way through a bag of “giant pretzels” from Waitrose. It was a disappointingly empty experience – the pretzels had little flavour. It seemed to me that they represented much of our modern life – they were all pretty packaging and very little substance.

Supermarkets are under considerable pressure from government and lobby groups to reduce the fat, sugar and salt content of their food, which tends to be much higher than in simple food from health food shops. In modern lives where we are encouraged not to seek meaning or anything of real substance but rather growth and the accumulation of wealth, many of us are left dissatisfied. So we seek satisfaction (some of us anyway) in sugary, salty and fatty foods. The supermarkets have pandered to this, with predictable results in the surge in obesity and diabetes.

The supermarkets now find themselves in a real bind. They want to continue selling more and more stuff (this too is encouraged by the government – but by a different department from the one that worries about the impact of food on health). but they also are under pressure to  do their bit in addressing this health crisis.  So we end up with products which are beautifully packaged and alluringly described and yet can only disappoint.

Our politicians in many ways share this “thinness”. They spend so much energy on packaging themselves beautifully that they end up being completely bland and tasting of nothing. They satisfy for a very short time only. I presume that is why there has been such a fuss made of Margaret Thatcher in the last couple of days. Love or hate her, no one could accuse her of being thin, of lacking substance. It is a great shame that our political system allowed her to take too much control, particularly in the latter years, leading to the inevitable hubris and a lack of regard for the wider impact of her actions. It is becoming more apparent that our  political system needs redesigning, with more checks and balances and more opportunities for individuals to be heard. It is not that we need less “characters” – we need a system that encourages strong characters to emerge while also preventing any one individual or interest group to dominate.

What is my response to this thinness (I always like to  bring this blog back to the personal). Funnily enough, I am pretty thin myself 🙂  From a food point of view I will continue to concentrate on proper food,  which to my mind means organic (where possible) whole foods – brown rice and pulses and fresh vegetables. It is also to try to focus on and connect with the real essence of life, to look behind the marketing puff and the cheap thrills of TV, headline news and other forms of titillation. It is to connect with life in all its richness and beauty at a deep level.

There is still a part of me which craves the superficial, salty quick fix of a bag of pretzels. In the long term, however, I know it’s only a diet of brown rice and truth that will sustain me.


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§ 3 Responses to The thinness of modern existence

  • Finn Jackson says:

    I went on holiday in southern Spain a couple of years ago. The food, of course, was fantastic, much of it organic.

    We decided to take the ferry over to Tangier — a day trip to Morocco. The food there would be very good also.

    As we boarded the ferry I was excited to find out what I would be able to buy on board. Would it be Spanish or Moroccan? I was looking forward to my first taste of north Africa for several years.

    The reality, I discovered, was that I could buy almost exactly the same range of ‘foodstuffs’ you would expect to find at the average petrol station in the UK.

    There were pretzels and pringles. Crisps. Bags of salted nuts. Fizzy drinks with aspartame. Alcohol. Sweets.

    This was such a contrast to the cornucopia of delights I had been eating on land, and I knew was possible just a few miles away in Morocco. And suddenly I realised that every single one of these items was a poison. Sugar. Fat. Salt. Alcohol.

    There was not a single item for sale that would benefit my body. In fact all of them would harm it.

    How did we come to create such a culture?

    And how arid and empty it is by comparison with the alternative I had built up in my mind. And which is possible.

  • excellent metaphor. keep inspriring…

  • stevethorp says:

    Having shared both thin food and sustainable, hearty food with you, Patrick, I really appreciated this!

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