I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about how my life, and others I know, aren’t following in the paths of our parents and grandparents. This has led to some…divergent thinking! This is one from yesterday.
I had a conversation about Meal Times yesterday and it became apparent how outdated our behaviour towards food is.
In Britain, our food habits are directly related to the war. Yes, the war that ended in 1945.
It has been 71 years since our country survived on rations and yet so many of our eating habits are still visible in our current generations. Eating habits that just do not make sense in todays world.
You must finish your food. Clear your plate. Pushing yourself to sickness because if you don’t finish the food…what? What will happen?
It goes in the food bin and gets composted. That’s what.
Sure, if this is a regular issue, then cook or request smaller meals. If you’re eating out and don’t finish your food, sure you spent money on it and it could be seen as a waste of money if you don’t finish it all, but it’s your money. You’ve paid for the meal regardless of whether you’ve eaten it all or not, it makes no difference to the business or your wallet.
Yet it is still seen by many as a great insult if you don’t clear your plate. My grand parents are notorious for this. If you didn’t clear your plate you’d get asked what was wrong with you and if you did you’d be offered seconds. I get it, I really do. I can’t imagine living in a world where that tiny little bit of food left on my plate is going to make any difference to my life what so ever. Other than forcing myself to eat it will make me feel stuffed, and is excessive, but it is within their lifetime. It is still part of living memory.
It’s not just plate clearing. Which foods we use sparingly and which we use in abundance also has strong links to the war. Cheese was incredibly hard to come by, this video actually shows the weekly cube you would be rationed. You can see how our tendency to be sparing when scraping the cheese onto a cracker was shaped by that, especially when you compare it to say…the French way of eating cheese! There are loads of other foods that we have shunned as the alternatives are seen as better with no founding. Butter Vs. Margarine is a popular one.
Then we come to meal times.
By the 19th Century, with artificial lighting, people were eating dinner later when they got home from work.
Sunday Dinners typically had around noon on a Sunday happened as a throw back to before people had artificial lighting and used to have their main meal earlier in the day. And we still do this!
The industrial revolution is the main reason why we have meals at set times. A small meal to set you up to work all morning, another light snack to keep you going in the afternoon at the factory, then a meal when you were finished.
The war did bring about canteens which then set up how schools and companies fed their students and employees. Canteens were just an easy way to mass feed the work force and pupils as cheaply as possible.
After the under nourishment of the first world war, Britain wasn’t taking any chances.
But is any of this relevant anymore? Hunger is why we eat. Hunger is our bodies telling us that we need more fuel. That is it. Yet it is possibly one of the most important thing we can do for our bodies besides breathing.
There is a huge industry telling us what we should be eating, and shouldn’t. How we should be eating and the process that goes into making that food is hugely political (see Gluten, GMO, organic)
But these habits seem to me to be such underlying factors in our countries relationship with food that we just aren’t addressing.
Perhaps if you work a 9-5 job (which are getting rarer) or you are in school, then these habits still apply. But what about the rest of us?
I have these pre-set ideas about when I should eat, I know instinctively when lunch time is or when my grandparents will be having dinner. But they don’t overall apply to my life. I am forever trying to shift my schedule to accommodate these meal times, I still get mildly upset if my partner doesn’t finish the food I’ve made, and cheese is still a luxury.
Thanks for reading 🙂