Thursday, April 27, 2006

Garth George: One man's junk food is another's slice of heaven

I had a Big Mac for lunch on Tuesday - and savoured every single mouthful. I didn't have french fries because I wasn't that hungry, but I washed it down with a lovely, creamy chocolate thickshake.

McDonald's hamburgers and their various accessories are among my favourite foods, although they are outclassed by Wendy's, which supplies better burgers and chunky, proper-sized chips.

However, since Wendy's outlets are few and not conveniently placed for my purposes, I rarely have the joy of eating in one and happily make do with second-best.

Last Friday night in our house no one could be bothered cooking so a phone call and a quick visit to Pizza Hut provided us with a tasty, filling and nutritious meal.

Since the demise of Pizza Haven, absorbed into the inaptly named Domino's - which I tried only once - Pizza Hut's excellent products make a regular and welcome appearance on our dinner table.

I am very fond of KFC, but since chicken in some form, casseroled or roasted, is invariably on our weekly menu, the opportunities to partake of Colonel Sanders' (may he rest in peace) scrumptious variety are limited.

He has no doubt been joined in the hereafter by the person who first decided meat would go well in a pastry crust and invented the meat pie, and who, I sincerely hope, has been allotted one of heaven's very large mansions.

For it is the meat pie - and any other sort of pie, for that matter - that I would request should I find myself offered a last meal before execution.

(I was driving along Greenlane Rd the other day, for the first time in a long time, and at its intersection with Great South Rd had cause to remember the finest of all fast-food joints, the late - and still lamented - Georgie Pie).

I must have made it clear by now that I am rather fond of, and appreciate hugely, the products of various fast-food outlets.

So when I hear these products referred to as "junk food" by an increasing number of obesity-obsessed so-called researchers and other single-issue meddlers, I get thoroughly pissed off.

Even more so when those same misguided fools begin to refer to such food as "unhealthy" - as they did in this newspaper on Friday.

They are liars.

Fast food is not junk. It contains legitimate, nutritious ingredients, is prepared in generally spotlessly hygienic surroundings and provides a convenient, tasty and filling meal without the need to prepare it or clean up after.

Fast food, be it hamburgers, fried chicken, pizza or pies - or any one of the other multitudinous offerings to be found it today's food halls - is a modern-day blessing for which society has cause to be grateful.

If it contains the latest invented bogeys of fat, sugar and salt, then all the better, for food that does not contain a modicum of at least one of those is sure to be tasteless and unappetising.

Neither is fast food unhealthy. It is some of the people eating it who are unhealthy, not the food - just as it is the people who drink too much beer, or other alcoholic beverages or soft drinks, who are unhealthy, not the beverages.

The wackos who were dribbling on about "unhealthy" products in the Herald on Friday, taking aim at fast-food chains and breweries which sponsor sport and children's events, are yapping up the wrong sapling.

Fast-food chains and breweries are in the business of making money from the products and services they provide and are perfectly entitled to promote their wares as they see fit. Without the demand they would all cease to exist.

And while some of us might shudder at the arcane nature of some alcohol advertising, we have to accept that it is promoting legitimate products, which are harmful only to those who over-imbibe - about 10 per cent of the population.

The obesity and booze problems we face have next to nothing to do with fast foods or alcohol and everything to do with the people who misuse food and abuse drink.

And the fact that the number of those misusers and abusers is increasing has nothing to do with the provision of and advertising of products, and everything to do with the state of the society we have devised for ourselves. To blame products rather than people is moronic.

You want to know what's unhealthy?

It's when a parent is too buggered after a day at work to prepare a meal and tomorrow's lunch for the kids; when people need booze to take the edge off the stress of chasing money, property and prestige; when children are left to themselves and never taught self-discipline; when instant gratification is the norm; when television dictates behaviour and lifestyle ... Need I go on?

Obesity and youthful drunkenness are simply the latest symptoms of what ails society - just another couple of the social ills that afflict us because of the way most of us choose to live.

And I'll tell you what: you ain't seen nothin' yet.

PS: I suspect Colonel Sanders will also have met in the hereafter those who first put bacon with eggs, steak with kidney, tripe with onions and fish with batter; those who devised a sausage, first cured a ham, pressed a tongue, wrapped a Bluff oyster in a slim strip of bacon and lightly grilled it and put a battered hot dog on a stick; the Frenchman who first fried fragments of spud; and the person who devised the recipe for Watties baked beans.

With them will surely be the creators of rice custard, trifle, pavlova, chocolate cake, ice cream and bread pudding.

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