Fast Cars or Fast Food? (Gadgets or Healthy Food Choices)

Jan 22, 2013 by

The final straw was when yet another person commented on the current horse meat scandal in beef burgers. The assumption is that only people on low incomes or with very constrained budgets buy cheap, processed foods.  I think it is not only inaccurate but it is patronising and smug. 

In my experience over the years, through the recession in the 80’s to the boom of the noughtys back to the current recession, it has nothing got to do with budget.  The vast majority of people care little about what they eat and are incredibly uneducated about food, nutrition or budgeting.  And before everyone gets up on their collective horses let me explain.

When I was growing up in Dublin, the kids on my road lived in houses where the “good room” was locked up and not available to them.  They ate kids’ food – fish fingers, burgers, tinned beans and peas, white sliced bread with plastic cheese for their tea while the adults entertained in the good room and went on foreign holidays.  

I remember asking my mother why we did not have a “good room”.  The answer I got was that we did not have such a room in the same way we did not eat “children’s food” nor did we go on foreign holidays.  This was, she explained, because we spent our money on food and education.  I don’t know what age I was but I remember it clearly and from then on I began to notice what she meant.

Years later when my own kids were small and we lived in a middle class area in the UK.  I noticed the same thing.  But even more surprisingly I noticed how well-educated people on good incomes spent so little on food.  Oh they had the cars, the foreign holidays, the sound system and the good room. But very often the fridge was empty and the cupboards bare. 

Now back to the current debate and the people on very tight budgets.  Stand in a supermarket any day of the week and look at what people on all sorts of budgets put in their trolleys.  Then stand back and look at their clothes, their kids’ shoes, their watches, their smart phones and their cars.  Then check out the price per kg of many of the processed foods they are buying.  In almost all cases the processed foods are considerably more expensive than buying the basics.  Yes they lack the knowledge and the skills and to a certain extent the time, but they have plenty of knowledge and skill and time when it comes to operating technology so they are not dumb.

So now do you see my point? It is a matter of priority.  People regardless of budget have different priorities.  Food is in many cases low priority after the latest must-have gadget for adult and child alike.

On last night’s debate on RTE’s Frontline programme, Darina Allen said she would rather spend her money on food than give it to the doctor or the chemist.  But how many really think like this?

Instead we have people including journalists writing for The Guardian making sweeping statements about poeple on low budgets in the same breath as denigrating people who have an interest in food. How do they know the people they sneer at as “lifestyle foodies” are not prioritising their budgets in favour of good, healthy, wholesome food?

RTE Frontline  The Guardian  Darina Allen  Horse Meat in Burgers

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  1. Wouldn't you feel sorry for the kids? And the sad thing is they will do exactly the same with their kids and so it goes on and on.

  2. Spot on Maggie! Your blog neatly sums up and nicely crystallises my thoughts. A friend of mine knew the price of every item in Asda and when I say the price he was thinking of the cheapest price. He had three growing children but prided himself of spending the absolute minimum on food. This was not a poverty thing, he earned a packet but he kept all the surplus cash as pocket money for himself and spent it on gadgets etc.

  3. Thanks Lily, good to hear it's not only here. I was not slagging anyone off for having a nice car or a smart phone but it's usually the ones who can afford good quality food moan about the cost of it.

  4. So true Maggie, food choices are a matter of education, time and taste… nothing to do with disposable income or budgets. Food education is hugely lacking, not only in Ireland, but in the majority of countries, and unfortunately, very few people realise the overall effect of that in our lives. Great article, well done! PS I have a smart phone, a good car and I'm educated, but I am deeply concern with food provenance and I'm sure there's a lot of us out there, we just need to start shouting about it! 🙂

  5. I think in the same way an alcoholic has to make the decision themselves to give up drinking or a smoker to give up smoking, people have to make a lifestyle choice themselves because all the tv food programmes, cookbooks and information in the media aint working.

  6. Yes exactly the same as that, holidays were spent in our caravan in Wexford. And even there the neighbouring kids were fed crap while the adults ate in Cortown golf club or had boozy bbqs.

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  8. We grew up exactly the same way, Maggie. You had two choices with food in our house, you either ate it, or went hungry. There was no difference between adults and children's meals. We went on holidays, but only in Ireland. My mother always cooked/baked/sewed/knitted most of what we had. We were middle class living in suburban Dublin. Skills have been lost because of lack of education, it's that's simple. Also, if things are so convenient, why bother learning how to "cook". Who cares what's in it, as long as it tastes nice, and can be ready in 20 minutes. This seems to be the attitude. Great post, Maggie, to the point, as always 🙂

  9. Some very interesting points. When growing up we never had a "good room" or had food locked away either. I'd never actually heard about it until a friend explained it to me recently.

    I think when you see adults with smart phones & processed food you're right, it does show that they have intelligence. It begs the question why would they choose to eat this way and focus on the technology, appearances and perhaps consumerism that surrounds them.

    When it comes to educating people motivation is a huge factor. If I could figure out how to motivate people to want to learn about good food as opposed to how to use the latest bit of technology I think it'd make food education an awful lot easier.

  10. Every good room should have a ham hanging from the ceiling light. I love it. 😉

  11. You are my favourite person Maggie … honest and right to the crux of the matter. Fair play … I have a priests room here and there is a beautiful Ham hanging from the ceiling light … we are as middle class as they come but know good food comes at the right cost.

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