I know that is this picture is a far cry from the food photos that I normally post, them being all green and laden with veg and all things fermenty.
This photo was circulated by Gary O'Hanlon, the jolly TV chef you will know from The Restaurant. It shows the food that was on offer at the launch of the new National Children's Hospital yesterday. Naturally Gazza was disgusted and as a PR exercise in encouraging goodwill and hope for our health care system, it was an epic fail, with bells on.
The "food" served is known as brown platters, something you might occasionally be happy to horse into on a Friday night evening with early pints, a carrot to keep you in the pub, without the carrot of course.
As a former photographer with the press, this fodder was commonplace for us snappers who were always starving and would wolf down any free food with no formal lunch breaks and as little free time to eat. My life at that time consisted of sausage rolls and brownies, two of my favourite things that had me swiftly developing the gut of a rural Irishman. I digress. The food in the photo was for the media and visitors to the launch, but we all know that food in our hospitals is dire and many people fear going into one of them for fear of having to ingest the goo, moreso than the fear of surgery itself.
I spent many nights with a then-young son who was sick in Tallaght children's hospital some years ago. I 'slept' in one of those criminally uncomfortable armchairs that look like they were made by the cast of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but without the entertainment of Jack Nicholson. The food, beans on toast, sausages, chips, it beggars belief. A breakfast of corn flakes and white toast, or, I think scrambled eggs which isn't too bad, dinner at about 11.30am and 'tea' which might be a bit of cold ham and coleslaw at 4pm and that's you done for the day. It's clear that the food administration is for the smooth running of the hospital and so the staff can all wrap up and go home and do it all again day after day. This isn't school dinners, Jamie style, this is food being served to sick people, some of them with chronic conditions that might have to spend months or longer in a HSE institution.
Given that we are talking about a children's hospital and a sick child will almost have a worn-out and distressed parent with them, running up a huge bill in the car park, taking time off work and being stressed out of their mind because their child is ill, what about the parents?
We know we need healthy, real food to maintain health and sitting in a chair for days or weeks with nothing to eat also adds to the stress of having to be a big support to your sick child.
Imagine if the parent could get a healthy meal in the canteen?
Imagine if your child could get a meal, full of fresh vegetables and good meat that was sustaining and aided rest and recovery?
Hasn't the penny dropped that food and health are linked???
Doctors receive something in the region of eight hours training in nutrition in all their years in medical school. When, as a parent, you mention diet to a doctor, consultant or anyone calling the shots for your health or that of your child's, they will throw your eyes up to heaven as if you are a mad-woman. Silly mothers, caring about their children. Next!
Hospitals employ dieticians, not nutritionists. Dieticians love to point out that they trained for four years minimum so that they can continue to recommend an outdated food pyramid that suggests we eat predominantly cereals, breads of any kind, pasta etc, with reduced fat intake and it's low fat all the way. Given that this way of eating has been debunked and is not healthy, it's also contradictory to the brown fried food on the plates above.
Germany is the world's leading producer of organic baby food, in the Bundesrepublik you can shop in fully organic supermarkets for almost everything, even tobacco. It's it in the constitution "Viel gemeuse, weinig fleish" lots of veg, little meat and a general belief that you should be outside as much as possible. Of course you will see German people giving their kids fizzy drinks too, but not as prolifically as here. They get it, invest in your health, you will enjoy better health. My kids were born in Germany and fresh fruit, salads and veggies were available at every corner shop. Snacking on berries and apples was normal and the whole country went mad at asparagus season and strawberry season. With vegetarianism being very normal in Germany cities, it's an easy country to eat well and eat lots of affordable organic food. When we relocated to Ireland their veg loving habits went out the window as they went to creche and I paid €280 a week for them to have chicken nuggets and chips.
Ireland's green and pleasant land is a perfect place to produce excellent food untreated by chemicals and pesticides, but organic producers are penalised with huge charges for their certification and face penalties if they don't have it. Shouldn't our government provide incentives and supports for anyone willing to put in the hard work of organic food production? Shouldn't the food we put into our bodies be our number one concern, above all else? With our lush land, organic conversion should be the key words on everyones lips. Look at the rise in bizzare auto-immune conditions, coinciding with the over-consumption of processed foods....
As a bearded hippy prophet once said "Let he who is without processed food, cast the first stone", but as long as the HSE purport that eating processed food does you no harm, how can we make educated decisions?