Healthy eating is a brief fling compared to our fast-food fix

22nd September 2006 at 01:00
Chris and three of his mates were late returning to class from a 15-minute break because he'd chauffeured them to a drive-in to get "a real hamburger".

What happened to those keen, shiny lads who sat in the front row for enrolment and who had come with a pen, a passport photograph and a pleasant manner?

They became college students. And with part-time jobs, a bit of money, and freedom to choose, they're dyeing their hair, going in for body piercings and finding themselves. And that's as it should be. Pity, then, that the lifestyle is mainly fuelled by fast foods.

Despite Jamie Oliver, there's no sign of fast food fatigue and according to a recent report, the fast food industry's "brief flirtation with healthy eating is over". We said we wanted salads, they gave us salads. We shunned them. They binned them. Now they're giving us what we want - which is bigger hamburgers, bigger buns and definitely no vegetables.

Chances are Chris's concentration will waver. If it goes quiet, he'll fall asleep. He'll blame his job, his little brother keeping him awake. But his diet? Never.

If education is the key, we need to teach young people about food. I have the answer. Forget Jamie Oliver's softly, softly approach. I propose that, at induction, all our students should be given a copy of The Dundee Homecraft Book.

This little book, still in print, is a no-nonsense, slightly scary tome produced by no-nonsense, slightly scary women in white coats who taught domestic science in Dundee's schools. They make Oliver seem like a wimp.

With a cover drawing of a wifey in a pinny, it's outmoded, outdated - and invaluable.

Want to know how to make a bit of toast? Slices of bread a quarter inch thick are required. Now that's what I call a recipe. My sister, a brilliant cook, will pass on recipes which include "a scant pint of milk". How much is a scant pint, you wonder. No such guesswork in The Dundee Homecraft Book. Here you can cook with a tape measure. Here is military precision, household management as war against dirt, dust and disorganisation. The objective? Three square meals a day and good health.

My faith in this little book is such that I gave a copy to my son when he left home to become a student. When the food in his residences was inedible, he cooked a large steak and several mushrooms in a small sandwich grill. The meal came out in the shape of a breeze block - literally a square meal - and prompted envy among his mates who were astonished at his cooking expertise.

If college inductions included copies of The Dundee Homecraft Book, I suspect students would be disappointed at the quality of the freebies.

Their hopes are pinned on free MP3 players and maybe even a laptop.

Educating young folk to make sensible food choices seems a battle lost.

Last year, I showed a couple of film texts to media students. One text exposed the health hazards of fizzy drinks, the other examined junk food addiction. Both seemed only to send students barging out of class clamouring for coloured pop and the nearest junk food fix.

Fast food? Chris is still lovin' it.

Dr Carol Gow lectures at Dundee College

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