As I mentioned last week, I am currently undertaking a unit called Food Ecology. For my first assignment, I was asked to analyse my personal food system with context to my study. I thought I would share this with you in two parts, as it is a 1600 word assignment. I hope you will enjoy it!
Food is vital for life (Campbell et al., 2009). It is the nourishment that sustains us, and if you are like me, it can also be something that defines us. But I digress, for I can not explain that statement without starting at the beginning. This paper attempts to draw parallels between my own life’s experiences and the food choice process model as seen in the literature (Connors et al., 2001, Furst et al., 1996).
40 Years Ago
In 1971, food was not a conscious choice. I was a baby, and food was something that happened to me. When, where and what I ate was within someone else’s control. Food was a managed affair of parents and offspring, a task designed around meeting basic needs while developing relationships.
Being the daughter of a Maltese migrant, food had a cultural flare and it was during my toddler-hood that I would live in Malta. Food, suddenly, had a new approach as Maltese cuisine has many influences (Billiard, 2006). The availability of fresh produce during the early 1970s was very limited and most produce was bought in from abroad (Ellul and Ellul, 1985). What was on the family table became a matter of chance; what was in the market today? Those minute but deft decisions enacted daily by my grandmother (maternal figure) would start my life long fascination with food.
Fast forward several years to an Australian schoolyard. The tuna, olive oil and tomato paste sandwiches that were common in my lunch box did nothing but alienate me from the other kids. Canteen money was never an option for me. The economic and political climates of the era made my lunchtimes an uncomfortable foray.
The first decade of my life was heavily influenced by culture and society. Personal food value systems consisted of managing relationships, cost and an emphasis on food availability all of which limited food choices. The established food strategies were heavily steeped in culture.
30 Years Ago
I was a teenager now and could exert some power over my own diet! A part time job afforded me 3 doughnuts a day on the way to school. The hot, sweet treats from CC’s at Rockdale would become my first addiction.
During this time in my life, I ate at home as little as I could. While other kids enjoyed their Sunday roast lamb, we had “stews”. I was embarrassed that my “pet” rabbits were often a part of our dinner plate. I was ashamed of the cultural cuisine that was all that ever graced our table. I longed for things regular kids ate; chips with gravy, Henry’s at Kogarah and McDonalds. It was certainly the overwhelming advertising imagery of the day, but little was known then about the consequences (Dixon et al., 2007, Keller and Schulz, 2011).
The only thing I could remember eating regularly during this phase of my life was an apple. I always loved a good crisp apple. My grandmother would make sure she always had ample, so that I would never go hungry. Hungry: an odd notion as I abstained from food and wasted away to 40kgs and size 7 jeans (Koruth et al., 2012).
The decade of my teens was shaped by social factors. Personal food choices, therefore, became associated with cost and culture, often resulting in negative health outcomes.
20 Years Ago
I was now a young adult, out of home and struggling to make ends meet. I had found some balance with my eating habits and had adopted a “meat, 3 veg” diet (Magee, 2009, Wongkaew, 2013). My (then) fiancé was a butcher, so quality meat was an everyday occurrence. I learned to cook just as my mother in law cooked. Stews four nights a week were common place. Haphazard cooking became an art form, and I relished in it. A can of this, a chunk of that, add a little Gravox™ powder and dive in with a roll and spoon! This traditional British style of eating was a stark contrast to my Maltese heritage.
The relationship had soured, but it was not long before I was married to another man and had moved to the cosmopolitan of inner Melbourne. I was suddenly craving the very foods which just 20 years earlier had been my embarrassment. Within this multicultural paradise, smacked full of Mediterranean influences, I would explore foods from all walks of life. Perhaps it was my inspiration, because I started to learn how to cook the way my grandmother did – via expensive long distance phone calls!
Melbourne was the fresh food centre of the world to me, and how I thrived within it. Several times a week, I would catch the tram to the fresh food markets and indulge in all the luxuries on offer. Fresh fish, vegetables, goat cheeses and handmade pastas all waiting for my loving touch. Food, for me, would become my expressive art form, and I was now in the master class.
Figure 2: Victoria Markets in North Melbourne was a wealth of multicultural food stuff and quickly became a haven for me. It was here that I would become reacquainted with my own cultural cuisines. (Photo credit: http://bestvacationdealstoday.com/queen-victoria-market-melbourne/)
My beautiful daughter, Brittany, was born in 1993. The relationship with her father had ended, and I moved to Ballina. Times, and money, were tough as a single mother with a young child. Adjustments had to be made. I suddenly had to learn how to make ends meet and food would once again be what could be afforded, rather than what was enjoyed. Food became carbohydrate intensive; pasta, rice and potatoes were cheap.
The decade of my 20s was one of extremes, mostly influenced by personal factors such as cost, taste and heritage. Personal food system choices, therefore, revolved around learning how to prepare food, value negations, cost and convenience.
Part 2 next week!
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