Monday, January 31, 2011

Is that fish and chips for one or two?

Actual pic from the website of our chosen seafood outlet
Yesterday we took our trusty boat for a trip on Sydney Harbour, and as always drew up to the Sydney Fish Markets for lunch.

T'other half and I aren't great indulgers in fast food; in fact the fish 'n' chips we get at the Fish Markets in boating season makes up the bulk of our annual fast food intake - the other exception is sushi, which we have once or twice a week. Last week at the Fish Markets we were sensible and got some grilled snapper fillet with the ubiquitous chips. One piece of fish between us, plus a portion of chips, was ample for our lunch.

This week we decided to get a seafood basket, which consists of a poisonous number of kilojoules, as it's all deep fried. Munching through calamari, fish sticks and prawn cocktails, with better chips than we'd had the week before, I pondered to my husband, "Was this one portion or a meal for two?"

"Only one," he replied.

I was stunned. God, there was a ton of food there! No wonder Australians are piling it on! Seriously, the portion consisted of:

  • about 150 grams of deep fried calamari
  • 2 pieces of deep fried fish stick/seafood stick - say 80 grams
  • 2 battered and fried prawns - about 80 grams
  • about 200 grams of golden, crunchy chips/fries
And all that aimed at one person!

I've been losing weight as a result of the ShapeUpClub website and iPhone app, and when I keyed in my lunch to the app I realised dinner would be very lean indeed if I wished to stick to my daily allowance of kilojoules.

I think the perception is there that you have to have value for money when you buy food either as fast food or at a restaurant. $9.00 for this lunch, which left the two of us stuffed to the gills, is good value for money for the quantity supplied in the portion. But good grief, unless you're going to walk it off afterwards it's a staggering number of kilojoules, particularly if you then tuck into a hearty dinner at the end of the day.
Modern society in the western world makes it all too easy to access stodgy foods which give you a quick sugar and energy hit. Burger or sandwich? Sandwich would be the healthier choice but the burger usually wins, particularly when people have children in tow who pester them for a trip to the Golden Arches. Couple that with society's dependence on the car and you can see the general size of waistbands expanding.

In Victorian times the average woman walked 14km a day, doing housework, running errands, visiting friends. She may have eaten cake for afternoon tea but she undoubtedly earned it. And there weren't the prolferation of cafes that there are now.

Likewise the jaunty, calorie-counting flapper keen to maintain a boyish figure relied heavily on trams and walking in her daily life - oh, and dancing the Charleston at least once a week. If she went to a cafe she'd probably grab a sandwich; the extent of available cheap takeaway food was pretty limited, and while fish and chips was a popular choice these lovely ladies of the past led a lifestyle which helped burn the kilojoules.

Those were the days when you'd go to a circus to see a Fat Lady in the freakshow around the back. I see circus Fat Ladies every day in the supermarket and they take up 2/3 of the width of a supermarket aisle. Not just old-fashioned 'stout' (ie size 16), but enormous women waddling along, often accompanied by similarly large waddling children. Their trolleys are usually brimming with snack foods, soft drinks/cola and frozen fried food. Heck, we don't even have sweet biscuits in the house, unless I make some. We have oatcakes or fruit for snacks. And a smidge, just a little, of Lindt dark chocolate when we feel like it.

One of my interests is life in the 1920s and my indulgence in The Girls' Own Annual and fiction written in or set in that period needs several posts of its own, but the attitude to health and diet back then is a good lesson for people of today. Simple, fresh food in sensibly small portions, lots of exercise. In a time when cars were for the wealthy, exercise was a given. You walked, either all the way to work or to the tram/bus stop. Or you rode a lovely loop frame bike :-). If you walked or cycled to the chippy and got a portion of fish and chips wrapped in yesterday's newspaper, you'd undoubtedly earned it.

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