Friday, January 20, 2006

Inherently healthy

So I'm in Hamilton for a wedding and home on Sunday (not a moment too soon, considering I have large amounts of geeky DVDs waiting for me - including this).

I'd like to write a bit more about the East Coast, but I'm tired and there's an easy target I have to hit first.

A couple of days ago NZ Herald had a big hoopla about how the new healthy foods standard would classify an apple as 'unhealthy' because it had too much sugar. This was followed by a hilarious letter to the editor by some atkins/zone supporter, explaining the dangers of sugar and how we should all restrict our apple intake because it'll make us gain weight (and of course if you gain weight you can't be healthy). But what I really wanted to draw attention to was this statement the next day:

Ms Buchtmann [a spokesperson for the food standards group] said it was never the agency's intention to penalise "inherently healthy products such as fruit and vegetables".
Wow it's nice to know that there are some products (not even foods, but 'products') that have inherent qualities of health.

My understanding that the purposes of this 'healthy foods' standard is that unless foods meet this standard they won't be able to advertise any form of health claims. Now I'm all about restricting companies ability to advertise bogus claims(Nutella's 'less fat than peanut butter, more sugar than jam' ad really cracked me up). But why not just ban advertisers from making any 'health' claims about their products, why does anyone think we would get good nutritional information from people trying to sell us stuff?

But then I'm always a little confused with the idea that the problem with nutrition is that people have a shortage of information (I think the problems are more likely poverty and that food is made to make money, rather than being made to be nutritious). It's not just government departments that think this; I've had men my age complain that no-one told them any nutritional information when they were growing up. It's not so much that I don't believe them, it's just that I find it hard to comprehend. I don't even care, and I can tell you a whole bunch of random nutrition information, because in our society food matters to women, and men don't have to care about it.


  1. Strange. It seems pretty obvious to me: white bread BAD, apple GOOD. But then again, I've been a vegetarian since I was 12 and what I consider junk food is so much better for me than actual junk food. (OK, I had a grilled cheese and fries today, but seriously once every few weeks vs. weekly (or more) McDeath food? Anyone who tells me that fruit is bad because of sugar gets a swift kick to the shins. Oh! You're right! I'll just go get some heavy cream, a pound of bacon, and some vodka (the atkins vodka ads are HI-larious) and have that instead, cuz that's healthy. blah.

  2. Oh my goodness! A giant Buffy box set. It must be mine!

  3. oh and I am so jealous that you have the Buffy Set. I only have Seasons 1, 6, and 7. :(

    (I'm starting with the ends and meeting in the middle)

  4. Anonymous6:22 pm

    I think what Maia means by "food matters to women, and men don't have to care about it" is that women are almost invariably the ones who have to choose it from the supermarket, prepare it for tea, make it up into school lunches, impress visitors with it, make sure its healthy for the family, acceptable to the family affordable by the family and shit like that.
    Could have been better expressed, but the rules of the road are still pretty much "ladies a plate"

  5. "...women are almost invariably the ones who have to..."

    Where does the "have to" come from? I can appreciate that my Mum "had to" do these things because my Dad would probably have died of malnutrition if faced with preparing his own food, but they were born in the early 1930s. Where does the "have to" come from now?

  6. Trust me Milt, it's still "have to" for many women. I consider my household reasonably enlightened, and both of us work full time plus, but the reality is that even though we agreed to alternate the food shopping, I do it probably 7 times out of 10. If I waited for the Man of the House to do it we'd quite possibly starve. Or eat a lot more takeaways.

    He tries, we both do, but it's hard to overcome the examples of our parents (and not just in this of course). I can only hope that each generation we make a little progress.

  7. Anonymous4:46 pm

    Um...just reading some of the posts as I pass through on my merry voyage tonight through cyberspace and it occured to me to suggest as an interesting source of discussion if anyone were so inclined to head that way. He is a former US military special forces guy who is now a radical socialist polymath who writes well on anything from gender to war to ecology. Wow this sounds like spam. Believe me it is not.
    I miss New Zealand, please say hi to it for me.

  8. I see what you mean span, the "have to" is more of a "has no bearable option but to", due to mens' greater squalour-tolerance. That I have no problem with, I just bridle at the concept that my wife "has to" do something because I consider myself in authority over her.

  9. First (and most important) - the Buffy box set is easiest the greatest thing I've ever owned or dream of owning (although I should point out I didn't pay the price listed on Amazon). Right now I'm watching a cast and crew discussion of Buffy and it's making me ridiculously happy.

    On to the food discussion - John the fact that you started caring about food when you discovered, kind of proves my point. Most women I know (and I don't want to generalise, attitudes towards food are cultural) knew huge amounts of nutritional information about most sorts of food when they were still living at home, before they even had to cook most of their own meals.

    So the point Don made was part of what I was talking about. But food becomes very important to girls often before they are responsible for the tasks Don lists. Part of this is training women, because they will have to take that role (and as the oldest girl I was certainly filling second in command when it came to cooking probably before I started high school).

    But I do think there's more to it than that. Women's relationship to food is also about their relationship with their bodies.

    Recently I was reading some crappy magazine with some crappy food quiz - I got something like 19 out of 20 right. I have quite actively, and sometimes angrily, not cared about nutritional information since my early teens, but I have that knowledge.

    Obviously acquiring that knowledge is gendered, and the question is why. I'm note entirely sure, and I think it's complicated. But I do think one of the reasons boys and men don't acquire it is because it is women's knowledge. And as Tui ads teach us, if you know women's knowledge you do get girl germs and are no longer a man.

  10. Anonymous9:21 am

    looking around me i'd say women def know more about the nutritional value of food than men in my life. perhaps the diet-obsession culture has something to do with it, and the socialised role women play in the family. and perhaps it's about the woman being the first source of food for offspring, so when weaning a child you look for the best and most nutritious food.
    i wonder if this difference in food-knowledge is the reason why women have a longer life span in this culture than the men?

  11. Hmm, I guess my household is the exception to the rule as I never do the grocery shopping- I just can't bear the boredom of it- and, though we both cook, he I am not supposed to blog about does more cooking than I do. He tries more recipes than I do and is a much more hard core vegetarian than I am so he definitely thinks more about food than me. He sews too which I don't. Cleaning though, is definitely more my area of expertise.

  12. I really doubt that the difference in food-knowledge is the reason women have a longer life span. Women I do don't use that knowledge to a particularly constructive end.