The fat of the land


The incredible shrinking Dad observed through a teaspoon of shredded lettuce that it is impossible to get fat if you don’t stick it in your face. I forced away dreams of deep fried potatoes and reminisced about the surfing lessons I gave myself for my fortieth birthday. A dozen, slender, twenty-somethings and one fat old bastard lined up on Belongil Beach. Four hours later, they were complaining about sore calf muscles from balancing on the board. My calf muscles were as good as new. It was my upper arms that caned from trying to haul my fat carcass to the vertical.

It shocked me enough to stop drinking the left over gravy and start running. Exercise is more fun than starvation, in my book.

A dietician friend is hired by the mining companies to help keep their workforce healthy. The catering at the mine is four star and sometimes, the miners go a little silly. Interviewing one fair sized fella, she asked if he ate meat more than once a day. Detecting a certain shiftiness in his response, she probed. He had eaten four steaks for breakfast, every day for a week. We never got to talk about his dinner.

At the turn of last century over seventy five percent of the energy spent doing useful work in the United States was provided by animals or humans. Muscle power dug the ditches, ploughed the fields and pulled the carriages that drove civilisation.

Come the year 2000 and muscle power contributes a fraction of one percent. Machines clean our floors and dishes, knead our bread and carry us around the corner to pick up “stuff” we can’t be bothered making. Sixty percent of car trips in Australian cities are shorter than fifteen minutes. Elbow grease now comes out of a spray can.

The modern tractor, or excavator, is air-conditioned and laser-guided with a CD player on the dash. The notion of a working man, and his shape, is so far removed from that of a century ago as to be completely alien. Pop-Eye was once your average Joe.

I’m not suggesting that we turn off machines altogether, though oil prices may force us to, but it does seem odd to spend money on machines that save us making any effort and then spend more money in the gym on another machine to exercise our wasted muscles.

One story that did not make the papers is that Haitians are suffering kidney failure from the mud-cakes they eat to quell their hunger pangs.

They mix a special yellow clay with salt and fat – no worshipers of Pritikin, these folk – bake them in patty cake tins and take them to market. Traditionally the cakes delivered calcium to pregnant mums but have become a staple food since the grain ran out. Not all of the minerals in these mud cakes are good for you, thus the kidney failure.

If it wasn’t for the food miles involved we could trade hamburgers for mud-pies and solve two problems at the same time.

Giovanni Ebono is the founder and producer of The Generator on Bay FM.

99.9 FM on Mondays between 9 and 11.

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