Sunday, 19 May 2013
How very true that is. When I was young, people had breakfast, dinner and supper, and that was it. They might have had the odd biscuit or slice of cake in between whiles. Nowadays we all have different eating habits. Snacks, sandwiches, full meals, binges. Who knows what I'm eating or what you're eating? The old routines have vanished.
Likewise, when I was small, people mostly just ate what was put in front of them. They weren't especially faddy or particular. But now everyone has their personal likes and dislikes, not to mention allergies and medical problems, and providing meals that cater for all tastes is increasingly difficult.
Again, when I was a kid it was rare for people to eat in the street; it was considered vulgar and improper. Maybe a bag of chips or an ice cream. Anything else had to be eaten indoors. But today people eat absolutely anywhere, regardless of the mess, the smell or the sheer amount they're eating.
And now there are also the huge numbers of people who're anorexic, or bulimic, or grossly overweight, and whose eating habits are even more out of line.
Is it a good thing or a bad thing that the way we eat has become so individual and so unpredictable? Does it encourage unhealthy obsessions and fetishes that are screwing us up? Or does it mean people are free to follow their own bodily needs and not other people's?
Lionel Shriver faced the same dilemma as she watched her brother Greg get heavier and heavier but was powerless to stop him. By the time he died from respiratory failure at 55, he was about 400 pounds. Lionel herself is small and skinny and eats only one meal a day.
So when do we treat someone's eating habits as a personal matter we shouldn't comment on, and when do we say it's a health issue that needs urgent attention? It's a very tricky question.
*Lionel Shriver - American author of "Big Brother", "We Need To Talk About Kevin", "The Post Birthday World" and "So Much for That"