Schools That Have Turned Into The Lunchbox Police Are Hindering Not Helping To Improve Children’s Health

Some time ago I wrote about what I considered to be Nanny State nonsense.  A father was strongly criticised by his daughter’s substitute teacher, because she considered the school lunch, he packed for the little girl, was too unhealthy.

The teacher sent a note home with the child demanding that the father promise to do a better job in the future. In the note, the daughter’s substitute teacher, at Kirksville Primary School in Missouri, listed the unhealthy foods in the little girl’s school lunch, which included four chocolate bars, a bag of marshmallows, crackers and a pickle. It ended: “Please see that she packs a proper lunch tomorrow.” The letter was followed by a request for a parental signature, which the father refused to give, because he was so offended by the letter’s contents.

It turns out that the Dad in question, a man called Justin Puckett, also happened to be a family Doctor from Missouri. He posted the contents of the school letter on Facebook. Many might think and some might even say, as a Doctor, Justin Puckett, should know better than to send his daughter to school with a lunch containing so much junk food.  But in his defence, the Doctor and father said “I have the ultimate responsibility to raise my children and I take that role very, very seriously and so maybe I took it bit more personally that there was some offence that maybe I wasn’t doing a good job in that duty, something that is my number one job.”

To be fair, Justin Puckett, also made the point that the teacher did not give an accurate description of what was in his daughter’s lunch: “Unfortunately, the letter didn’t have what she had, correctly. She had four pieces of ham, a whole protein meat, she also had some pickles, which we admittedly cheat on pickles every once and a while as a vegetable, because some fights just aren’t worth having. She also had four marshmallows in a Ziplock bag and then she had three very small pieces of chocolate, of which she ate one for lunch and then she also gave her brother and another friend one at an after school program,” Puckett said.

The reason I want to raise this issue again was prompted by a piece written by columnist Kasey Edwards, claiming that schools have assumed the role of lunchbox police. Suddenly, the morning snack and lunchtime has become a test to see if parents are faithfully following the laws of healthy eating.

Edwards makes the point that what seems like a really good idea, is questionable on whether it has anything, at all, to do with health. In fact, in the quest to promote nutrition, schools may be unintentionally damaging a child’s relationship with food. One school in Brisbane is so strict that children must show their lunch boxes to the class each morning. Quite frankly that is ridiculous and may well be in breach of the child’s rights. Edwards says it is harmful to the well being of children. She claims to  know of one child, so anxious about having ‘bad’ food in his lunchbox, that he doesn’t want to go to school. Another school in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs conducts food inspections at the school gate, prohibiting ‘junk food’ from entering the school grounds. Of course banning anything only succeeds in sending it underground. Some enterprising pre-teens totally got the concept of supply and demand and realised that prohibition, as it was with alcohol in the United States in the 1930s, is a rolled gold marketing opportunity. These young entrepreneurs started a black market in the trafficking of doughnuts behind the school shed. “What more evidence do you need that food policing by schools is dangerous?” says Clinical Psychologist Louise Adams. “It’s teaching kids to hide their eating and to binge eat.” Adams says the risks far outweigh the benefits when it comes to schools having a food policy. “From the US research, we can see that this sort of food policing has not resulted in a reduction of body weight in children,” she says. “As a psychologist specialising in this area, all I can see happening is that children are developing a fear of food. Fear is not going to make children healthy; it’s just going to make their relationship with food disturbed.”

Edwards points out that at two primary schools in Melbourne, children are only allowed to eat fruit, vegetables and yoghurt for morning tea. She says this means by lunchtime, the kids are frequently starving which, is hardly conducive to learning. But even worse, it’s teaching children not to trust their bodies, and to develop an almost hysterical fear of certain foods.

Edwards retells the story of a friend who packed a single biscuit made by grandma for her daughter’s morning tea. The daughter came home feeling embarrassed that she had ‘bad’ food in her lunch box. “I put one biscuit in, not six,” said the friend. “What’s missing from this situation is the love and care that grandma put into making special biscuits for her granddaughter.” Can’t argue with that.

Edwards says as a mother she puts a lot of effort into teaching  her daughter to listen to her body and to decide when she is hungry and when she is full. If she’s hungry and wants two sandwiches for morning tea, then she is encouraged to eat the two sandwiches. Her daughter is never told to ignore her appetite and only eat carrot sticks. Food is never discussed in terms of good, bad or unhealthy. So there is never shame or guilt about what gets eaten. And that is the way it should be.

Edwards goes on to say that the food policies of some schools undermine the efforts of parents to help children develop healthy relationships with food.

It also goes way beyond a school’s authority. Edwards says as a parent, what goes into her child’s lunch box is her decision, based on family values, her intimate knowledge of her child’s current appetite, preferences, wellbeing, the family budget, and what’s in the cupboard.

And as long as it doesn’t threaten the wellbeing and health of other children, then it is none of the school’s business. Clinical Psychologist, Louise Adams’ says her daughter came home from her school on Sydney’s northern beaches last week, upset because she had a muffin for lunch and was told it was unhealthy.”My daughter was told that she should only eat fruit and vegetables and there was such shame on her face, like she’d really done something terrible,” Adams says. “Kids go from just eating food and being in tune with their bodies, to being scared and feeling worried that they are doing something wrong. This is the breeding ground for an eating disorder.”

Adams says that schools should not be delivering health messages about food to children. It is not their place.

“Kids are very black and white,” Adams says.  “Their capacity for nuance is not developed. If we tell them that something is good and something is bad, they believe that absolutely. Then they relate it to themselves, that they are then a good or bad person. Maybe we as parents need some support and help with how to provide a variety of foods to our kids, but it’s psychologically damaging and unnecessary to discuss it with children.”

But in saying this it doesn’t in any way undermine the need to take action to combat the consumption of junk food. The World Health Organisation, warns that diseases linked to lifestyle choices, including diabetes and some cancers, kill 16 million people prematurely each year and urgent action is needed to stop what it describes as a “slow moving, public health disaster”. Unhealthy habits like consuming too much fat, salt and sugar along with smoking and alcohol abuse, are causing an epidemic of diseases, which together constitute the leading cause of death globally. The WHO says this “lifestyle disease” epidemic “ is a much greater public health threat than any other epidemic in human history.

” Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), like cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, and a range of cancers, killed 38 million people around the globe in 2012 — 16 million of them under the age of 70,”  the WHO says. ” Not thousands are dying, but millions are dying … every year in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, not in their 80s and 90s.”

Forty two million children under the age of five are considered to be obese, and an estimated 84 per cent of adolescents do not get enough exercise.

In Australia, for example, some leading health groups have called on the Government to consider introducing a tax on junk food and sugary drinks.

“Despite at least six reports from task forces, obesity summits and research papers in the past 20 years advocating firm measures to stop marketing junk food to children, the advertising of fat, sugar and salt drenched products continues largely unrestricted,” the groups say in a joint statement. “Unless immediate action is taken to address dietary related illness there will be a significant increase in cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.”

And while we clearly need to tackle this epidemic, over-reacting may end up making the problem worse.There is no doubt that the schools are well meaning and want to implement food policies with the best of intentions. But, as Edwards points out, there is scant evidence to show that these policies have resulted in a reduction of childhood obesity and conversely, eating disorders are skyrocketing, so maybe the time has come for schools to consider whether their cure is worse than the disease.

Following A Celebrity Diet Takes Courage And A Certain Kind Of Madness

Personally, I’d rather be dead than live the life of a celebrity. Even if you paid me, I wouldn’t. There’s not enough money in the world for starters. And for a start, neither your life nor your privacy is your own. Not to mention the dieting. Wait a minute. Let’s mention the dieting. Ever wondered how they look so stick thin? Or, as one observer put it, look as if a strong gust of wind, would blow them off their feet? Well yes, cosmetic surgery might have a lot to do with it. The other reason is because they don’t eat. And, even when they do, they don’t eat what anyone would call real food. So, if they don’t eat real food, what, pray tell, do they eat? That is a very good question and one that New York writer Rebecca Harrington pondered and pondered. She eventually discovered what they ate or more importantly didn’t eat. But the discovery was nowhere near enough food, for thought, for Harrington. She needed to walk in their shoes and literally eat what they ate. So she did. The result was more than a year spent sampling 14 of the wackiest celebrity diets on the planet, all of it taking place in her West Village kitchen. Then she wrote a book about her experiences called ‘I’ll Have What She’s Having.’ It details what she describes as her brave journey into the madness of the slimming regimens of the fabulous and the famous. It was a coming of age for Harrington in more ways than just writing about crazy diets. No paying just lip service, this was full on walk the walk. Harrington whipped raw eggs into warm milk for breakfast because that’s what Marilyn Munroe did. “I understand now why her life was so hard,” the 29-year-old Harrington says. She believes Marilyn Monroe’s food habits were those of an unhappy person. “She ate in an illogical way, having things like raw eggs in milk, then nothing all day, steak and carrots for dinner and then a hot fudge sundae late at night.” On the Munroe diet and with her blood sugar levels going completely crazy, Harrington didn’t lose any weight. But, she did almost faint into a subway grate, which, of course, was nothing like Marilyn’s iconic, white dress moment.

Harrington says she can only admire the iron willpower of celebrities and their diets, coming to the conclusion that only someone who is constantly photographed in their bikini, or their underwear, would want to put up with such misery. As part of her research, Harrington scoured magazines for the weirdest recommendations of anyone qualified by a famous name and zero expertise, from Cameron Diaz to Pippa Middleton to Karl Lagerfeld. Harrington says that in instances where a celebrity hadn’t written a cookbook, all she had to do was Google a star’s name followed by “diet” and she got “a million results.” Then she modelled her life on each one for 10 days at a time, if she could ‘stomach it.’

On “The Karl Lagerfeld Diet,” Harrington drank diet Coke all day, then at night she would desperately probe for any speck of meat from the diet’s prescribed protein in the form of a tiny quail. “A quail is entirely claw, ” Harrington says. “ I don’t know how it became a French delicacy.” Harrington found Sophia Loren’s diet to be particularly harsh. “She has these delicious pasta recipes but the amount you can eat is so small that for the rest of the day all you can think about is how you want to eat more pasta.”

Elizabeth Taylor’s 1988 diet book was called “Elizabeth Takes Off.” Harrington followed the plan for two weeks claiming it was a huge challenge. “She ate the grossest food I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Harrington says. “And I was hungry all the time.” And there were days when she found she just couldn’t stomach a Taylor meal. For example, the night she put a piece of steak on bread slathered with peanut butter, Harrington says she gagged and couldn’t finish it. Another Taylor recipe called for mixing tuna fish with tomato paste, scallions, grapefruit and mayonnaise. The food was so appalling, that Harrington basically starved herself thin. She lost 6 pounds. “I think Liz was drunk all the time,” is how Harrington explains Taylor’s wacky diet. “It turned my stomach.”

But Harrington says Elizabeth Taylor sounded like a fun person. Greta Garbo not so much. In fact the Garbo diet could best be described in a way not dissimilar to her name. “Every recipe contained something disgusting,” says Harrington. “There was raw eggs and orange juice, or this awful celery loaf with loads of pureed celery, spices and breadcrumbs.” Garbo followed the advice of nutritionist Gayelord Hauser, who trumpeted the benefits of “wonder foods” like yeast, molasses and wheat germ.

The prize for having the most effective of all the celebrity diets went to Beyonce. Harrington says she decided to first try the Master Cleanse that Beyoncé used to slim her curves followed by the Herculean diet she devised to lose the pregnancy weight following the birth of her daughter. The Master Cleanse entails drinking lemonade dosed with cayenne pepper and maple syrup up to 12 times a day. “Master Cleanse is the scariest diet ever because after a while you lose all desire for solid food,” says Harrington. “But the minute you eat solids foods you love solid foods again.” Next up was Beyoncé’s post pregnancy diet on which the new mother lost 60 pounds over three months. Harrington found the protein rich menu really hard particularly since she combined it with a two hour, daily workout just like Beyonce. Typically she’d begin the day with egg whites, then turkey and capers for lunch, snack on cucumbers in vinegar and finish with yellowtail sashimi for dinner. In 10 days, Harrington shed 10 pounds — making Beyoncé’s combined diets the biggest loser in body weight.

And what did she make of the somewhat eccentric Gwyneth Paltrow? Harrington says she is an admirer. “I can’t help it, I like her.”. And she loved eating like Paltrow, following the recipes in the star’s cookbook, “It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great.” But there was one drawback with the Paltrow way that was pretty much a deal breaker. “Oh my God, it’s so expensive,” Harrington says. “I’m still suffering from how much I spent.” Just buying a week’s worth of basics was US$155 and after that, Harrington says, it seemed like she was constantly paying for expensive fresh fish. Harrington says the food was good and when she served Paltrow’s fish tacos at a dinner party one night, her friends couldn’t stop raving about them. Over 10 days, Harrington lost four pounds. “If you were a millionaire, it’s not only the best way to diet but the best way to live,” says Harrington. “The food is delicious.”

In the discipline stakes there was no going past Madonna’s macrobiotic diet. Her regimen eliminates wheat, eggs, dairy and meat while concentrating on “something called sea vegetables.” And, it includes a total ban on sugar. “It’s incredible, she cuts almost everything out of her diet,” Harrington says. “She’s super disciplined and awesome, but the diet is unsustainable.” Harrington followed a cookbook written by Madonna’s former chef, Mayumi Nishimura, titled “Mayumi’s Kitchen.” She also purchased the “Addicted to Sweat” DVDs from Madonna’s trainer, Nicole Winhoffer. Already suffering from recipes where a complete meal consisted of barley combined with seaweed, Harrington found she could barely follow the “insanely difficult” workouts. “I’m basically dying on this diet,” she wrote in her book. “I don’t know how Madonna lives.”

Victoria Beckham’s diet was just too hard. “It’s one of those diets where you eat an impossibly small amount of food and then declare yourself full,” Harrington says. Beckham’s Five Hands Diet isn’t original but Harrington says Beckham always makes a lot of noise about whatever super strict diet she’s following in the moment. Beckham claims that Five Hands was how she lost the baby weight following the birth of her daughter. According to Harrington, you only eat five handfuls of food a day. And she was surprised to learn that the allowable portions are not really the size of a full hand, but only the amount that fits into a palm. Harrington found she could fit two small eggs into her palm, but had difficulty measuring the kale smoothie. She lasted only one day, before switching over to Beckham’s other diet, the Honestly Healthy alkaline diet. She purchased the book Beckham tweeted about, “Eating the Alkaline Way,” by Natasha Corrett and Vicki Edgson. One recipe had her making falafel from seeds and carrots. It wasn’t a success, just a mess. The next meal was soybean broth with vegetables. It was so terrible, Harrington says that she threw it away. Harrington lasted 2 1/2 days and lost no weight at all.

Harrington’s commitment to her research is revealing and truly disturbing. She suffered through bad skin, mystery rashes and salmonella in her quest to live the celebrity life. “I was incredibly hungry on every diet,” she says. “A lot of them made me feel ill. I left feeling bad for them. People are obsessed with celebrity diets. It’s one of the most commonly asked questions.”

But is it really what the celebrities are eating? “I have no idea,” Harrington says. “They could all just be eating nothing and smoking cigarettes.”  Sounds about right to me.

The Doctor Taken To Task For Including Junk Food In His Daughter’s School Lunch

Now here is something really thought provoking. A father was strongly criticised by his daughter’s substitute teacher, because she considered the school lunch, he packed for the little girl, was too unhealthy.

I can’t say I’ve ever heard of that happening, but maybe it needs to happen more often than it has.

The teacher sent a note home with the child demanding that the father promise to do a better job in the future. In the note, the daughter’s substitute teacher, at Kirksville Primary School in Missouri, listed the unhealthy foods in the little girl’s school lunch, which included four chocolate bars, a bag of marshmallows, crackers and a pickle. It ended: “Please see that she packs a proper lunch tomorrow.” The letter was followed by a request for a parental signature, which the father refused to give, because he was so offended by the letter’s contents.

Wait. There’s more. Here’s where the story gets really interesting.

The Dad in question, a man called Justin Puckett, also happens to be a family Doctor from Missouri. He posted the contents of the letter on Facebook.

Now I am sure many will think, some might even say, as a Doctor, Justin Puckett, should know better than to send his daughter to school with a lunch containing so much junk food.  In his defense, the Doctor and father said “I have the ultimate responsibility to raise my children and I take that role very, very seriously and so maybe I took it bit more personally that there was some offence that maybe I wasn’t doing a good job in that duty, something that is my number one job.”

Of course a cynic might say if it’s your number one job Justin, you need to be doing it better.

To be fair, Justin Puckett, also made the point that the teacher did not give an accurate description of what was in his daughter’s lunch: “Unfortunately, the letter didn’t have what she had, correctly. She had four pieces of ham, a whole protein meat, she also had some pickles, which we admittedly cheat on pickles every once and a while as a vegetable, because some fights just aren’t worth having. She also had four marshmallows in a Ziploc bag and then she had three very small pieces of chocolate, of which she ate one for lunch and then she also gave her brother and another friend one at an after school program,” Puckett said.

The school later called the family to apologise saying the substitute teacher was out of order. The school released a statement saying: “we had an individual take it upon themselves to send a note home to parents ……this will not happen again.”

Puckett went on to say “The issue isn’t what happened at the Primary School and with my daughter because she is very independent and going to be completely unaffected by this. But what does bother me is that it just seems that we are constantly being inundated with the inability to be parents of our children,”

Has Puckett got a point? Or was the substitute teacher in the wrong here? In the court of public opinion I am not so sure. The substitute teacher obviously takes her job very seriously. She sees herself as an educator whose role is to promote healthy minds and bodies. She thought she was doing the right thing. No way could that school lunch be said to be healthy. The child might have got away with one piece of chocolate but if you were to ask any nutritionist, four pieces of chocolate and a bag of marshmallows is definitely a bridge too far. Now, you might think it silly to be having an argument over some junk food. But what isn’t silly is the latest missive from the World Health Organisation, warning that diseases linked to lifestyle choices, including diabetes and some cancers, kill 16 million people prematurely each year and urgent action is needed to stop what it describes as a “slow moving, public health disaster”. Unhealthy habits like consuming too much fat, salt and sugar along with smoking and alcohol abuse, are causing an epidemic of diseases, which together constitute the leading cause of death globally. The WHO says this “lifestyle disease” epidemic “ is a much greater public health threat than any other epidemic in human history.

” Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), like cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, and a range of cancers, killed 38 million people around the globe in 2012 — 16 million of them under the age of 70, the WHO says. ”  Not thousands are dying, but millions are dying … every year in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, not in their 80s and 90s.”

Forty two million children under the age of five are considered to be obese, and an estimated 84 per cent of adolescents do not get enough exercise.

In Australia, for example, some leading health groups have called on the Government to consider introducing a tax on junk food and sugary drinks. The Consumers Health Forum, the Heart Foundation, the Obesity Policy Coalition and the Public Health Association of Australia are calling on the government to take decisive action to end the widespread marketing of junk food and drink. The groups surveyed 1016 people, and 50 per cent supported a government imposed tax on junk food and sugary drinks, similar to the tax on alcohol and tobacco. The research also showed 79 per cent of people believe if a child’s intake of junk food is not lowered they will live shorter lives than their parents. Seventy-seven per cent of people polled, support making it compulsory for all packaged foods to have a health star rating. Eighty five per cent of people surveyed, say unhealthy eating habits is now a major problem for Australian children. It is the first time four major health groups have joined forces to demand action from the Government, which they say is now urgent.

“Despite at least six reports from task forces, obesity summits and research papers in the past 20 years advocating firm measures to stop marketing junk food to children, the advertising of fat, sugar and salt drenched products continues largely unrestricted,” the groups say in a joint statement. “Unless immediate action is taken to address dietary related illness there will be a significant increase in cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.” Heart Foundation National CEO, Mary Barry believes introducing a tax will help protect Australian children and stem the cost of obesity in this country which is estimated at $56 billion a year. “The obesity crisis is threatening a whole generation of children,” Ms Barry said.

Those are compelling reasons for why a dispute over four chocolates and a bag of marshmallows isn’t so inconsequential after all and why a father and a doctor should know better, and a substitute teacher might not have been so out of order in reminding him.

The Diet That’s Got Everyone Talking But They’re Not Eating Anything, That Passes For Food

If it’s true that you are what you eat, and if social media is any guide, not many people would want to be British juice queen, Kara Rosen, founder of the juice company, Plenish.

Rosen decided it would be a good idea to unleash her ‘day on a plate’ diet to shock the world out of its unhealthy lethargy into what she considers to be healthy living. So she published her diet, it in all of its glory, in a British newspaper.

It would be fair to say there are a lot of diets, and stories about diets,  doing the rounds these days. You can take your pick. There’s the Paleo diet with activated almonds whatever they might be, no carbs, all liquid and the list goes on. But I don’t think Kara Rosen quite anticipated the worldwide reaction to her diet that bases nearly a whole day’s food intake around a kale salad with pistachios, olives, dried cherries, Argan oil and a drop of apple cider vinegar. It’s certainly a diet because it clearly doesn’t involve much of what most people would call food.

Here is a typical Kara Rosen day. You be the judge. It begins with some hot water and lemon before her morning shower before her workout. Then that’s followed by a handful of nuts before weight training or a run. She then has two scrambled egg whites (Rosen doesn’t like yolk) green tea and when she feels like a weekend treat, an almond milk cappuccino. As for the almond milk cappuccino, I can think of a number of things to call it, but weekend treat, I can safely say, would not be one of them.

Rosen’s biggest meal of the day, wait for it, consists of kale salad, pistachio nuts, olives, dried cherries, Argan oil and a single drop of apple cider vinegar, sometimes with brown rice and grilled fish. A Kara Rosen ‘carby’ lunch, as she calls it, consists of two rice cakes, chia seeds and avocado.

You might not be too surprised to learn that, generally speaking, nutritionists are not impressed with the ‘day on a plate’ diet. In fact not only were they singularly unimpressed, they seriously questioned whether Rosen would be able to survive on such a diet.

The Dietitians Association of Australia was asked to comment on the Rosen diet. Spokesperson, Milena Katz said, in her view, it was “ unrealistic for most people.” I think you’d call that a masterful piece of understatement. Katz made a valiant attempt to break it all down. “ A pack of dried cherries would cost about $A50 a kilo based on fresh cherries being $A20, “ Kata said. “ And I haven’t seen Argan oil for consumption in Australia. It’s been advertised as a hair product.”

Ouch.

Katz said clearly Kara Rosen doesn’t eat certain food groups such as dairy and that might be because she is allergic to certain foods. “ Some people are fine without dairy,” Katz said. “ as long as they are replacing it with supplements. But the majority of people wouldn’t because they don’t know what they are.”

Katz has a description for the obsession some people have about what they eat. She calls it ‘orthorexia nervosa’ An unhealthy fixation with otherwise healthy eating.

“ Generally, we’re seeing that more people are, very, very concerned with what they’re eating,” Katz said. “ And they are potentially excluding good food that they (wrongly) perceive as unhealthy. Normal eating, is eating a bit of everything and having treats on special occasions.”

Now we are talking. Finally a bit of sensible, common-sense advice.

Social media had no shortage of advice for Kara Rosen and her diet. A lot of it was gratuitous and mocking and unkind but pretty funny.

Here are some examples where people have offered their own versions of a ‘day on a plate’ :

“ 7am. Two glasses of deionized water with half a pound of cotton wool. 7.10am 12 specks of dust spread evenly on a 4 “ square of corrugated cardboard. Maybe even a leaf. 12.30pm Two large gulps of free range oxygen. A homemade French abstract lasagna. 3pm A Kit-Kat wrapper. 6.30pm Feng Shui cottage pie with two pipettes of dish water. 10pm Sawdust.

Harriet Ball @ haz_rose: “How to have a #miserable day.”

Charlotte Henry @ charlottehenry : seriously, it is one of the most depressing things I’ve read.”

And Adam Liaw @ admaliaw: “ My day on a plate. 5am wake up and check emails. 6am 10 km run. 7am yoga and a green smoothie. 9am KFC double. 10am cup of ghee. 11am bed.”

Finally, this comment: : “ You’ve accidently given me food that my food eats.”

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Social media went completely nuts about the Rosen ‘day on a plate’ diet.

The key question worth asking is why do we care? Why would it cause such a strong reaction?  According to Cultural Studies commentator and academic, Doctor Lauren Rosewarne, we care because of the way it makes us feel about our own bodies. She says the ‘day on a plate’ phenomenon gives us leverage to look into how other people live their lives, and what sort of food they eat or don’t eat and in what quantities. “ There is also the comparison factor, “ Rosewarne says. “ How do they eat compared to how I eat? This can make us feel better or worse about ourselves and there’s a lot of guilt surrounding food in our culture.”

Ironically, Rosewarne thinks that social media is largely responsible for the almost instant dissemination of information or indignation about fad diets, especially when someone is preaching about their food choices. She says it is a particularly sensitive issue in western culture.

“Once upon a time, it all stayed in the magazine that came out as a Sunday supplement,”  Rosewarne says. ” But now these columns (like Rosen’s) get a life of their own, thanks to social media.”  Rosewarne says what people really despise,  are people like Kara Rosen, who choose to preach a “ holier-than-thou approach to food consumption, which is fast becoming a cultural irritant that refuses to go away.”

“ We just don’t want to be preached to by non-health experts, “ Rosewarne says.

No we don’t.

Who Killed The Sponge Cake?

I am in mourning. I want to know what happened to a magnificent Australian institution. Well it was when I was growing up. I’m talking about the mighty sponge cake. You know the one I mean. It’s so light and fluffy it floats on air filled full of fresh cream and passionfruit and dusted in icing sugar. It gets my lips smacking just thinking about it. Where has it gone? You can’t get it anywhere these days for love or money.

Well you can if you look really hard. It’s now the exclusive domain of that secret society of female brethren….the country women’s association who perfected the art of the sponge cake as well as scones, jam and cream.

Making the perfect sponge is a gastronomique challenge if ever there was one.

The margin of error between triumph and catastrophe is so small it doesn’t bear thinking about. Get it right and you’ll put a smile on the face of even someone with the sourest of temperaments. Get it wrong and all you’ve created is a cream filled frisbee.  That reminds me. I must get my hands on the much coveted Country Women’s recipe book.

But the fact is the sponge cake seems destined to only get star billing at once a year venues like the Sydney Royal Easter Show. Why should we have to wait a year just to get a slice of airy fairy delight I ask?

I blame TV cooking shows like Master Chef and so called patissiers like Adriano Zumbo and his macarons. It’s all French merde if you ask me. He’s driven the sponge cake away. Too old fashioned. Not trendy enough. Well to hell with it.

History reserves a place for the kinds of things that remain true to self. You only have to look at the worldwide cupcake revival. Now there’s a little institution if ever there was one and people are loving them. We’re awash with cupcakes.

But I really do think it’s about time we all stood up for the humble sponge and returned it to its rightful place front and centre among all of the other afternoon tea comestibles. And you can add lamingtons, custard tarts and cream buns while you are at it.