Couldn’t resist posting this… Australians, who we are..

Published in The Sun-Herald, 13/1/2008 by David Dale.

"Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are," said the French philosopher Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in 1826. "A strong cup of tea and an iced Vo Vo" said the Australian politician Kevin Rudd in 2007, suggesting how to celebrate Labor's election victory. So that's what he thinks of us?

Well of course not. Rudd was parodying the traditional teatime of the 1950s for which John Howard held such nostalgia. If he'd meant to describe this nation in the Noughties, Rudd would have said "a skim latte and two Tim Tams".
bikkies.jpg Our coffee consumption (2.4 kg per person per year) is more than double our tea consumption. The Tim Tam (invented in 1964) outsells the Vo Vo (invented in 1906) more than ten to one. In fact, Australians eat 380 million of the insidious cuboids a year.

But that's not to say we're a nation of bikkiephiliacs. Our annual consumption rate of 7kg of biscuits per person falls well behind the American rate of 9kg per person. Nor are we a nation of chocoholics — the average Australian consumes 4.4kg of chocolate a year, while the British eat 9.2kg each a year and the Swiss consume 11.3kg each.

So if we're not chocolate biscuits, what are we? According to a survey of 1700 eaters by the economic analysts Bis Shrapnel, we're sangers and chips. Look at this chart:

Australia's most purchased takeaway foods: 1 Sandwiches; 2 Hot chips; 3 Hamburgers; 4 Cakes/ pastries; 5 Chinese food; 6 Pizza; 7 Fried or grilled fish; 8 Ice cream; 9 Meat pies; 10 Filled rolls.

Apparently every Australian buys 20 sandwiches and 18 orders of potato chips a year, as part of an expenditure of $9 billion on 1.4 billion takeaway meals – up 3 per cent on the early Noughties.

To me, this news is more depressing than the notion we might be the land of tea and Vo Vos. I've nothing against the chip, but I must confess a bias against the sandwich that began when my mother got into the habit of sending me to school with white bread slices squashed round spaghetti from a tin.

Spaghetti sandwiches have no swapping value and by lunchtime they're so soggy your thumb goes straight through them. Now that I'm grown up, I will never eat a sandwich again, not even when it's disguised with a trendy name like focaccia.

pt_doughnut.jpg Obviously millions of Australians were never traumatised by their school lunches. The only good news in the Bis Shrapnel survey is that over this decade our consumption of sandwiches and chips has remained static (the way they do in the gut), while our order of Chinese takeaways has risen from six a year in the early Noughties to nine now. Chinese is apparently most popular with eaters over 35, while sushi is the Asian choice for people aged 18 to 24 and Thai for people between 25 and 35. That sounds pretty progressive.

Now back to the bad news: Hamburgers are declining in popularity, while rolls are rising (reflected in Subway outlets – 851 of them — now outnumbering McDonald's outlets).

I don't care how they dress them up, filled rolls are still a form of sandwich. It would take only the slightest hint of economic downturn for unscrupulous operators to start filling them with tinned spaghetti. And then society would be on the toboggan.

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15 responses

  1. Go the ice cream!Personally I believe that everything in our lives can tell us about who we are – we just need to know how to interpret the data correctly and work out what it means… I think its good there is now more subway than maccas.. but obviously we still like junk food, which I'm sure is a trend that exists all around the western world…

  2. You count Subway as "filled rolls" rather than "sandwiches" down there? Or did I misread something?
    Spaghetti sandwiches sound truly horrifying. I always had alfalfa sprouts on whole grain bread, as my mom was a hippie health nut type, and those have no trading value either. I still eat them, though, so I guess I wasn't too badly traumatized.

  3. I think it is a very good positive trend to see more Subway than Maccas – I don't think we are going to lessen up on the amount of convenience foods we eat as our lifestyles are just too busy and mothers have/want to work giving them less time to prepare home cooked meals. I would like to see the convenience and fast foods improve their quality to a healthier level – but maybe that has to come from the populace first demanding it.

  4. When Sam was in preschool they used to send any uneaten lunches home so you could see what/whether they were eating. One day I had given him a treat of Nutella on his sandwich and it came home without the gladwrap even being disturbed. I asked him why he didn't eat his lunch and he replied:Because you put dirt on it!!!

  5. I'm actually not keen on Iced Vo Vos – but they have the greatest name!! And they have lovely pink icing on them.Thanks for reading my post and for being interested enough to research it. 🙂

  6. Yes we consider a sandwich to be some filling between two slices of bread not a roll. If I wanted a roll from a sandwich bar I would order by saying "can I have a roll with lettuce, tomato etc"LOL @ the alfalfa sandwiches – definitely no trade value to another kid.

  7. I actually prefer a sausage roll and it is one of the first things I have whenever I get home. Meat pies are pretty quintessentially Australian though (like football & Holden cars! 🙂 ).

  8. Yep – we start off by giving babies rusks covered in vegemite and then soldiers of toast. I think you have to be brought up with it to like it. I have given many Americans a taste and only a couple have said they would have it again (and they might have just been being polite!!).My daughter is holidaying with me at the moment and got some sort of tummy bug during the night. When I got home from work a few minutes ago she said "mum, can you make me toast and vegemite". It is the perfect comfort food!!I have to admit there are days when I also need some of that comfort.

  9. No – that era is well behind the slick new public service. It is interesting though, in my Department, which is Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, we have a former tea lady. She still speaks limited English and is the only person employed by the Department who doesn't have a computer on her desk. But they've found her a job delivering things and doing bits and pieces. She is genuinely committed and loyal and I think it is nice that they have made the effort to actually keep her employed, even if she doesn't fit as neatly into the world which has clearly changed around her.

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