Mine certainly didn’t. She did eat a lot of things that are now frowned upon, in quantities that defy the government approved dietary principles of today. And yet strangely enough, she was thin as a rake her entire life, and pretty healthy too. And her diet didn’t kill her; that was the shock of losing her only daughter that made her give up living. It was her mind that killed her, not her food.
So what did Grandma eat? I spent nearly all my school holidays with her as a teenager, so I am well-versed in that subject.
Lamb was pretty popular. She’d cook up chops in a casserole, and that would last several nights in a row. This is old fashioned lamb too; not the heart smart, lean cuts. Sausages were also popular – and they weren’t anything fancy either. She usually had take-away once a week; either fish and chips, or fried chicken, chips, and a pineapple fritter, cooked by her local store…not a chain fast-food restaurant.
She ate mashed potato, nearly every night, made with full-cream milk and butter. She used a lot of butter in her cooking. She ate toast with butter and Vegemite for breakfast most mornings. Lunch varied; sometimes a sandwich, sometimes leftovers. She never threw food out; always ate it up.
So, what didn’t she eat?
Not a lot of bread…a loaf would easily last her one week. Never pasta, and rice was something that turned up in a rice pudding, not a risotto. She didn’t eat plastic food – the kind of food that has a list of ingredients on the label, half of which are created in laboratories. She didn’t drink soft drink/soda…it was either tea or water. And the water came out of a rainwater tank, which always had a faint tang of kerosene (which she used to pour on top to kill mosquitoes). She didn’t eat breakfast cereal, aside from porridge/oats in the winter, and so avoided all the sugars and flavourings used to make modern cereals attractive.
She grew some of her own food; raspberries, and almonds and tomatoes and beans and peas – I will always remember helping her to shell big bowlfuls of peas. She made some of her own jams too; apricot and plum, and would sometimes make tomato sauce too, if the crop was plentiful. She never bought commercially made cake.
Her diet wasn’t exciting, or rich with the food of other cultures, or balanced according to a government promoted guideline. It was plain,and plentiful, and real. A bit of bread, some meat, potatoes, a few different vegetables, a bit of fruit. Full cream milk, full-fat butter, and white cooking fat if she was frying something. She walked her dog for a couple of miles every morning, and spent a couple of hours per week in her garden. She was quite healthy for all but the last two years of her life, which considering she didn’t undertake weight-bearing exercise to strengthen her bones, or maintain muscle tissue was fairly remarkable…or it would be today. Back when I was young, and spending time with her, most of her counterparts were also in reasonably good health. Heavily overweight people were rare – the morbidly obese we see today were virtually non-existent then. And yet we consider our diets to be so much better today?
There are lessons to be learned here.