Friday, 3 September 2010


'D'ye fancy a Glesga' Salad?' asked the Glaswegian waiter.

'Fit's a Glasgow Salad,' replied the confused, but hungry, Aberdonian.

'Och, it's a big poke o' chips wi' two pickled onions on the top.'

There's nothing like a decent jibe at ourselves to tickle the humour valves of many a tartan heart. And there's plenty of material involving food since a number of choice dishes in Scotland are hilariously unhealthy. Really, it's just as well we can laugh, although we should, of course, be appalled...the amount of fat, sugar, salt and other naughty delights stashed into the Scottish diet is enough to stop those tartan hearts well before their time.

I hate to deflate the thrill of that Deep Fried Mars Bar you were about to scoff with your Hot Chocolate Marshmallow Sundae, but this is a frightening fact. We know that most of the western world is putting on too much weight and not taking enough physical exercise, but within Europe we Scots are amongst the worst culprits. Researchers into these matters have recently declared that Scots are the most unhealthy of the four nations in Britain. We drink more, we smoke more and we eat more junk. As a result of all this over-indulgence, our life expectancy is lower than people south of the border. Men in Scotland could expect to live to 75 years, women to 79.9, while in England, male life expectancy is 77.7 years and female 81.9. We now have the highest death rates from heart disease and lung cancer and the second highest death rates from stroke in Western Europe.

What the blazes is going on? Why are we like this? Some might say 'well DUH, it's obvious if you eat, drink and smoke to the ludicrous extent that you do'. I always think it must get awfully dull for GPs to keep having to tell patients to stop indulging in rubbish when they know they'll have to repeat the same message to the same people before they see either a negative or a positive outcome (I think that's how medics put it).

So perhaps we should do that very British thing of blaming the weather. The Scottish climate may not be the loveliest, but it's not the worst one either, and when the sun DOES shine, the place is positively award-winning. (Come see, if you're not here already.)

So is there something in our Scots genes that makes us prone to indulge? We don't know that yet, but some boffinish types have their suspicions, so we'll have to hope enough cash is found to keep doing research into these matters.

Perhaps the statistics reflect the considerable levels of deprivation that still exist in our society....where poverty creates depression, seeking solace through unwise substances is not uncommon. And Scotland, sadly, still has horrifying levels of deprivation in certain places.

But I have another suggestion. It was around lunchtime when I watched a bloke in a suit park his car while stuffing a sandwich into his gob. Without removing the sarnie from his nashers, he jumped out of the car, locked it, checked his watch, frowned, swore, and ran up the road with his briefcase in one hand and his mobile wedged between ear and shoulder. It was Stress-On-Legs, and it made me sigh.

A recent French study has found that HOW people eat can affect their health, not just WHAT they eat. The French have always taken meals very, very seriously as we know....but now, what with the recession, long working hours and all, even THEY have been skipping the three course lunch-around-a-table in favour of a hasty and solitary slurp between meetings. And guess what? Their health is apparently suffering. It seems that food should be enjoyed with others, in a sociable setting around a table, where the participants are likely to eat less, more slowly. 'Breaking bread together' might be more important than we thought, and meals should not be seen as mere nourishment for the body, but for the mind and the soul too.

Let's do lunch.


  1. Yes please and the place in the picture I would definitely like to visit. However it is lunch on my own today reminding myself of what a specialist long ago told me: chew each bite fifty times (it is a lot, I can tell you). I won't get to fifty often but it has taught me to be more mindful of what and how I am eating and I have grown used to being last in finishing whatever meal we are taking...

  2. Bon know there's a 'slow food' movement? I wonder if there's a 'slow eating' one too.