OPINION

Greeks eating badly

Recent studies on Greeks’ eating habits confirmed a longstanding theory: Nutritional patterns follow rapid changes in lifestyles, the working environment and public attitudes. Unfortunately, the change is not always for the better. A more rapid pace of life and greater stress is having an effect on our eating habits: We eat out, quickly, mechanically and, often, too much. The ritual of the midday meal round the family table has been abolished because of the incompatible timetables of the family members. The family dinner has, in turn, become a victim of television. People, usually exhausted at the end of a hard day’s work, wrap it up by eating dully in front of their TV screen. The consumption of fattening foods while staring at the box is responsible for the alarming increase in the number of obese people. Overweight people tend to be keen television viewers. They eat, or rather chew mechanically, in between TV programs. In contrast to the couch, snacks and TV routine, there is at the same time a growing trend for eating out. Eating out marks a new type of sociability. It is an old habit which is always being revived. People are united around a table. However, these days, eating out seems to above all serve a practical need: Heavy work loads and accumulated fatigue have taken their toll on home cooking. Restaurant meals are overloaded with sauces, spices and fats. Worse, they are served to people who need a low-fat diet. Thus we see the rise of a vicious circle. Pressured by the dominant modern lifestyle, Greek urbanites have no time to prepare their own meals or even pick the ingredients for cooking a decent meal. As a result, they resort to prepackaged fare or they eat out. Nutrition has escaped our control. To be sure, it is hard or even impossible to change one’s working environment or the structure of urban life. However, it is not so hard to control one’s food, its quality and the environment in which it is consumed. We do not lack information on the subject, nor have we lost the inherited knowledge of the famous Mediterranean cuisine, which is so often the subject of scientific praise. Resisting the food-in-front-of-the-box habit, keeping meat consumption to reasonable levels, and bringing fruit and vegetables back to the table are all a question of culture – as is laying the table for the family. Eating out only has meaning when it is the context for social intercourse with friends and family.