Recipe for an austerity dinner

Here’s a recipe for an austerity dinner (less than 5 euros for two people), with a bit of political/economic geography thrown into the mix.

To serve two people, you will need:

One can of tuna steak (200g) – – the tuna I have in front of me was caught in the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean under the John West Foods label, based in Liverpool.

One (150g) can of sweetcorn – – the can I have is Green Giant, a brand of the General Mills corporation; the corn was grown in France

The juice of half a lemon – – the one I used was a product of Spain

Some spring onions – – I used Irish ones

Some salt and pepper – – not sure of origin, sorry!

Three nests of medium egg noodles – – these were produced in China and imported by Blue Dragon, a label of the AB World Foods Ltd, which has an address in Lancashire, UK.

Some Mayonnaise – – I used Hellman’s; it was produced in England

Some Sesame Oil – – I used Blue Dragon brand and they imported it from Taiwan

Origins of my austerity dinner

Instructions:

Mix together in a bowl the tuna, sweetcorn, lemon juice, chopped spring onions and salt and pepper. Shouldn’t take you long.

Then, cook the nests of egg noodles for 4 minutes in a bowl of boiling water. Drain the water, throw some sesame oil in there, mix a wee bit, then add just about 2 teaspoons of mayonnaise. Mix it well.

Now divide the noodles into two bowls and then add some of the tuna-sweetcorn mixture on top. There you go. Enjoy. It’s a tasty wee meal.

The political/economic geography:

This is what I call austerity food. It’s cheap and cheerful – – just about 5 euros for two people and there might even be a bit left over for someone’s lunch. But although it’s austere in my mind, it’s obviously an expensive option for hundreds of millions, if not billions of others. While I boast about my fancy dinner that costs less than 5 euros, just under, or perhaps more than, one billion people are suffering chronic hunger. Admittedly, not too many of them are in Taiwan but a good chunk are in China and even 8% of the Seychelles population was undernourished in the period 2006-08 (see here). The point is that my austerity munch originates in part from countries where austere meals have an entirely different meaning. Maybe one shouldn’t dwell on this, especially when trying to enjoy the meal, but then, maybe, we should.

And maybe we should also dwell on one other thing here: General Mills, the canner and mover of my sweetcorn. A corporation with a market capitalizaton of about $25 billion and annual revenues of $16 billion. It has been doing well, returning profits to its shareholders ($2.56 per share in 2012), cutting its operating costs, and acquiring new businesses (in an effort to grow and stay in the same sort of league as the real food giants – – Kraft, Unilever, and Nestle). Could I eat without these corporations? Are they needed in today’s world? Are the profits they must make to stay in business a reasonable social cost for global society as a whole to bear? Exactly what sort of world – what sort of foodscape – do these corporations produce? And what sort of world do they want to produce? These sorts of questions aren’t usually on our minds when we sit down to eat, but like the point I posed above, maybe they should be. My austerity dinner is underpinned by legal instruments, financial arrangements, trade regulations and agreements, production complexes, actual producers on the ground or in the sea, and all manner of ecological subsidies (transportation fuel, fertilizer, groundwater, etc.). It’s grand for me that I can afford to eat like this, but what is the true cost of doing so?

Alistair Fraser

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3 comments

  1. Brendan O'Connor · · Reply

    “…more than, one billion people are suffering chronic hunger… even 8% of the Seychelles population was undernourished in the period 2006-08”

    You seem to be unaware of a food crisis affecting even more people in the Seychelles, obesity. According to the latest figures available 25.1% of the population have a BMI equal to or greater than 30, which is an obesity rate almost twice that of Ireland.

    As I see it there are two main causes of the obesity epidemic that affects the West, as well as lesser developed nations. The first is linked to the divorce that is occurring between the production of food from agriculture, hunting or fishing and its consumption. Those that do not work to produce their food, appreciate it less, and are more inclined to over-consume.

    Secondly, development is often accompanied by the growth in sales of energy rich foods. It is not just the obviously sugar enriched foods such as cakes, biscuits and chocolate that are to blame, but processed foods in general cram more calories into each serving.

    In the case of the Seychelles the question must be asked if obesity is a direct consequence of economic development of the islands, through tourism ? As a result, fishermen have become hotel employees, and food imported to appeal to foreign tourists is now replacing indigenous diets.

    SOURCE : http://www.indexmundi.com/g/r.aspx?c=se&v=2228

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  2. Great comment, thanks Brendan. You’re right, I wasn’t aware of the obesity problem in the Seychelles. It’s certainly a problem in lots of places. My point was obviously to connect my consumption with hunger in places like the Seychelles but you’re right to connect it to other health issues. I’ve done a tiny, small bit of work on Mexico’s obesity crisis, so I’ll try to post something soon and try to connect it to the Seychelles (and India, which is also a standout case).

    Alistair

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    1. Brendan O'Connor · · Reply

      If you examine the World league tables for obesity levels, a strange pattern is easily spotted.
      Amongst those at the top of the table are a surprising number of small, oceanic, island groups such as the Cook Islands, Nauru, Samoa; each of which has an obesity level greater than 50% for the entire population, 15 years and older.
      Because the Seychelles is also a small, oceanic, island group, I decided to compare its obesity level.

      Although the Seychelles problem is not currently as severe as the examples cited, if there are factors linked to physical geography driving obesity levels, then the Seychelles may have to face a future health epidemic where the majority of the adult population is obese.

      SOURCE :
      http://data.un.org/Data.aspx?d=GenderStat&f=inID%3a43

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