I have a two and a half year old. Dinner times can sometimes be described as a cyclonic typhoon whirling through the living room and at others a celestial, angelic moment bestowed from heaven. Just depends whether or not there are vegetables on his plate.
The healthy eating agenda in the UK is strictly implemented in nursery provisions and I have witnessed first hand a child who at home, would rather stick a pea in his nose than eat it but at nursery demolish a plate full of veggies because his friends are eating them too. Every snack and meal is well balanced, with fruit and vegetable high on the agenda. Even the UK secondary school canteen which was once awash with yellowy-orange now has hues of green.
However, my child who actively asked for carrots and cabbage is now turning away from them and I can only sadly surmise that it is again it is because of peer pressure and the lack of vegetables in the food we/he eats.
And yes of course, I take full responsibility for his healthy eating but living in Thailand has left me with a conundrum that isn't easily solved.
One of the biggest surprises was the lack of kitchen facilities in the homes we have rented thus far, I have friends who have full kitchens but generally that is the exception, not the norm. So we tried to shop. Shop like we did at home but that isn't possible or practical. The supermarkets are expensive especially those who try to emulate its western counterparts and I am not au fait with Thai vegetables or the language to have a conversation about how to cook, peel, slice, dice, cube or cremate. My cooking skills which would have been awarded Satisfactory are now Inadequate.
My long held belief that Thai food was generally very healthy has diminished fast. The diet of rice is generally healthy- the accoutrements of creamy sauces and fried meats are not. Turning to the street stalls, the variety is there but every dish from pad to kao is covered in sugar and salt- a dietary nightmare for diabetics, heart and stroke patients. This is real ticking time-bomb for the future health of Thailand. But with street food so readily and cheaply available compared to the supermarkets, I wonder what alternatives there really are for people.
Our village swimming pool is next to our local Thai school and at lunchtime, the pupils convene in the cafe area of the pool where fried delights such as chicken and chips are served, they also pile in and out of 7/11 with microwaved burgers and fizzy drinks. The rise of the fast food outlet is relentless and all the while it is seen as status symbol and one associated with western ideals and wealth, Thailand's health will decrease.
On the way to the airport, I saw a billboard proudly displaying Thailand's food heritage and I couldn't help but wonder how long it would be before it is replaced with an advert for a well known burger chain.