New York is empowering. It is a huge landscape of history, culture, and opportunity for me in particular, and I have hit the ground running. My first impression of the city itself was a sense of familiarity and belonging. There is something about New York that reminds me of Johannesburg, and in fact I am going to sustain this comparison in this post.
Imagine a Johannesburg with a functional centre, where all the big corporations, media houses, advertising agencies, chain supermarkets, food franchises, squares, and fashion houses are all situated in the centre of Johannesburg. That would make for a rather large centre; and that is exactly what New York feels like. Everyone on their way to everywhere.
Imagine that Johannesburg was linked by a massive network of underground trains and taxis on the surface of the city; that the massive magnitude of its size was not at all intimidating because its infrastructure was so well-laid out, and that the streets were numbers instead of names so that the higher the numbers went, the more North the geography of the city is. That would at once solve our street names trauma that celebrates apartheid architects.
I arrived in New York on a Friday, and was immediately flushed by jet lag. I left Amsterdam on Friday morning at 9am, flew for 8 hours and arrived at 11am, same Friday morning. This was the first time I felt like my soul and body were in separate places. I had to patiently wait to feel whole again. However, I wasn’t that disconnected to miss the overt excess of this city/country. In fact I was traumatised by it.
Everyone in New York is lugging a massive container from Starbucks or Dunkin’ Doughnut, etc., and I’m talking massive tanks, filled with either colourful neon fluids, or creamy beverages that look like a heart attack in a jug. And everyone is casually drinking from it as if dehydration is a pandemic in the city. I’m all for hydrating but I’m vehemently against doing so with a neon-coloured drink. Point to me a fruit or vegetable of that colour…
Everything is big and colourful in New York. Again, excess. Every food chain promises a bigger, super-sized burger/drink/doughnut/muffin—and this reminds me of South Africa. We also have the problem of excess there; my husband is always amused by the restaurant portions of servings on plates that ultimately look like trays filled to the brim with massive steaks, full chickens or burgers, and overflowing fries whose size outdo any real life potato.
The Surf ‘n Turf era, I wish to call it. Surf ‘n Turf is a combo with meat and fish, and it is just a senseless concept. Can you just be sensible enough to choose between calamari or chicken, ribs or prawns? You can’t have both on the plate. Well apparently you can, with chips (and a slice of tomato), and you can wash it down with a complimentary litre of beer or one of those jugs of neon-coloured drinks. Two words: cardiac arrest!!
Anywho, as traumatised as I am by ludicrous eating habits, the culture of consumption is not new to me as I’ve already mentioned. Living in South Africa today—this is appropriate in sustaining the parallels between Johannesburg and New York—means you can witness the mall-food-court culture where eating fast foods in obscene amounts may point to affluence and status. But how foolish are we to think that our wealth can contradict our health?
We are going to die. And we have already started dying of diabetes and fat-related, cholesterol induced diseases. Don’t get me wrong, there’s people making healthy food choices in both Johannesburg and New York but I’m not talking about them right now. I’m talking about those who do not find value in exercise and conscious eating. Those whose only exercise is handling these enormous burgers from plate to mouth. With their kids! Sheer repulsion!
I’ve been very outspoken on the responsibility we have as parents to protect our children’s from this. Let me not mince my words here: feeding your children the wrong foods and having obese children is a direct infringement of their rights to a healthy and happy life. Full stop. This should be frowned upon and in fact punishable by law. Children suffer the most in this vile culture of conspicuous consumption. Let’s take responsibility.
Needless to say I have been traumatised by the monstrous culture of consumption here so much so that I have resolved to cooking all my meals and exercising even more vigilance in eating any kind of flesh. I am cooking my own food and avoiding any kind of prepared shop food, no matter how new and exciting it might look to my fresh eyes. I have a legacy to build here, and I do not wish to leave it half done.
Our food can kill us or make us stronger, and I choose life…