Prepared food that is intended to be eaten off of the premises

I want it NOW,
because you tell me I can have it NOW,
and if I don’t get it NOW,
I will start to become annoyed. Ok?

I have included takeaways as an independent topic, as I feel they warrant exposure as one of our main urban food sources. Whether they sell burgers, fish and chips, curry, sushi, sandwiches, mexican, or any other type of instant food, they are all selling products that have been made, not with love, but for the express purpose of making a quick sale to stressed and hungry city dwellers.

I do not blame them for trying to make money, after all they need to make a living, nor do I blame the consumers for buying the food, after all, they are probably hungry, and many miles from home. Let us instead look at the reasons we are driven to eat takeaway food.

For most of us it’s just rush, rush, rush – no matter what job we do; whether it’s on a building site, a hotel, a hospital, an office, or the boardroom on the twenty first floor. If you live in an industrialised country, chances are you are going to be commuting to your job, via overcrowded motorways, or overpriced, and overcrowded public transport. You’ll have to get up early, and come home late, so you probably have a busy lifestyle, especially if you have children too.

Every day has a strict schedule, with work taking up all the daylight hours (or maybe the night if you are a shift worker) for at least five days a week. You need this work to pay your rent/mortgage and bills, and need some for de-stress tools like alcohol and summer holidays. Chances are that, although you might complain about the hours, secretly you probably like the buzz of being so busy, being so important that you never have a spare second!

I for one loved it. I was up at dawn, travelling to the airport, or hurtling up the motorway at the speed of sound to get to an important appointment. I didn’t have time for anything or anybody. Quick bites to eat here and there, snatched telephone conversations with my family. “Sorry, got to go, in a rush!” I liked the excitement of always being in demand. It appealed to my ego.
I ate hamburger meals, kebabs, sandwiches, pastries – anything that would keep me fuelled for my day’s work.

I’d start off with a takeaway breakfast roll (sausage and egg in a roll) followed at lunchtime by a takeaway fish and chips, or burger, followed at three, by sweet pastries.

All of course washed down with the must have ten cups of coffee a day. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t some kind of wired crazy guy, I just did what everyone else did, and I enjoyed it. Why? Because all of it tasted good. Strangely enough, a portion of steamed broccoli wouldn’t really have cracked it for me in the morning!

We all have become conditioned to living our existence like that. Work has become so central to our lives that it leaves no time for anything, let alone eating a decent meal. Most of us can’t go home at lunchtime for our meal, because most of us work too far away, and anyway, even if we did, we only have maximum one hour for lunch, so how could we think about starting to prepare a balanced healthy meal? Cooking at lunchtime just adds to the already stressful morning that most of us have already had.

So what do you do? You see a shop on the corner that sells you hot food in a matter of seconds, and it’s cheaper than buying all the separate ingredients and taking them home and cooking them… and did I mention it’s ready in a matter of seconds?

I recall being in burger restaurant in new zealand several years ago, where I overheard the following conversation.

Customer: …and I’ll have some onion rings.
Staff member: Sorry, they aren’t ready, they’ll be 90 seconds.
Customer: I don’t have time, I’ll have something else.

I couldn’t believe it, I just started to laugh. It finally dawned on me how ridiculous we had become. We had bought into this rushing thing so much that we weren’t even prepared to wait for fast junk food.

You’ll see it all over the world now, people starting to get tense waiting in a queue that will take them maximum five minutes to clear. They grumble about it being ridiculous that they are kept waiting so long.

Do you do it? Are you as impatient as I was? Are you used to getting everything you want in a quarter of a second?

Let’s just STOP a moment and think. Let us approach this very important topic from a different angle. Let us forget about what is important to you and your busy life, and talk about reality.

Do you know how long it takes to feed a calf that becomes a cow? Do you know how much water, how much feed and attention it takes to fatten the animal for slaughter? Do you know how much land and forest has to be cleared for grazing? Do you know how much money and time it takes to process the animals, butcher, and prepare them, and turn them into your deluxe cheeseburger?

Do you know long it takes to fatten a chicken in the factory, how much time and effort it takes to slaughter them and process them so you can enjoy them as part of your organic chicken and rocket wholegrain sandwich with a light lemon mayonnaise? How many seeds are sown to grow the crispy lettuce that adorns your burger roll, or sandwich? How many tomatoes are grown? Do you care? Probably not. I can see you are actually very busy and obviously very hungry, but let us continue anyway.

Think about the amount of input that is required to make your really tasty, but probably not very nutritious, manufactured meal that you devour in a single mouthful for a measly couple of loose pound coins in your wallet.

First, you have the millions of calves who are born and raised very carefully to be ground into your burger. Next comes the lettuce, which is sown in miles of fields, to hang limply out the side. Then the acres of tomatoes, and the chickens who are bred in captivity for the sole purpose of providing the egg on your burger, or to make the mayonnaise that tastes so good.

And the wheat that is grown in the miles of fields, that goes to the miller to make the flour that goes to the baker to bake the bun, to the potatoes that are grown in millions of acres to make a small chip, to the water that is used to top up the sugar syrup, that came from the cane, that came from the field, to the trees which are cut down in droves to make the wrappers that coat the products for a maximum of a five minutes, to the plastic containers which are manufactured from oil we don’t have (phew, that’s a long list!). But actually, you weren’t that hungry, so the remains end up in the bin, with the temporary containers too. Oh, if you are like a large percentage of the population around the world you won’t even put it in the bin, let alone recycle it.

So what does that tell us all about takeaways? That they are bad? That the governments should close them down? No. I’m sure even government ministers are all rushing about so much they have to stop for a takeaway, which you remember, is not just greasy burgers and fish and chips, but anything we consume which comes in its own packaging (recyclable or not).

From the economic view of the consumer, takeaways are a marvel. Hot food that fills you up for cheap. Can’t say fairer than that! From a business perspective, takeaways are also a good money spinner, they must be, they’re always full, and a lot of them open 24 hours a day. Which brings me nicely onto alcohol. What a fine pair these two make don’t they? Alcohol and takeaways.

When you come out of the pub or the club at 2.00 am drunk, tired and really hungry, what better way to ward off those hunger pangs than to stuff your face with greasy pizza, burgers, or any other kind of ready-in-a-minute meals. You don’t give a stuff how long it took to grow all the ingredients for your meal, how much labour and transportation was required, how much animal suffering was caused. Why? Because you’re drunk, you’re out of control and the only thing that will make you feel better is greasy food. You are probably 99 times more likely to dispose of the food you cannot finish (due to feeling queasy or actually vomiting ) in the street. You have no self-control left. No self-discipline – alcohol has seen to that.

What lack of respect for all that has gone into making your minute meal. The minute meal that took a year to produce, but ended up soaking into the gutter in one drunken moment on one night.

What kind of people have we become? Who is this homo sapiens who has spent millions of years evolving into the most intelligent species on the planet? When I look at the waste of life and natural resources on feeding a load of drunken youths on the streets, or feeding a stressed employee who has no time to appreciate what went into making his food, it makes me very sad.

For many years, I did exactly the same thing, nobody educated me that it was a bad thing to be doing. In fact, after seeing all the adverts all over the world and knowing that everyone else was doing it, it seemed almost a positive thing. This was a reflection of the progress we had made in the world. Food available through a drive through intercom in less than a minute! Wow!

Look how far we had come since the days when we had to put up with mum’s home cooking and the times when food was scarce. Now food we wanted was available 24 hours a day at a price we could afford! Surely some modern revolution, this takeaway.

Indeed we all thought so, until health professionals started telling us that high fat, sugary processed food could be bad for us. Really? The takeaways fought back, using a new marketing campaign, and before long, everyone believed that takeaway food was – if not good for us – then certainly acceptable, if taken as part of a “balanced diet.” It seemed that these companies were oblivious to anything else but the sound of money ringing in their tills, which of course is perfectly acceptable, as they are a business.

No amount of campaigning about takeaway food being bad for our health, or education about the suffering of animals involved in the preparation of this food, or the use of unsustainable resources moved us, the consumer; and why should it? We don’t care about anything apart from our pleasure in this precise moment, and the addictive ingredients in fatty foods make sure that our brain craves more.

Can I ask you a quick question? When you are hungry at work, what do you crave? A plate of steamed vegetables, which are full of essential nutrients, or processed fatty foods? Surely as a highly developed species we would crave the former, if anything, but that doesn’t seem to happen, does it?

We never crave plain food when we are hungry, because plain (real) food doesn’t make the tastebuds go Mmmm (until we re-train them). Only a pastry, or a burger with a sweet sauce or chips with ketchup, or a sandwich with mayo, will satisfy those tastebuds. Of course, you may live in a country that has different types of takeaways I haven’t covered here, but you can be sure that the amount of inputs required to make even a sushi hand roll are too high. Fish caught out on the sea from an unsustainable ocean, rice grown in mass fields, seaweed harvested, soy sauce produced, condiments such as wasabi and ginger, transport, labour, fuel, storage, retail rent, electricity, plastics, paper…. Shall I go on?

Whatever the takeaway product, no matter if it is “healthy” or not, the long term inputs are too high to justify the short term gains. Money for the economy, yes; employment, yes; satisfied hunger, yes. To most of you, that seems like a pretty good deal. These are the arguments that all involved with this industry will try to persuade us with.

It is probably the same in the cocaine industry. It employs many people who would be out of work if cocaine production and distribution came to an end. What would happen to those people? How would they feed their families? They would lose their homes… It doesn’t mean that cocaine is a positive thing for the human system or society does it? It is just a series of excuses to justify what they are doing. Nothing more. It is the same with the takeaway industry.

There is no point in blaming other people, we all have a personal responsibility to each other, the rest of the animals we share the planet with, and the planet itself. If anything, we are all to blame. How many of us happily eat takeaway food whilst talking about “the environment” and “going green?”

This isn’t about going green, it’s about thinking why we are forced to eat on the move and why we can’t eat at home.

Why we happily eat food that has been prepared on a production line by machines is no mystery though. If there wasn’t a takeaway industry, the industrialised society wouldn’t be able to march at the pace it does. If people are hungry they can’t work, and they certainly can’t work many miles away from home for as many hours. The takeaway industry, in its many guises, is helping businesses keep us working like machines.
Imagine if you would, a scenario where you weren’t able to get food on the go, where you had to eat at specific times at specific places – at home, for example! Or what if you could only eat in a restaurant, because there were no cheap takeaway meals? Without takeaway food, life would change, in my opinion, for the better.

Imagine eating a proper breakfast at home, using fresh ingredients, instead of a rubber muffin and a bucket of coffee along the way. Or a meal at home at lunchtime, when the body still has time to use the energy you are putting into it, as opposed to eating when you come home late at night (in some countries they eat a full meal at lunchtime already, normally in a restaurant).

Imagine if you weren’t rushing to work and getting caught up in the mayhem that is commuting. The anger and the tension caused during this morning rush would no longer trouble you. But if you didn’t commute, how would you get to work, where would you work, what would you do, how would you pay the mortgage, and how could you further your career? And many other questions!

Some of you must be thinking, “he’s lost his marbles this time, linking careers, commuting and takeaways,” but it’s time to give it some serious thought. How prepared would you be to do what you do for the company you work for if you didn’t get access to food on the streets at any time of the day or night? How prepared are you to sit back and let the massive industry that is takeaways use up precious environmental resources, change the way we eat, the food we eat, and influence the culture to such an extent that their food is all that young people crave, want and desire?

Do you care? Do you care that takeaways are linked to alcohol abuse and drunkenness? That they will serve anyone, in any state; that they only care about the money going into their tills? They know who their customers will be at two or four in the morning, and they rub their hands in glee. The drunks don’t care what they’re eating, as long as it is full of animal fat to soak up the alcohol (they hope). The drunks and the proprietors don’t care about the litter everywhere in the street. A fair bargain was struck, and both parties go away satisfied. Do you care?

Do you really care?

Would it be so hard for you to give up takeaway food? Would you not prefer to eat healthy tasty, home cooked food instead? Would you not like to see what a difference it could make to your life? Not just for health, but in the way you thought about how you organised your life?

Wouldn’t it be nice to see our streets free of litter and food waste (which took a long time to grow remember), and free of the tacky neon signs that are on every street. Imagine a street free of the drunks who hang around shouting obscenities whilst gorging on their junk (which took a long time to grow remember), and casually tossing the half eaten food on the floor.

This is all possible. Not by forming a campaign group to close down your local chip shop, or by lobbying your member of parliament, but by stopping going there to eat. It’s very simple. If you don’t go there to eat, and don’t take your young daughter to eat there “as a treat” (I fail to see how eating junk food is a treat. I thought the idea of a treat was to have something better, not worse), and when you begin to realise what you are doing is affecting all of us in a negative way, and become aware of your actions, these businesses will close. People will lose their jobs, but humans are very resourceful, and they’ll get other ones.

Let us move forward into an era where eating actually means something. Where we respect the land, and the animals, and we do not just use every available resource just for our one minute of eating pleasure. Food is what sustains us, it is also what sustains every living creature on this earth. Let’s stop and think about what that means to us before we rush down to neonville and grab a burger just to fill a craving that quickly comes back. We can do it together.

I have made a vow (make a vow; promise) never to eat in a takeaway shop (clarification: a shop who primarily sells food to eat off the premises and packages all food, even if there are seats to eat in) ever again. I have been left very hungry on several occasions, but this has taught me that I need to plan my eating habits more carefully, which is what we should all be doing; not just stuffing our faces at every available occasion, because it’s quick, available and it’s cheap. We expect that food will be there for us whenever we want it, but we have no notion of how to grow it, nurture it, or harvest it.

Stopping buying and eating takeaways and starting eating more locally grown home cooked food will start to put us in touch with the source of the food. The earth.

by alan macmillan orr

“The natural mind – waking up”



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