Garth George: Crusty wowsers get a slice of humble pie

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Rejoice! Rejoice! Freedom has broken out again in New Zealand.

It was a relief to read that I can cancel my order for a gross of incandescent light bulbs because the Clark Government's ban on them has been canned. But the big one for me was the decision to lift the restrictions on the types of food school tuckshops can offer.

Mind you, the extent of the outrage thus far expressed would make you think the Government had decided to build a nuclear power station in the middle of the North Island.

But that's how control-freak obsessives of all stripes react whenever anyone disagrees with them or stymies their "we know best" machinations.

I hope this action by the Government signals a return to an emphasis on personal responsibility and doing away with other objectionable nanny state shackles imposed on us by the Labour-Green ideologues.

I have long had a gutsful of the state telling me how I should live my life, but more than that I fear for a people who, no matter what problem arises, insist that the Government should do something about it.

It never seems to occur to these people that 99 times out of 100 the solution in is their own hands, and it is they who must take responsibility for doing something about it.

Another major gripe I have with these food freaks, and the unthinking journalists who aid and abet them, is their dishonesty in labelling foods they don't approve of as "unhealthy".

Apart from that which is poisoned, polluted or has gone off, there is no such thing as unhealthy food. What is unhealthy is overindulgence in certain types of food, all of which are perfectly healthy if eaten in moderation.

The consumption of those foods is a matter of individual choice, and it is no part of the state's responsibility to dictate what, when and how much of anything we should eat.

Because such interference is never-ending. Look at the anti-smoking campaign, which over the years has found more and more ways to deter people from tobacco by imposing more and more restrictions.

Had the tuckshop restrictions remained, I wonder how long it would have been before they, too, were extended. Now and again I see kids eating pies on their way to school, and I regret that their parents don't provide them with a nutritious breakfast.

But I am relieved that the local dairies and grocery stores - all within range of three schools - are still permitted to sell pies, cakes, sweets and so on. For you can bet they would have been next on the list of targets for the food police.

My wife and I have just completed a week's exploration of Taranaki, the last piece of the New Zealand jigsaw we had left to fill in, and for the duration of this fascinating 1200km adventure all our self-imposed dietary restrictions were lifted.

Having learned long ago to avoid those cafes that these days specialise in fatless, saltless, sugarless rabbit food, we had some wonderful dining experiences.

These varied from the Painted Rock Cafe in Piopio to the sedate and aristocratic Andre's Escargot restaurant just off New Plymouth's downtown main drag, where the French onion soup was divine and the upside-down apple and citrus tart was to die for.

In Opunake, almost opposite the statue of hometown boy Peter Snell and over the road from the Karam family clothing store, the Sugar Juice Cafe provides a selection of home-cooked food that would stand proudly alongside anything available in Ponsonby, Grey Lynn or Mt Eden.

In Wanganui, the lovingly restored Rutland Hotel - four-poster bed, Queen Anne furniture - sports one of the most comprehensive restaurant/bar/bistro menus I have ever seen, and the lamb shanks I had there will long be a happy and mouth-watering memory.

It helps that there is a polytech cooking school just round the corner and the students, apparently, like to try out their skills.

Then there was the ultimate gastronomic experience - eating a Real Raetihi Pie in the rough and ready Clowns Cafe in that out-of-the-way village.

So astonishingly good was this minced lamb and mint sauce pie that I rated it 9.5 on my scale of 10, an honour bestowed only once before - to Rotorua's Gold Star mince and cheese and pork and kumara pies.

But back to tuckshops and the hysterical reaction to the Government's decision. This was epitomised by the carping mother who wrote in this newspaper: "If I put $5 in my child's hand, I want to rest easy that he won't have to walk a kid's landmine of junk food choices to find something healthy."

Why on earth, then, doesn't she take personal responsibility and make the boy's lunch herself?

- NZ Herald

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