Belfast Telegraph

This infatuation with our food is a recipe for disaster

By Lindy McDowell

Which is worse? Wolf stew? Or chicken goujons? Actor Liam Neeson has landed himself in the soup with the animal rights people after an interview in which he described how he'd wolfed down a couple of bowls of the former in order to get into character for a role in his latest action movie.

In it Neeson plays the hardy leader of a group of oil workers marooned in the Artic. The group are pursued by wolves and presumably at some point make mincemeat of them. Hence the stew business.

Neeson says in an interview that he so liked the recipe for the braised baddie of fairytale fame that he even went back for seconds. Little Red Riding Hood might be impressed. (What a big appetite, you have, Mr Neeson!)

But animal rights campaign group Peta is appalled.

The organisation points out that the wolf does not deserve its poor public image and is in fact a shy, retiring creature.

When you think about it though, so is just about every other meat option on the more traditional menu of most households. The poor pig, the gentle cow, the inoffensive hen ...

Why then should consumption of wolfie be singled out as a cause for boycott of a film when just about every other movie production in Hollywood history would also have involved a catering team serving up chicken, beef, fish, you name it?

I doubt if Neeson, who has the new film to promote, will be all that bothered by the headlines his wolf stew consumption has provoked.

And I doubt if the poor old wolf itself will actually benefit from the ensuing fallout.

As a vegetarian I've never been able to understand the outrage that singles out as tasteless the eating of some animals and not others. (Endangered species obviously excepted.)

Diners who recoil at the very thought that they might sample dog (big in the Far East) happily tuck into their chicken as they discuss the subject. And they'll certainly be discussing Neeson (as the film publicists doubtless suspected.)

Because here's the telling thing. Weirdly no subject is currently more enthralling to the masses than food. Like literature or music, eating has been elevated to art form. We have more famous chefs today than at any time in our history. The Hestons are the new Picassos. We can't get enough of grub. Or enough about it, its preparation and its stars.

Television is almost wall-to-wall with cookery shows featuring every permutation of travelling gourmet imaginable.

There's a woman cooking Chinese food in the street, biker cooks, baker boys, sailing chefs, masterchefs and no end of finger licking cuties offering up their take on Victoria sponge.

It is a sad reflection of the nation's current obsession with gorbing that there is never a time - day or night - when you cannot surf through the channels and chance upon a repeat edition of Come Dine With Me. It is always on somewhere.

All that food! No wonder the nation is now nutritionally dysfunctional. Even The Biggest Loser, a show aimed at helping obese contestants slim down, is sponsored by a fast food firm.

Yet the other side of the growing obesity crisis - with the misery that that creates in people's lives and pressures it places on the health service - is the increasing evidence that even young children are being affected by anorexia.

New figures in Northern Ireland this week reveal the increasing incidence of this terrible condition and how it is getting a grip of young lives. Children as young as 10 are literally starving themselves.

From one extreme to another, our unhealthy relationship with food is wreaking appalling havoc in people's lives.

Television's obsession with cookery is gluttonous and damaging. But unlike the wolf stew, it seems nobody of influence thinks this is repulsive.

And wrong to continue to feed it to the masses.

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