Fri, 18 Nov 1994

Food for thought

When I was a lad my mum (the original Mrs. R.) always warned me to eat my greens. I use the word warned because if we got fussy about them she wasn't averse to using a wooden spoon as an instrument of instant reproach. She backed up these strong encouragements by waxing loquacious on the benefits of consuming the humble cabbage and all its leafy relatives both near and far -- the iron rich spinach favored by cartoon characters (and my mum when she could get hold of it), the crusty faced cauliflower, the curly kale, sodium rich celery and all the others.

In the 1950s when things were still tough in Britain after the war she'd go up onto the moors in Lancashire to pick dandelion leaves. These, together with the onions our dad grew in the back garden, she would cook into a pie and present it steaming on the table for our supper. "Lion Pie" she called it and once you'd acquired the taste, it was just great. The only problem was that it did produce the wind and our normally calm town became quite a blustery place in the 1950's.

We all grew up into big strapping lads, the boys in the local rugby team and the girls hockey mad. Dad always used to come and watch the games, schoolboy rugby fast and clean, the best there is. If we weren't doing well enough he'd treat us to his straight forward north English tongue. "Get the lead out of your pants!" he'd shout, meaning (for those who don't know) "hurry up!" Mum put our physical resilience down to the greens. I spoke to a dietician about this recently and she thought our mum could be right.

I've continued to eat lots of cabbage at supper time so you can imagine my concern then for myself and for the residents of Jakarta in general, when I read the greens grown in this city are overleaded (The Jakarta Post, Nov. 3, 1994). Now frankly I'm not what you'd call an environmentally concerned person. But if there's that much lead in petrol that it's interfering with our greens then it's about time something was done about it. What about the next generation? Apparently environmental lead makes kids thick -- and don't forget they have TV to contend with as well! If we can't eat a decent meal of meat and two vegies without having to worry about it there's something wrong. Come on Pertamina, get the lead out!