The Sunday Mail
“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.”
So wrote Frenchman Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in his 1825 homage to the palate, “The Physiology of Taste”.
It was from that statement, some researchers say, that we get the modern phrase: “You are what you eat.”
So, what are we stuffing down our eager gullets?
An August 2010 analysis by Imara Asset Management said Zimbabweans gave Delta Beverages US$324 million — compared to the total of US$230 million Zambians gave to their two biggest brewers that year.
On top of that, Zimbabweans spent about US$1,1 billion dollars on fast foods sold by the Innscor behemoth, Colcom, National Foods and Spar.
US$1,1 billion worth of fast foods. Does anyone remember what the National Budget was in 2009? Was it not US$934 million or thereabouts?
More recent statistics on fast food consumption are hard to come by.
But there is anecdotal evidence pointing to Zimbabweans spending, at the very least, round about that much at present, or — which is more likely — far much more.
For starters, there are clearly more fast food joints in the country today than there were in 2009.
Every other street corner has someone selling US$1 burgers. (Even our growth points have these things and you have to ask yourself: inyama chaiyo chaiyo here?)
And then, as we report in The Sunday Mail Business, a firm called Planas says it recently bought machinery that will help it massively scale up the production of packaging for fast foods.
Planas says it invested well over US$1 million in the machinery, and that it bought the equipment specifically to produce 800 000 extended polystyrene boxes every month for Chicken Inn.
That is 800 000 boxes just for Chicken Inn every month. How many more are needed for countless other fast food outlets all around Zimbabwe?
Planas is in a fix, though. Their investment in new machinery came just before Government announced it was getting serious about Statutory Instrument 84 of 2012 as read with Section 140 of the Environmental Management Act (Chapter 20:27). This legal instrument bans use of kaylite for food packaging. The reasons?
Firstly, extended polystyrene is a major pollutant. The thing is largely non-biodegradable, meaning it has to be put in landfills or incinerated. Because it is light but quite bulky, it costs a tad too much to transport to landfills, and it generates more smoke than heat when incinerated so the environmental authorities don’t like it much.
Secondly, it does not take well to recycling. In short, once made and emptied of your “two-piecer”, the box is there until kingdom come, littering streets and acting like a pebble in the shoes of the Environmental Management Agency.
Thirdly, the nation has recently been made aware of scientific research linking kaylite used to package fast foods with some cancers.
So kaylite had to go. May its soul rest in peace. But fast food will not go anywhere, for better or for worse.
And you are what you eat.
Ask the 2015 Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey, which contains the most recent national statistics on such matters. It will tell you that 35 percent of our ladies aged 15 to 49 are overweight. The figure for gents is 12 percent.
Most of these people are classified as financially stable, educated urbanites.
Evidently, the only exercise many of these folk get is bowing and praying to the neon god they have created.
They have become what they have been eating: unimaginative and laden with meaningless calories.
The same applies to the mind. It becomes what it consumes. Feed it crap and it becomes the lumbering fat kid that every other child laughs at on the playground, or the ponderous middle aged man with a midsection like the equator who wonders why the ladies never fell for him. Perhaps the same can be said, too, about a political system.
If we feed inanity, selfishness, indolence, self-indulgence or any other kind of vice that makes a politician his country’s own worst enemy, what do we expect to get out of the politics?
We have, as a nation, been feeding the political animal with meaningless calories. It is now bloated, unwieldy and ungainly, held down by people who have nothing to offer beyond corruption, factionalism, nepotism and disunity.
If we keep piling on these meaningless calories, no one should be surprised if the political animal suffers cardiac arrest and keels over lifeless. The ruling Zanu-PF, as we report elsewhere in this issue of The Sunday Mail, is shifting into election gear ahead of the 2018 polls.
Among other things, the organisational processes being embarked on across all party provinces will lead to primary elections. What kind of food will be fed to the political animal?