Lou is a freelance writer from Melbourne who is powered by laughter, chocolate and a love for furry animals and writing unserious letters about serious things.
One of my favourite vaudevillians (The Birdmann) opens his act, “It’s fantastic to see so many folk here tonight, though I remember when it was all trees.” Then drops the punchline, “That was a tough crowd.” And I’m always hungry for a time when it was all trees. When life was simple. Sure I’m not sure what I’d eat, but that’s really not so dissimilar to now. Semi-informed on the perils of good fats, bad fats, ambivalent fats, free range, barn laid and genetically modified, shopping is like pushing your trolley through a dietary, moral and ethical minefield.
I was vegetarian for a while. It just happened. I was working at an animal park during the day where I’d prepare bottles for the baby lambs to be fed. I was working at a restaurant at night. Maitre d’ says to me in the kitchen, “Get the lambs.” My mind is thinking small furry bundle of love, I glance up to see ribcage on plate. Instant vegetarian.
It didn’t last though. I did it for a year. The turning point was about a litre of vodka (potatoes = vegetarian) and a Cheeseburger (look, who really knows, but it’s probably meat). Then I was an omnivore again. One morning I was eating a bacon and egg sandwich and a colleague passed my desk. “Breakfast?” he said. “Bacon and eggs are the answer.” I replied, just before I remembered he was Muslim. Awkward.
Add religion to the minefield then. And now I am faced with a new challenge. Giving up Tim Tams. Oh my lord how will I suffer break ups, celebrate birthdays, watch girly flicks or cater afternoon teas? And what would possess me to embark on such an ordeal?
Orangutans. You know them, cute, furry, lithe animals who could make a grown girl melt just by looking into their soulful eyes. And Sumatran Tigers. Terrifying beasts. Stripy, stealthy, about 350 left in the wild. But 350 Tigers is still 350 too many to mess with if you ask me. They’re losing habitat and/or being killed, for Oil Palm plantations, which produce palm oil, which is about 40% of products in the supermarket (including Tim Tams). Sneakily, palm oil’s not labeled on products. It just says vegetable oil. “Oh hi, I’m just vegetable oil nothing to see here, move along,” is what it says if you listen quite hard.
But there is plenty to see. I wrote to Arnotts and I begged them to use sustainable palm oil. And they said something about their supplier being in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPCO) and they’d been trying since 2008 to go sustainable but well they weren’t quite there.
This RSPCO they speak of is full of good intentions (which you may recall as the substrate of choice for the road to hell). The truth is there’s enough sustainable palm oil to provide for all of Australia’s palm oil needs – just no-one’s buying it because it’s more expensive and there’s not enough demand from consumers (yet). I wrote back and said it’s 2010, what’s going on?
They haven’t come back to me. The least they could do is write ‘Orangutan-murdering, Tiger-evicting Palm Oil’ on the ingredients. Or even just ‘palm oil’. But I’m not coming back until it says Certified Sustainable Palm Oil.
Look, I may not always make the ‘right’ choices but food and I have a good relationship. Very. Good. Relationship. We’ve been together for years and still find new and exciting ways to surprise each other. (Food: Delice de Bourgogne Me: 2am fridge raid). I just think it’s important to be honest.