First post since we left Denver Colorado almost two weeks ago, 5 days to go before we are set free from the Covid-19 Isolation Facility (luckily a hotel in central Auckland, New Zealand), and time to talk about breakfast in the facility.
On my journey back to New Zealand, I didn’t have much apprehension about the two-week mandatory Covid-19 confinement. I have plenty writing and planning to do, I can exercise in my room and I’m after all with the best “jail-mate” in life, my husband. I did wonder what food we would be given. I was certain we would not go hungry, hopeful the meals would pass the scrutiny of a government-appointed nutritionist, and definitely not expecting a 5-star culinary experience. Government organised large-scale catering is about, after-all, food-safety, budget, and convention.
Talking about conventions, my breakfast is a straight sweet and cold fare every single morning: a sweet muslie or pudding, a piece of sweet pastry, a bottle of apple juice, plus a fruit and a big slice of fudge (or the equivalent) just in time for morning tea.
There is yoghurt, oats, chia seeds, real fruits, and even real fruit juice. Healthy stuff. I can even see the catering planner having the word “healthy” sparkling in his or her eyes. Still, I sense an eminent sugar bomb in the package. Do I have a paranoia just because I am not used to sweet stuff in the morning, or can I do some math to test my gut feelings?
|Breakfast Item||Sugar per item (grams) *||Sugar per item (tsps) *|
|Fruit (apple or banana)||15||3.6|
|Sweetened muesli or pudding||15||3.6|
|Pastry or muffin||12||2.9|
|Chocolate slices or fudge||40 to 60||9.6 to 14.4|
|Total||108 to128 grams||26 to 31 tsps|
I dare say that 30 tablespoons is an astonishing amount of sugar being delivered every morning to Covid-19 returnees being held captive in their hotel rooms for two weeks. Oh, and do not forget the muffins provided for afternoon tea and desserts for dinner. If you are the type that prefers the savory option, then your pudding will be replaced by a large croissant, which makes little difference to the total sugar count (and let’s not open the can of worms on croissant just now).
Of course, not all sugars are created equal, and one does have the option to purge the chocolate slices (you may go hungry trying to sustain yourself for 4 hours on chia seeds and a banana). My point is that these food items are not sent to returnees to be thrown away; they are planned, produced, and delivered in the effort to meet the needs and preference of a purportedly typical guest. I think the isolation facility is doing an excellent job of preventing the spread of Covid-19, and I believe the meal planning is well-intentioned. However, the decision about what food to deliver to the doorsteps of returnees reflects a larger picture of our national penchant for sweet things. For example, Kiwis lead the world in ice-cream consumption – a whooping annual consumption of 23 liters per capita!
If we present these breakfasts to a different culture or to Kiwis from a different era in New Zealand history, there is a high probability that we would be considered as eating desserts for breakfast. A cold and sugar-laden breakfast was not a norm in the past and should not be a norm today. It was perfectly normal to eat reheated lamb stew for breakfast, something I learnt while reading a collection of memoires from New Zealand senior citizens. Protein did not come from just cold milk or yoghurt, added sugar was not the main source of energy, and there was no exclusion of good food during the first half of the day just because they were also served at dinner time. If we turn to Asia, Middle East, and many other parts of the world, grains, eggs, meat, fish and vegetables are the breakfast staple.
I am not a puritan rejecting all things sweet. I am just reluctant to believe the only way to a nourishing and satisfying breakfast is through a sweet and cold concoction. The alternatives go far beyond poached eggs and baked beans, and our breakfast choices are only limited by our imagination and open-mindedness. For some, having lamb stew for breakfast will remain off-limit, but for others, that might just be the perfect choice and most important meal of the day. As for breakfasts in 2020 Covid-19 isolation facilities, I find myself dreaming of a simple plate of hot scrambled eggs and a cup of warm soy milk, and I hope that misplacing my piece of fudge does not cause public outrage – just food for thought!