Monthly Archives: January 2013

Which Countries Have the Worst Eating Habits?

Have you ever wondered which nations guzzle the most coke, who polishes off the most chocolate bars, and who gorges themselves on ready meals? Well, you’re about to find out.

As some of you may know, I earn my living by writing analysis articles about the food industry for a market research company. To do this job, I consult a vast database to identify trends and pull off the relevant statistical information to back up my fabrications.

So, who do you think indulges in the biggest vatfuls of factory-churned slosh, a.k.a ready meals?
Answer: The UK.

Evidently, cooking is not a favourite pastime on the British Isles. Per capita consumption of ready meals in the UK stood at 14.9kg in 2012. Having spent two decades there, I can attest to the British love of ready meals, but these much maligned offerings do have their merits, as far as I’m concerned. If you want a curry of better average quality than the oil slick covered gristle that is served up in probably two thirds of Indian restaurants in the UK, and you can’t be arsed to cook one from scratch, go get it from the chiller cabinet in whichever supermarket is nearest. Avoid the really cheap stuff, obviously. You get what you pay for.

Interestingly, France, which is so up itself about the superiority of its food culture, consumed 9.6kg in ready meals per head in 2012, surpassing the US’s 8.4kg.

Finland took the closest swipe at the British Gold Medal, and other Scandinavian countries weren’t far behind. This is because Northern Europeans scoff by far the most frozen pizza (which is included in ready meals data). I guess this must have something to do with eating out being so horrendously expensive in Scandinavia.

The US is Fast Food King, …but France ain’t all that far behind!
It will not come as a surprise to anyone that the US emerges as the world’s largest market for fast food. In per capita annual expenditure, however, Australia came out tops with US$653 spent in fast food joints in 2011, compared to the US’s US$630. When it comes specifically to burger fast food, though, the US leads.

France (not that I’m picking on them or anything), clocked up the 8th biggest per capita spend on burger fast food in 2011, globally. The French spent one third more than the British, who came in 15th place.

Who downs the most Cola?
You might think it’s the US, but it’s not. In fact, it’s Mexico, with an impressive 108.6 litres per head in 2011. It seems that those, who haven’t yet scrambled across the border in the dead of night, are living the American Dream in this way. And if you compare the two countries’ obesity and diabetes statistics, it’s working a treat!

The US followed in second place with 87 litres of cola per capita. In third place, bizarrely, we have Uruguay, and then Chile. The brown stuff seeps southwards…

India is bottom of the coke charts with just one piddly litre. But they’ll catch up. As soon as they can afford to actually eat. First things first.

And last but not least…CHOCOLATE!
It’s the UK again, I’m afraid. With 11kg of chocs scoffed per head in 2012. The US only managed 4.4kg, and Spain, where I live now, a frightfully abstemious 2.1kg. Frankly, I don’t quite understand this – me moving here should have doubled this paltry figure. Must do better this year!

Fruit vs. Kitkats - No contest, really...

Fruit vs. Kitkats – No contest, really…

If you’re looking for more detailled information on countries’ fast food consumption, click here.

[For data source, click here]


Project Trilingual: The Reading Challenge – No More Chickening Out!

It’s that time of year when New Year’s resolutions run riot. For me, forcing out valiant resolves for no other reason than it being the start of a new calendar year is not the way to go. However, I find that there’s never a bad time to check in on projects that are already up and running, to assess my progress, hone my focus and maybe do a bit of tweaking.

‘Project Trilingual’, aka as learning Spanish, is my biggest WIP right now, and one area, where I definitely need to step up my efforts is reading. Because… frankly… I’m barely doing any.

This may sound paradoxical, because I love, love, love reading. I love it. Besides being tremendous fun, it’s by far the most effective way of expanding one’s vocab. Reading has always been a favourite leisure activity of mine, and in my twenties, I even had a job where I got PAID to read books! I worked as a Braillist for the RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind), and so my job was transcribing books into Braille.

During the six years I worked there, I read books that I’d never have picked off the shelves in a bookshop or a library in a million years, like advanced (for me) Mathematics, triathlon training guides, Teach Yourself Albanian (containing the oft-used sentence “how many stalactites are in this cave?” – I’m not making this up!), Aran knitting, and the Koran. I don’t think there’s a subject area I haven’t read at least one book about.

I’ve consumed hundreds (maybe even thousands…?) of books in English and German, but, so far, I’ve shied away from those scary Spanish books. Sure, I’ve been doing some reading, but it’s been limited to short texts, like teaching podcast transcripts and the occasional article, plus dull day-to-day stuff like phone bills and pesky letters from my bank.

The sticking point is that I primarily read for pleasure, and having to stop to look up every fifth word does my head in. But there comes a time when you’ve got to push beyond your comfort zone in order to make progress and get to where you want to be. And I’m at that threshold how. In order to get better, and be able to read Spanish books for enjoyment, which has always been my goal, I need to step up my reading, even it it hurts right now.

So, here’s the task I’m setting myself: Besides my daily dose of podcasts, I’m going to read at least one article in Spanish and/or a couple of pages of a Spanish book every day. This may not sound like much of a challenge, but I know I can commit to this. It’s an achievable goal, and it’s more than I’m doing now. It’ll get easier, less painful and more rewarding as I go on, which will make me want to read more.

To make it as easy as possible for myself, I’ve downloaded some books in Spanish and a bilingual dictionary onto my e-reader,  so all I have to do as I stumble from one unknown word to the next is to tap on it and the definition/translation comes up. No tedious thumbing through dictionaries like in the old days, nor typing words into a search engine. Really, I have no bloody excuse!!!

I'll be leaving this one till last, methinks...

I’ll be leaving this one till last, methinks…