Why my holiday all became a bit too much
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Opinion: Why do we feel the need to stuff our faces at every opportunity, asks Nick Conrad.
Having read David Clayton amusing EDP column yesterday demanding restaurants serve food on plates, I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon vent my own food frustrations.
There I stood, next to a seemingly never-ending long buffet. A succession of bain-maries stretched out in front of me, their polished hoods concealing an abundance of international culinary treasures. Each dispensary had a flag perched on top, mimicking the front of the United Nations building.
I should have felt a mixture of pleasure and gratitude; instead I was filled with bewilderment and a gentle disgust. I should say my 'repulsion' hardly suppressed my appetite. Because I, too, turned into one of the locusts only too eager to devour everything vaguely edible.
These conflicting emotions were experienced in the food hall of an 'All Inclusive' hotel on the Greek-Turkish border. A succession of holidaymakers, thrice daily, would make the pilgrimage from their tables to the veritable smorgasbord. There they would, with serving spoons at the ready, thrust their way through various global cuisines.
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I witnessed one portly woman create a carbohydrate foundation on her plate, a mixture of mashed potatoes, pasta and chips. This calorific catastrophe topped by slopping stifado, mashed moussaka and a fistful of feta. I watched in astonishment as each forkful was wolfed down with hardly a gulp. And in no time at all she was back on her feet, this time scavenging for a sweet.
Others would return to their seats clasping plates with piles of food resembling the Pennines, juggling cutlery and porcelain plates with precision before the banquet began. I'm no stranger to a nourishing and filling feed, however I drew the line at mixing Chinese, Indian, Italian, American and Greek fare on one eight-inch platter. And for those still struggling to picture the scene – have you ever seen a dog eating hot chips?
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I was quite fatigued by the repetitive nature of this abundance. Breakfast, lunch and supper were all grand performances. To make matters worse, 'snacks' were readily at hand throughout the day.
All this is gluttony in the extreme. The stomach-busting pains of excess - mixed with the pang of guilt at the sheer plenitude of what was in front of me - should have made me stop eating. Quite the opposite. It was like I'd been possessed. I queued every mealtime waiting to stretch my stomach once again.
The result of this excess could be seen on the beach - I was alarmed at how little canvas is utilised to cover, in some cases, a large 'frame'. As we enjoyed splashing in the shallows I caught a glimpse of myself reflected in a fellow bather's sunglasses – not a pretty picture. Baywatch-era David Hasslehoff svelte proportions suit tight trunks... mine don't! I look like someone has tried to squeeze a rugby player into tight 1970s flares. I quickly slunk under the water. Others, too, might have benefited from a larger garment. Probably the worst thing you can hear when you're wearing a bikini is 'Good for you!'
This was the second time in my life I've indulged in a holiday in which you literally do nothing. I was acutely aware that only a few miles from the resort in which I stayed, a steady stream of refugees had been making their way into Europe. How I'd have loved to have donated an overfilled plate of food.
What struck me, too, was how we were putting ourselves through this in the name of fun and relaxation. Although I had the most delightful holiday, I was saddened at our clear addiction to excess. Many don't feel satisfied until they've had too much of a 'good thing'. Sadly, this has dire health consequences, which we've stopped being honest about. We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance - and excess with happiness.