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Do you remember Bushells instant tea?


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A frustrated academic, I want to start a social movement that will bring people together to create a better world. The world is far from ideal and who is going to change it if we don’t?

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This dreadful powder in a cup was the beginning of Australia's fascination with all things instant.

I remember visiting my grandparents many years ago and being introduced to instant tea, Bushells Instant Tea. It was a marvel, a revelation, an amazing time saver.

Not even the humble tea leaf has been safe from modernisation.

Not even the humble tea leaf has been safe from modernisation. Picture: Shutterstock

No longer was it necessary to put tea leaves in a pot and fill it with hot water. Now you could put powder in a cup and fill it with hot water. 

It tasted dreadful, but it was a lot easier than tea leaves – apparently.

It was a progression of Australia’s fascination with all things instant, including instant coffee, instant cake mixes, frozen peas, frozen pizza and so many other culinary delights.

I wonder if anything has changed more in Australia over the past 30 years than what we consume.

Our passion for junk foods has certainly grown in that time, along with our waistlines. I'm old enough to remember when no one had heard of Hungry Jacks, KFC and Red Rooster. I remember when the first Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet opened in our city.

When I was a child, fast-food meant fish-and-chips from the local. Now, fish-and-chips are considered a delicacy and many Australians are addicted to the big US brands like McDonald’s and a handful of Australian brands like Domino’s

Of course, there are those that would suggest that consuming junk food is not eating and I would be among them. In terms of the things we Australians eat and drink, the change has been even more profound over the last 30 years.

Remember barbecues in the 1970s?They consisted of chops, sausages, buttered sliced white bread, a tossed green salad with cheese and boiled eggs, and a bowl of beetroot. Today, in addition to steak, there might be crustaceans, a variety of other fish, one or more of a numbers of breads, and a range of salads involving any one of 20 lettuces, and an assortment of exotic vegetables, fruits and nuts etc.

Do you remember breakfast in the 1970s? Weetbix or a similarly unhealthy cereal (loaded with salt and sugar), warm full-cream milk, a slice of white bread toast and jam, and a cup of instant coffee. Very different from the smashed avocado with exotic condiments and barista-created designer coffee that demographer Bernard Salt has been so critical of Gen Ys for spending their money on.

When I was young, almost everyone took their lunch to school or work. I am told that today there is a problem in schools with kids getting Uber Eats deliveries. In the work place it seems that fewer people bring their lunch instead opting to use one of the growing range of exotic Lebanese, Vietnamese, Turkish, Greek, Italian, Indian, Chinese well-priced eateries in an easy walk.

I remember roast dinners with all the trimmings on Sundays, and ‘meat and three veg’, most week nights, all consumed around the table with full manners and parental respect on display. Today, this has all been replaced by eating out at a wide range of economical eateries, Uber Eats, supermarket delights or culinary masterpieces inspired by chefs and cooking traditions around the world.

I remember when mum did the cooking. Now some blokes are doing it. Fortunately, not me!

I remember when there were four styles of wine -- white, red, fortified and sparkling (carbonated) -- along with two local beers in each state and one national drop, Fosters. At the same time, spirits were generally southern European and the purchase place was called a ‘gallon license’ – with the law requiring purchasers to buy at least a gallon, in the vein attempt to protect hotel sales.

Today, the styles of wine available are far too many to count, boutique beer sales outnumber mainstream beer sales and the number of labels is increasing daily. The range of spirits is now huge, with a growing accent on quality and a growing interest in local boutique producers.

Then there are restaurants, where the number and range has exploded almost beyond comprehension. In most Australian cities, we can eat food from almost any country. Foodwise, Australia has truly become a melting pot.

Is there anything that has changed more in Australia than what we consume?

The growth of junk food has poisoned our society and increased obesity tenfold.

On the other hand, the increase in the variety of ‘foods’ eaten, at home with the family, when entertaining and in restaurants has enriched our diets, our culture and our understanding of other cultures.

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