Earlier this year we spent a couple of weeks in Canada for some family skiing. We had one of our daughters, her husband and 2 grand-daughters from Australia with us at Sun Peaks Ski resort. The mountain is great and skiing conditions were near perfect. The only problem with Sun Peaks is that there is absolutely no night life and the restaurants are terrible. As a result you tend to spend most evenings in your rented accommodation self catering and watching TV. The TV shows are a mix of Canadian and US programmes and are the general fare of re-runs or reality shows where people bleed emotionally in front of millions of viewers.

What I found most interesting however is the blend of TV advertising.

There is no question in my mind that TV advertising is a window to the National soul.
In France, where we live, a vast majority of the TV ads are about food. Not a surprise based on this being a national obsession.

Fish Terrine with Shrimps

In Australia it should be no real surprise that a lot of the TV ads are for beer. The ads for “XXXX” beer are considered national treasures and art forms.
I have always believed that one of the major differences between the US and Australia was that the Americans invented drive-in banks, and the Australians invented drive-in liquor stores.

In North America, a vast majority of the ads seem to be for either fast food or below the waist medications, presumably the first one being one of the major causes of the need for the second.

Young boy picking french-fries from a plate with a hamburger

I sat in front of the TV one morning waiting for my family to get ready so we could head out for another day’s skiing, and watched consecutive ads for different products to help with bladder leakage, which were squeezed between numerous ads alternating solutions for both constipation and diarrhea, as well as ads for hamburgers, Pizza and French Fries. It was a continuous procession of put it in one end and we will help you move it out the other. I wondered whether I was the only one who could see this connection.

I do understand that there is an ageing population here in the USA and Canada, as there are also numerous ads for Alzheimer’s medication and retirement homes, but I am getting the impression that the locals could be a lot better off if they understood that the French have given the world more than just fries.

At least in France, bowel habits seem to have attracted very little need for TV attention despite the equivalent ageing population.

Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote in 1826 “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es”. (Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are), and he hadn’t even heard of fast foods.

close-up of a plate of hors d'oeuvre


14 Responses to YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT

  1. Frank says:

    your views gave me a good giggle, and how true..
    But Aussieland is maturing, look at the impact of Masterchef, record audiences, and so many food and wine (but no beer) shows. And, Coles and Woolworths have totally changed their advertising focus, Coles have created the 30sec menu for the family, Woolies interviews one of its growers.. fresh food and quality eating at home (washed down by a nice beer or wine) are now the order of the day on TV adverts..
    Now, to watch that anti-cholesterol advert again, and that joint pain one too.. 🙂 Frank

  2. leshayman says:

    Hi Frank,
    Glad to hear that OZ is maturing … is this just Sydney/Melbourne or has this new sophistication hit Qeensland as well ? 🙂
    I now have my first “bionic” insert having had a plastic vein inserted in my left leg as part of a varicose vein op last week. With hips, knees, etc also available we may all eventually rival the “6 million dollar man”.
    Recovering now, but not sure when I can rejoin the Bolshoi 🙂

  3. Frank says:

    National advertising, including Qld.
    Looks like we are in a race to be the Six Mill $ Man, I’m putting off knee replacements (years of rugby and 10 yrs of triathlons) and a shoulder replacement (rugby and coming of the bike and breaking the shoulder up about 14 yrs ago) and overuse in 20+yrs of swim squads.. the shoulder op has me scared, they didnt do a good cleanup 2 yrs ago, and replacements are 20 yrs behind knees in technology and experience.

  4. leshayman says:

    Frank, it’s a double edged sword … if you don’t exercise it’s bad for your heart, and if you do exercise it destroys your joints … maybe yoga is the answer ?

  5. Frank says:

    Still go to gym 5 days, and pilates on saturdays.. I wish I had started pilates 30 yrs ago.
    Healthy heart, healthy mind, and it is important to have strong active muscles to recover from any surgery..
    so I’m finding my “new” balance, as my old philosophy of balance “doing everything to extreme creates balance” has had to softened a little. 🙂

  6. martin metcalf says:

    Les, I read and treasure all your blogs.
    We invited some of our neighbours round for Sunday lunch yesterday and served roast beef. Not unusual in itself but the Americans don’t do roasts like the English. Your blog reminded me of the French name for Brits; “Le roast beefs”. Funny how the french can not only tell what you are by what you eat but they can sum up a whole Nation. Silly Frogs.

  7. leshayman says:

    Hi Martin,
    The term is actually “rosbif” and I assume comes from when that was the thing that was considered to be notable English cuisine, just as the English refer to “Frogs” in the same light.
    I have to say that these days I would class London as one of the top cities for good food, and one of my favourite restaurants anywhere is St. John in Smithfield which serves traditional English food including great rosbif !!
    Glad to see that you are introducing Americans to food that needs more than a microwave or a drive-through.

  8. Chad says:


    Next time you come to the west coast of Canada, I’ll make sure that you and Victoria eat well.


  9. leshayman says:

    Hi Chad,
    Meeting you guys (and the dog sledding) was the highlight of the trip, and made it worthwhile.

  10. Sean Le Leprichaun says:

    Les, check this out , a mcdonald’s hamburger that has not aged in 12 years!! Maybe we are looking at it the wrong way – maybe we wont age if we fill ourselves up with preservatives (the chemical kind , not the french kind) ???

    • leshayman says:

      I had another close look at that 12 year old Mcdonalds burger, and the new one beside it for comparison, and neither of them actually look edible … Les

  11. leshayman says:

    Hi Sean,
    Problem is that with all these preservatives we won’t age after we are dead. MacD’s may just be the answer to the modern embalming fluid.

  12. Dominic Wakefield says:

    Just a point on ads and trends – the tendancy on TV to include ads for womens plumbing is the a more recent trend that I could do without. Women don’t seem to like it either….

  13. leshayman says:

    Hi Dom,
    Interesting that human plumbing generally has become so popular in advertising … it must be something that people are worried about or else something that advertisers would like us to worry about.
    We have come a long way (backwards ?) from the days when it was mainly for household plumbing like dishwashers and washing machines.

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