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Hunger like no other

Heather Parker questions why South African restaurants don't devote a couple of desserts to help the fight against hunger.

by: Heather Parker | 28 Feb 2008

'Hunger is the most punishing of all deprivations,' says Antonio Carluccio, the Italian granddad who turned Britain on to the idea of olive oil and focaccia back when that country was still stuck on sunflower oil and government bread.

I wouldn't really know: like most people reading this, my experience of hunger is what happens when I forget to eat between one night's supper and the next. It's nothing like the hunger that dogs the days and nights of so many people the world over.

Hunger, like all pain, is a warning from your body to your brain. I understand it's a raging pain, impossible to ignore, alerting you to the fact that your wellbeing – perhaps even your life – will be compromised unless you eat. So when the supply of food is unreliable, it becomes a full-time job to find enough food to keep pain at bay.

There are many NGOs that concern themselves with this, and many of us support them. I've just found out about a wonderful Carluccio initiative that I hope spreads to South Africa. Like a charity ball, it's a way of giving while having fun... a sort of charity dining out, and it's called Restaurants Against Hunger.

I discovered it when I was treating myself to a night out at one of London's buzziest and most highly-rated restaurants, St John. Other people visiting London might empty their wallets seeing the sights or oscillating between the fashions of Top Shop and designers of Knightsbridge; I'm a food tourist. So I was at St John, with a salad of roast shallots and goat's curd behind me, chops and mashed swedes coming up, and we were discussing the pudding menu (they don't call them poncy things like desserts at St John).

There was a special Restaurants Against Hunger (RAH) option: bread pudding with a butterscotch sauce. Order that, and around half the price goes to the charity.

I went onto the website to find out more about RAH. It's the restaurateur's contribution to Action Against Hunger, an NGO operating worldwide; and about 350 UK restaurants have signed up. There are also two lonely restaurants in Thailand, and one in Oman. None in South Africa.

So this is by way of a challenge to South African restaurateurs: link up with your colleagues, and devote a couple of your desserts to Restaurants Against Hunger.

It's so apt to be generous by dessert time: by then, few of us are still hungry. We order it to add to the celebratory nature of a night out, to satisfy a sweet tooth, to draw out the deliciousness of being out together. It's the discretionary part of eating out. If half the price of the tarte tatin were going to RAH, that's all I would need to twist my arm...

Are you aware of any SA initiatives where restaurants are giving back to the community? Spread the word below.

Heather Parker is the editor of Health24 and Bride magazine. She is one of SA's most respected journalists, and a serious foodie to boot.

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