Night Starvation


Do you suffer from night starvation?  No, I thought not.


Maybe in 1931 when the phrase was first used by the Horlicks company to promote their syrupy drink, people in Britain – who had eaten their main meal at lunch time, then later might have had ‘toast for tea’ and would not eat again for another 12 hours – could possibly have been woken in the night by the sound of their own tummies rumbling…..but not any more.  Now the advertisements are for tabs to take before a meal in order to be able to eat mounds and mounds of spicy food and still be smiling.


Horlicks contains malted barley and wheat flour, processed so the starch is converted into sugars, to which dried skimmed milk and whey are added.  After all the liquid is removed it is milled into a powder, then vitamins, minerals and flavourings go in. Hot or cold water or milk is added to make a drink. Including 200mls of semi-skimmed milk, each cup represents 181 calories (9% of an adult’s daily guideline amount or allowance for healthy living) 20.5g sugar (23%) 4.2g fat (6%) of which saturates are 2.6g (13%) and .5g salt (8%)  All that, the company claims, will promote sleep and make one ‘taller, stronger, sharper’…..and might I add ‘rounder?’


So if the claims are true, let’s not encourage the Dutch to drink Horlicks. The Dutch are so TALL, so BIG (and so….loud?) They kind of take up an awful lot of space…… In the mid nineteenth century, in general, men were an average of 4-6inches shorter than they are now. Today, the average height for men globally is around 5ft 10, but the Dutch average is 6ft 1inch (1.85 m) closely followed by the Danes at 6ft. (1.83m) As these are only ‘averages’ many Dutch and Danes are a lot taller than 6ft…..they are often up to 7ft (2.13m.) New building codes in Holland specify the provision of higher doorframes and more ‘tall friendly’ automobile designs.


Lots of food however, does not equate with added height, it’s about nutritional value, not amount. It’s all about diet and lifestyle.  Americans are now shorter than they used to be; the height of the average US male is 5ft 9inches (1.76m.) Interestingly Dutch people living in other countries are not as big as they are at home…witness the South African rugby team; big guys surely, but not as big as the campers and cyclists we see on the shores of Lake Annecy and the Dutch families in its local supermarkets of a summer’s day.


Such care goes (should I say ‘went?’…..please let it be again in production) into the making of the television series “Mad Men” based on an advertising firm in Manhattan in the nineteen sixties, that even the apples in a bowl on a table have to be specially sourced.  Apples were smaller in the nineteen sixties and when one drank coffee then, it was probably from a cup, not a mug. Europeans tend to drink 4-5 oz cups of coffee, often a ‘café’ is a 1oz shot. An average American coffee mug would be 8 to 10oz.


We are all bigger and rounder than we were in the nineteen thirties, when people in Europe ‘suffered from night starvation’ and the standard bust measurement in knitting patterns for women’s sweaters was 32 inches. Today in Asia –particularly Singapore – bras are still tiny ‘A’ cups but further north, in places such as Germany, overshoulderboulderholders are displayed in D,E and G cups, and that ubiquitous British purveyor of underwear, Marks and Spencers, are heavily into Double DDs.  I have only two friends to whom I can pass on shoes which I desired so much I did an Ugly Sister routine in the shop and persuaded myself they were not really tight, all the time knowing deep down that they would never fit (oh frailty, thy name is woman.) However, the proof on the shop floor at sale time (much to my chagrin) is that 37-38 is still the most popular average size in women’s footwear.  Even when the boxes of size 36 and 39-41 are still piled high, there is always a dearth of covetable shoes in the size 37-38 section.


Of course, genes are also a factor. I am one-eighth Italian, the rest, Irish. Therefore I am small, with short limbs, hips to accommodate easy childbirth (and how….did I ever tell you about having a baby in ten minutes?…..not yet? oh but I will, I will!) and knees ruined by generations of rosaries. I’m a Sessarego from the village of Sessarego above Bogliasco on the Ligurian coast and I’m PROUD.  I’m not in the slightest bit phased by Randy Newman…..


Short people –(according to Randy Newman)

got little hands

Little eyes

They walk around

Tellin’ great big lies`

 They got little noses                                   

And tiny little teeth

They wear platform shoes

On their nasty little feet………..

 They got little baby legs

That stand so low

You got to pick em up

Just to say hello

They got little cars

That go beep, beep, beep

They got little voices

Goin’ peep, peep, peep

 They got grubby little fingers

And dirty little minds

They’re gonna get you every time

Well, I don’t want no short people

Don’t want no short people

Don’t want no short people

`Round here………….”


Well tough Randy, but it’s nice down here close to terra firma.  My core is centered, I’m…..well….more grounded…….and I can hear trains coming better than you.

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© Copyright 2011 Isabel Healy