Friday, April 2, 2010

Viva La Food Revolution!


Have you guys been watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution? I have heard it got really awful ratings (I heard wrong!) but I am enjoying it a lot and I think it could help make some real changes in the way America eats.  (Yes, I watch too much TV.  My cousin used to write an anti-TV magazine and I had a subscription when I was away at college.  I used to read it during commercials during the two hours of "Hangin' With Mr. Cooper" reruns I watched with my roommate every single day).

Jamie Oliver is a British chef who lead the charge to overhaul the school lunch system in Great Britain a few years ago.  He has now moved on to saving American students from the horrors of chicken fingers and french toast sticks and to teach families how to kick the processed foods habit and cook for themselves.  This show focuses on his work in Huntington, West Virginia, which apparently was named the most unhealthy city in America.  

When he arrives in town, he is met with a lot of resistance.  I immediately figured out why, although Jamie seems to struggle with it:  Americans don't like it when people come in with saucy British accents and tell us what to do.  I think it might be leftover remnants of the American Revolution or maybe more people love "1776" than I originally thought, but there is something about that accent that whispers in American ears, "He thinks he's better than you."  How dare this English dude come in and insult our pizza for breakfast?  What's next, he'll start insulting football and bragging about how his country gave us the Beatles?  Take your artfully tousled hair back to your own country, but please leave Harry Potter- we like him.

If you're not used to British guys, I am sure Jamie could rub you the wrong way.  Since I also watch Gordon Ramsey on "Kitchen Nightmares" I was prepared to hear Jamie call grown women girls, honey, sweetheart and darling, but a less scholarly person might consider that condescending.  He also calls cafeteria cooks who are old enough to be his mother "lunch ladies."  Again, I am sure he's not trying to be insulting, but it could certainly be understood why people might view it that way.

He is just so gosh darn sincere, though.  He really is pained when second graders can't identify a single fresh vegetable.  You can tell he is devastated when the school kids reject his chicken for their regular pizza and chocolate milk.  Sincerity just flows through every fiber of his being and he really is devastated by the idea that these kids might live shorter lives than their parents all because of the food choices being made in this country.  

I've written before about my struggles with obesity as a child, and I think Jamie might be onto something with this show.  His plan is to teach families about nutrition and then teach them how to prepare affordable and fresh meals in their own homes.  He preaches getting rid of processed foods and going back to basics in the kitchen.   He's also teaching kids about cooking and they seem to really embrace it and enjoy the time spent with him learning about food.  Rather than target the elementary school kids and single the fat ones out for special treatment, Jamie is working to overhaul whole families.  I personally think this might lead to some real changes in the way people view the things they eat, and who knows?  Maybe a wave of change might sweep across the nation.

I do think that the majority of people who watch this show are probably already well-versed on nutrition.  Plus, like Ricky Gervais said in an interview, Americans really do know why they're fat, for the most part.  Still, I admire him for trying and I'm interested to see what happens with the changes he's making in West Virginia.  Maybe he'll start a trend of eating steak and kidney pie and bangers and mash.  Stranger things have happened, such as the popularity of Spencer and Heidi, so I wouldn't rule anything out quite yet.  

So what do you guys think?  Is processed food really the devil or is everything in moderation the key?  I did walk away from the show craving chocolate milk like crazy, which is something I'm sure Mr. Oliver didn't plan on.  I craved Big Macs after watching "Supersize Me" too, so maybe I'm just a weirdo.  Maybe.

(Oh, and I stole the picture above from Jamie Oliver's Twitter.  I am blaming it on my decades of high fructose corn syrup consumption).

10 comments:

  1. I've been watching this too! I'll admit that I was a little put off my the accent and the "girls" comments at first but now I see just how sincere and dedicated he is. I think I like the show so much because I wish someone had stormed into my hometown and saved me from school lunch and all of the processed food that was in my house! Maybe I'd be a healthier and smaller person right now as a result.

    I wrote about this too!

    http://everydayrevelry.blogspot.com/2010/03/jamie-olivers-food-revolution.html

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  2. Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution got GREAT ratings. Don't know where you got your information. It's the highest rated Friday night show on ABC in four years.

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  3. Lauren, great minds think alike! I do know that I feel better the more unprocessed food I eat and I lose weight too.

    Anonymous, I just Googled and you're right. The ratings I read a few weeks ago must have been for the preview show. I'm so glad I was wrong.

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  4. http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/268500/march-30-2010/thought-for-food---corn-diapers--fatty-foods---jamie-oliver

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  5. I've been watching the show and it brings me right back to rural AR. Access to high-quality food in inner cities is a real problem, but it's even more of a problem in poor, rural areas. There were many times where the only grocery store for 40 miles didn't have basic fruits and vegetables (no green peppers, no tomatoes, etc.). Almost every student had an immediate relative with diabetes and the life expectancy there for the impoverished is on par with that of a developing country.

    My students were so unbelievably clueless about food and nutrition, it was heartbreaking. I actually stopped teaching the science curriculum and focused on health and nutrition because I couldn't rationalize making them learn about photosynthesis when they were killing themselves with sugar and fat. I once had to call in another teacher to verify that you could, in fact, cook fish in the oven because they absolutely did not believe it was possible - they'd never seen or heard of anything but fried fish. My senior honors students would have done about as well as those kindergarteners on identifying foods; I once asked, "What are some things that would be in a healthy meal?" and they looked at my blankly until somebody offered, "A carrot?". I had my seniors keep a food journal for two weeks and it was beyond sad, especially given how many of them had their own children and they were feeding them the same way they ate and had grown up eating. NO ONE is teaching them what food is healthy, sharing the information they need to make decisions about food or showing them how to prepare it.

    The food the school itself served was so bad that 85% of my students that didn't bring their own "lunch" (nearly everyone) would still refuse to eat it, even if it was their only meal of the day. They would buy two bags of chips from the vending machine for breakfast, two more for lunch and have a Tahitian Treat to drink (look up how much sugar is in that little delicacy) and have absolutely no idea why they felt like crap.

    I couldn't argue with them when they would tell me that you could get five Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers from Wendy's, 4 bags of hot fries or 3 apples for the same price. While plenty of Americans know why they're fat and choose to make unhealthy decisions, there are many others that truly lack even basic nutritional concepts. As long as terrible food continues to be subsidized, no one teaches our kids about food or how to cook, access to high-quality food is limited while fast-food is everywhere and corporations feed on ignorance (the whole General Mills/whole grain/Smart Choices debacle is a great example), we're never going to get anywhere. It's sad that it takes a chef from the UK to start the conversation.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Kelly, that is really sad but interesting to read. Maybe the whole concept of teaching science in schools should revolve more around nutrition? I personally have always been a little sad that I never learned home ec in school, because that always seemed like it would be a useful class. Maybe, since obviously they're not learning it at home, making that kind of thing part of the school curriculum would be a good idea. What do you think?

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  7. Taryn, I just found your blog and spent part of the weekend reading every entry. You are hilarious and wonderful. :)

    I definitely think processed foods are the devil. I also think that everyone's body is different and some people can eat all the processed junk they want and never suffer weight problems or health issues, but I'm sure not one of them. I do best on whole foods, cooked from scratch. As soon as I allow processed things back into my diet it's a downward spiral into wild cravings, exhaustion, and weight gain.

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  8. Thank you, Knitty! I'm glad you like it.

    I am right with you on spiraling with processed food. I need to get back on the cooking bandwagon because when I don't, I just get off track wayyyy too easily. It's time to hit up the grocery store in a big way this afternoon, whoo whoo.

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  9. Taryn, I just found your blog and spent part of the weekend reading every entry. You are hilarious and wonderful. :)

    I definitely think processed foods are the devil. I also think that everyone's body is different and some people can eat all the processed junk they want and never suffer weight problems or health issues, but I'm sure not one of them. I do best on whole foods, cooked from scratch. As soon as I allow processed things back into my diet it's a downward spiral into wild cravings, exhaustion, and weight gain.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I've been watching the show and it brings me right back to rural AR. Access to high-quality food in inner cities is a real problem, but it's even more of a problem in poor, rural areas. There were many times where the only grocery store for 40 miles didn't have basic fruits and vegetables (no green peppers, no tomatoes, etc.). Almost every student had an immediate relative with diabetes and the life expectancy there for the impoverished is on par with that of a developing country.

    My students were so unbelievably clueless about food and nutrition, it was heartbreaking. I actually stopped teaching the science curriculum and focused on health and nutrition because I couldn't rationalize making them learn about photosynthesis when they were killing themselves with sugar and fat. I once had to call in another teacher to verify that you could, in fact, cook fish in the oven because they absolutely did not believe it was possible - they'd never seen or heard of anything but fried fish. My senior honors students would have done about as well as those kindergarteners on identifying foods; I once asked, "What are some things that would be in a healthy meal?" and they looked at my blankly until somebody offered, "A carrot?". I had my seniors keep a food journal for two weeks and it was beyond sad, especially given how many of them had their own children and they were feeding them the same way they ate and had grown up eating. NO ONE is teaching them what food is healthy, sharing the information they need to make decisions about food or showing them how to prepare it.

    The food the school itself served was so bad that 85% of my students that didn't bring their own "lunch" (nearly everyone) would still refuse to eat it, even if it was their only meal of the day. They would buy two bags of chips from the vending machine for breakfast, two more for lunch and have a Tahitian Treat to drink (look up how much sugar is in that little delicacy) and have absolutely no idea why they felt like crap.

    I couldn't argue with them when they would tell me that you could get five Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers from Wendy's, 4 bags of hot fries or 3 apples for the same price. While plenty of Americans know why they're fat and choose to make unhealthy decisions, there are many others that truly lack even basic nutritional concepts. As long as terrible food continues to be subsidized, no one teaches our kids about food or how to cook, access to high-quality food is limited while fast-food is everywhere and corporations feed on ignorance (the whole General Mills/whole grain/Smart Choices debacle is a great example), we're never going to get anywhere. It's sad that it takes a chef from the UK to start the conversation.

    ReplyDelete