I know I am a little late to the Jamie Oliver party, but last night I finally got around to watching Jamie Oliver's TED Prize speech. After that I immediately went to Hulu to watch the first pre-season episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, his new show on ABC. The season is set to premiere with a two hour episode tomorrow night and I CAN'T WAIT!
To those who haven't seen it, Jamie goes to a town in West Virginia that has been deemed by the government to be the fattest in America in order to change their food culture, primarily focusing on their schools. To be honest, I wasn't sure what I thought of his approach at first. He comes on a little strong and it was more than clear that the school lunch ladies did not like him poking around on their turf. In fact, other than a pastor that is also concerned with the health of the town's residents, many others also seemed angered with Jamie and he even winds up on the front page of the town paper.
However, what struck a chord with me was the family that Jamie begins working with to change their eating habits. All of the children are overweight and the Mom serves them things like freshly fried donuts dipped in chocolate as their breakfast. She cries when Jamie tells her she is killing her children. This hit home because I was raised in much the same way. The food culture where I grew up was similar (so it is no surpise that Philadelphia and the surrounding area also ranks right up there on the fattest in America list). I grew up eating Entemann's donuts and Cocoa Krispies for breakfast. Lunch was either American cheese on white bread or whatever unidentifiable object they served in the cafeteria. Dinner was chicken nuggets with french fries or macaroni and cheese. We rarely had a salad, but if we did you can bet it was iceberg lettuce with blue cheese dressing. To be fair, we often had some green stuff, like cooked frozen spinach, canned string beans or asparagus (cooked in butter!). Sometimes we had salmon (in a dill cream sauce) or tuna (covered in parmesan cheese and fried in olive oil). We had dessert pretty much every night: double-stuffed Oreos, Chips Ahoy cookies, a piece of cake with 6 inches of icing or some other pre-packaged nightmare. You might think I had awful parents or something but they were feeding us exactly what every other family in my area was feeding their kids. It's no wonder I got so fat and have food issues to this day....and that I had my gall bladder removed at 23 years old!
If you can believe it, the following is a list of food that I either did not ever eat or didn't know existed until coming to college or, in some cases, even just a year or two ago: whole wheat bread, lentils, almond milk, brown rice, soy milk, quinoa, sushi, bulgur wheat, tofu, tempeh, seitan, falafel, any cuisine from India, Ethiopia, Japan and Thailand, brussel sprouts, kale, chard, beets, mixed greens, jicama, avocado, bamboo shoots, baby spinach, feta cheese, carrots (unless they were in a canned soup), artichokes, Greek yogurt, mung beans/mung bean sprouts, steel cut oats, polenta, brie cheese, couscous, almond butter, okra, whole wheat pasta, cannelini beans, butternut squash, chickpeas, arugula, whole wheat pizza, pesto, black beans, green tea, guacamole, hummus, dolma, blackberries, Asian pears, black grapes, chai, guava, papaya, collard greens and yuca. I am sure there are more. The good news is that most of those things make up the large majority of my diet at this point, so there's hope for others who grew up on foods similar to me.
Jamie's show is premiering at the same time that First Lady Michelle Obama has started her new Let's Move Campaign. In fact, you can sign his petition for healthier food in our schools, which he plans to take to the White House after the show airs. For all of the kids like me who were served slushies, Doritos, frozen pizza and breadsticks covered in cheese (as a main course!) in their cafeterias, I sincerely hope a change is on the horizon. I can't wait to watch and see what tomorrow night brings!
Are you watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution? What do you think? What types of food did you grow up eating?