Thursday, March 25, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

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?


Analiese Marie said...

I'm SO excited about this show! I grew up eating a pretty balanced mix of meat, fish, pasta, veggies, fruit, etc., and it wasn't until just recently that I realized how much better I feel when I eat a primarily plant-based diet. I think, for a lot of people that "aha moment" just never happens. They grow up eating a certain way, so they never really know anything else. I think it's so great that this show is garnering awareness for the damage we, as a country, are doing to our bodies and the earth.

Anonymous said...

Two things. I have worked with Jamie Oliver in the past and he is a total doll. Seriously, great guy and so fun and easy to work with compared to other celebrity chefs. Not only that, I really do admire what he is doing.

The flip side. I grew up in a home with a father concerned about his weight and a mother always on a diet. My meals were wholesome, nutritious and healthy. Pastas, meat, fruit, veggies, lots of salads, fish, etc. I mean, I did get dessert most nights and we did have the occasional fast food or pizza night - but those were rare. I still got heavy in college and post-college. Being around people that have a diet mindset all the time can be just as unhealthy as eating crap - in a strange way.

That said, I think that Jamie is trying to emphasize real food and not dieting - I hope that comes through - sometimes that message can get garbled.

Lillie Langtry said...

Being a Brit, I've been aware of Jamie for some years now ;-) His "do-gooding" attitude can get on some people's nerves, but I think he genuinely means it.

I have his cookbook which is called "Ministry of Food" in the British edition, but it has the same photo I see in your image there, so maybe it's the same one. It has loads of tasty ideas, but I find that occasionally it then doesn't give quite as much detail as it needs to - which isn't great for a book which is marketed at beginner cooks!

As for growing up, my parents ate a huge variety of healthy foods, including salad EVERY day with dinner - but it didn't stop me going through a phase when I pretty much existed on baked potatoes and cheese and chicken nuggets! And it was a longish phase! Some kids are just picky, there's still hope for later!

Carolyn said...

It's funny b/c I grew up eating really healthy foods for the most part, mainly because they were Korean. I ate loads of veggies (some of which I still don't know the name of), and I never had dessert b/c my parents didn't make it. But once I got into high school, fast food was a regular for me and my friends, and once I could drive? It was all over. I'm really excited about the show and hope it inspires ME to eat better foods.

Chelsa Bea said...

After I saw you tweet about watching the show last night I head over to Hulu to watch the episode myself. First, let me just say that I am totally behind what Jamie is doing and I honestly think America’s school system does need an overhaul when it comes to the school meals. Additionally, my favorite moment of the show was when Jamie went to the family’s home and helped them to take a look at what they were eating and how they could get better. But, I have to confess that I was a little disappointed in the program. To me, it seemed that they focused way too much on the drama and negativity, rather than focus on the actual mission and point of what Jamie is trying to do. It was a little too much for me. I love Jamie Oliver and have been a huge fan of his food for a long time. I’m glad someone is doing what he’s doing, but if the way they film doesn’t change I’m not sure I’ll watch many more episodes.

Anonymous said...

I am planning to watch it! (am on the west coast - so will watch it in a few hours). I am right now watching the pre-season epi on hulu on your rec. This is seriously scary!!

Loved your honest post, btw!

I grew up in India eating reasonably healthy plant based food- my mom was pretty committed (lol) to feeding us nutritious balanced (yet tasty) meals (which was a challenge, as I was a picky eater and a problem child as far as food was concerned). Ofcourse we ate stuff like pizza and chips and icecream, but those were ocassional treats and not really the norm. And we never felt like we were being deprived of the good stuff.

That doesn't mean that everybody in India eats healthy food- I know several people(from my family and others) for whom a big mound of white rice with dollops of ghee and spicy pickles is part of every meal. Every society has problems with food, that need to be remedied- it is just that in the U.S., EVERYTHING is so readily available, it becomes much easier to make the wrong food choices

When I came to the U.S- the first year, I binged on cream cheese and croissants and chips/dorritos but soon remedied that. I still continue to be shocked at people around me having french fries and soda with every meal.(i have to admit that I have also fallen prey to this several times- It is difficult to resist fried potatoes ..:)) I am soo happy about the provisions in the health care bill that address some of these issues, as well as about the Jamie Oliver show (can't wait!)


Cari said...

Thank you so much for recommending this show! On your advice, I went online and have watched the first episode and half (so far) of the second. This is an amazing and mind-blowing show and I never would have thought to watch it without your rec, so THANK YOU!

Melita said...

i haven't watched it yet, but definitely plan on it. i'm fully behind jamie & his food revolution. i think if we can start kids eating better at a younger age that will lead to a much better future than what we are currently headed for. hugs!!

Taryn Wright said...

You write about this a lot better than I did! I am excited to see how the results in WV pan out. It's great to see someone who actually cares try to do something about a problem instead of just complaining about it.