Saturday, March 27, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

Last night, John and I watched Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. I applaud Oliver for trying so hard to wake up the citizens (especially the lunch ladies) of the unhealthiest town in America. While some have said it was heavily scripted (as many reality shows tend to be), I really don't care. It was the message that impressed me.

We were horrified by the fact that the 6 year olds could not identify the vegetables Oliver held up, but heartened by the fact that the teacher took it upon herself to teach the kids what they were. If the kids don't know what the vegetables are, it could mean one or more of the following:

1. All of their vegetables (if they eat any beyond potatoes) are processed.
2. Their parents no longer cook food, preferring instead to heat things.
3. Their parents do not have them participate in the purchasing and cooking of food.

John and I both remember being taught about food in school. What happened to this part of their education? Has it gone the way of music classes?

I hope that Oliver's work does not go unnoticed, especially by parents. The segment of the show that focused on the morbidly obese family was very interesting. I'm glad they finally got the point when the doctor explained the potential health problems facing their son. I'm also glad Oliver stayed and became part of the solution, despite the fact his family is back in the U.K. waiting for him.

The major issue I had with the program was food waste. I sincerely hope Oliver took all the meals that were not selected (in favor of pizza) to a local food bank. We have a big problem with folks going hungry right here in America, and watching all that food being wasted was painful, to say the least.

While we are not parents, we are concerned about the future of our country. In these times of phenomenally expensive health care, we really need to refocus on how to make healthy, fresh, organic foods less expensive so that it becomes cheaper to eat healthily than to eat poorly.

Remember when our mom's used to say "You are what you eat?" It's true. As the country's diet has gone downhill, so has our global competitiveness and innovation. The sooner we return to caring about our health and the health of our fellows, the better we will do.

Just my 50 cents (inflation, you know).

Monday, March 15, 2010

Book Review: The Art of Eating In

The Art of Eating In, by Cathy Erway is an autoblogography set in print. What I mean by that is that Erway's blog about not eating out in New York landed her a book deal about her life. Erway commits to not going to restaurants for food for a year (a very tough thing to do in a city that accommodates every diet and taste imaginable), and chronicles her experiences along the way. But don't expect the book to be like the blog, because it's much more personal with far fewer recipes (sadly!). The parts I really enjoyed were about her adventures with the Freegans, learning how to forage for food in NY's parks, sustainable dining, and the "underground" supper clubs. I also liked reading about her eating experiences with her family.

It was sad to read of her relationship challenges, especially the one fellow who didn't support her not eating out habit. But, she's better for it. I think it could have been somewhat shorter and included less of the minutia of her life (I ended up skipping over those portions when they appeared because I preferred the parts listed above). However, the majority of the book is carefully written and demonstrates that anyone can make these changes.

Since 2006, John and I have been saving money by limiting the number of times we eat out per month. It's not that big of a sacrifice, especially if you love to cook (and have dietary restrictions). It just requires a little planning and time management. Since I volunteer at a local co-op, I also have access to very fresh, organic foods on a regular basis. Along with the economic savings, the results have included spending more time exploring all my cookbooks, improving our cooking techniques, having more meaningful dining experiences, and savoring the times when we do eat out.

I was disappointed by how few recipes there were in Erway's book, but I did make an altered go of her Peppercorn, Potato, and Parmesan No-Knead Bread (sans cheese). The resulting bread was way too peppery for all the folks who tried it, but I would definitely try the core recipe again, perhaps with herbs. A short video of my experience follows.