04 March, 2011

Jamie Oliver's "Food Revolution" Semi-Truck Makes Its Debut In Los Angeles

Courtesy of jaimeoliver.com
Now I know there are no simple, magic solutions for combating all the poor nutrition and obesity issues we have amounted for ourselves here in the United States, but I do think there are folks out there making inroads into showing the general public how to start taking control back over their own health. One route to take is to educate people about their food choices and show them real-world, tangible tools with which they can turn around and use in their own lives. What is not a constructive answer is to scold people who are already insecure about their health, and/or feel lost in terms of how they can get out of the cycle of malnutrition that they find themselves in. Some attention to the state of things does need to be a part of the intervention stage of getting a person to think in different ways, learn new habits, and ultimately change her/his life, but there also needs to be productive dialogue and positive encouragement in that process. One guy doing his best to make all this happen is my "chef crush," Jamie Oliver. 

Courtesy of jaimeoliver.com
 I have actually been following his work since the days of his TV show (and subsequent cookbook), The Naked Chef in the early 2000s. I tuned in to see his oxymoronic, focused frenzy as he literally threw dishes together out of whatever he seemed to have on hand at home in London (where the show was filmed). If he did go to the market for ingredients he kept things basic  - things that were easily repeatable in my own apartment's kitchen. - and of good quality. I also was smitten with his hyperactive-yet-casual style, his slight lispy British accent and shaggy hair, and his shaky self-confidence: he knew who he was but who he was was a man a little askew and with (perceived) ADHD. His on-camera persona did not seem like a shtick, not to mention that a guy who could get that excited about making food with his own two hands, was definitely a turn on! I ignored the fact that his girlfriend at the time (now his wife and mother of his FOUR children) made semi-regular appearances on the show. Hey, a girl can have her fantasy of a man and his tubers however she wants it, right? 

So many moons later Jaime has starred in several other cooking shows; written a bunch of cookbooks; launched his own Food Revolution; won an Emmy for it; ticked off a lot of people in bureaucratic, governmental and public school agencies; etc., etc...all in the name of getting people to cook/eat REAL food and as a result have better health. He definitely has made some enemies for himself and many people think he is too intrusive and bombastic and peppy, but we are in a state of crisis people! The days of begging people to take responsibility for their health and the health of their loved ones (especially children) are over. As I said above though, he does not do this only in a finger-pointing sort of way. He is unabashed in his passion: giving you statistics and making you feel a little uncomfortable about the facts of the bad eating patterns and preventable diseases in this country. 

Overall though Jaime believes in education over berating...for the lay people anyway. He has little sympathy or patience for the administrators and subversive marketers (TV commercials, fast-food chains, etc.) whose bottom line always comes down to money instead of the well-being of the people those groups have great influence over. Frozen, fried "chicken" strips and dayglow-yellow cheese sauce product are NOT good for you, and are questionable as legitimate food! And even if an adult wants to make the choice to eat such things themselves, growing kids should not have to be stuck eating that garbage as their primary source of nutrition! I'm sorry, but if the parent cannot police their child's junk food options and restaurants refuse to serve actual food with reasonable amounts of "bad" ingredients, then we have to search out other options. Something Jaime points out is that many families come from a history of not cooking at home, so how can they pass on such vital traditions if they never learned such skills themselves? That is something he wants to change.

One way Jaime is fighting for healthy lifestyles, as well as all the red tape, is to avoid it all together and make his mission a reality on his own terms. Watch the video below to witness Jaime's energy and see how he makes people laugh while simultaneously almost crying as he lists all the challenges his work is up against. The video is of his acceptance "speech" after he won the 2010 TED Prize (the non-profit organization that makes a deserving wish come true) of $100,000 and was asked to make a wish that would change the world. Jaime's reply as stated on the Ted Prize's website was: “I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.” 

Jaime used the money to put together a 14-wheel semi-truck that will go directly to people to help show them ways to avoid poor eating habits. Part of the reason a truck was chosen was to avoid all of the fuss the Los Angeles, CA public school district raised earlier this year about him coming into their schools as he did last year in Huntington, West Virginia for his Food Revolution TV show. The majority of this resistance was no doubt due to their fear of having their dirty laundry hung and washed on national television, exposing how the decisions of a small amount of out-of-touch people negatively affect the lives of thousands of others! Get more info on this controversy here and here. We are keeping our fingers crossed that Jaime's new mobile classroom-kitchen will help grant his TedPrize wish. Check out Jamie's new ride in this video from the BBC and tag along with him on his planned route here which started in LA today at Ted2011 in Long Beach. The truck also has its own Twitter page! Wroom, WROOM! 
Courtesy of blogs.villagevoice.com

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