Posts tagged Jamie Oliver

Thoughts on “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution”

By now you may have heard about the new reality show “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” on ABC. In this engrossing program, my favorite celebrity chef leaves Great Britain behind to incite a food revolution in America. Starting with the town of Huntington, West Virginia—recently named the unhealthiest city in America—Oliver is determined to turn its residents (especially its children) away from the dietary dangers of processed food. Obesity and obesity-related diseases have been on the rise in our country for some time, and Oliver’s investigation into our school diets and eating habits leaves little doubt as to why. Fortunately, even after viewing his dramatic demonstrations involving chicken fat, garbage bags full of chocolate milk, and the burial of a deep fryer, I found a few glimmers of hope by the end of the second episode.

Photo: ABC

The first two episodes show Oliver facing the same problems as when he revamped Great Britain’s school lunch program: skepticism from the lunch ladies who have been trained to simply reheat frozen, processed foods filled with sodium and artificial preservatives; kids who spit out fresh pasta and vegetables in favor of chicken nuggets (and turkey twizzlers in England); and administrators wary of the extra costs healthy food requires. But by the end of the second episode, Oliver has convinced the elementary school students to give his home-cooked meals a try, and has made significant progress with the obese Edwards family, teaching them about healthy eating and cooking, and using graphic scare tactics to direct them towards a whole foods diet.

While making these small steps, Oliver openly criticizes our government for our nation’s health issues, especially where school lunches are concerned. He blames the government for allowing processed junk into our schools in the first place, and for not providing funds for meals based on fresh fruit and vegetables. Children are being fed garbage for the sake of a manageable bottom line, and it’s helping to create the first generation of kids who will not live longer than their parents. Oliver forces the Edwards family to get check-ups (something they don’t do with regularity), and signs of impending diabetes are recognized in twelve-year-old Justin. While stating that he doesn’t understand what’s going on with our healthcare system, Oliver finds it “shocking, scary, and strange” that he had to be the one to take this family to the hospital. In just two hours of TV, he made many powerful and refreshing points about our general health and lifestyle.

Photo: ABC

While Oliver hands out a lot of criticism regarding fast food and government bureaucracy, the main point of his program is change. Turning away from processed foods is the first step towards claiming a healthy lifestyle. Step two is cooking with fresh fruits and vegetables so that you actually have a connection to your food, and step three is making this lifestyle accessible to everyone. I agree with Oliver that our government can and should help with these ideas, whether by example or through direct action. Some important seeds have already been planted, as with the recent passage of healthcare reform. Hopefully more families like the Edwards’s will visit their doctors and receive dietary advice in order to avoid illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. And in contrast to other recent administrations, Michelle Obama has focused her energies on ending child obesity. Her first step was planting an organic vegetable garden on White House property just last year, and now her Let’s Move program directly tackles childhood obesity at home and in schools. These efforts, combined with the increase in farmers’ markets, CSA’s, and programs such as Alice Water’s Edible Schoolyard will perhaps give Oliver less to complain about in the future.

Oliver’s show is fascinating, and I believe he truly cares about changing the eating habits of kids all around the world (even if he is trying to create compelling television at the same time). Watching him teach Justin Edwards how to cook chicken with noodles and fresh vegetables, while telling him how his self-esteem and health would change as soon as the weight started dropping off, brought tears to my eyes. The feelings it inspired relate to why I started this blog in the first place. Jamie Oliver understands that food is more about filling our stomachs. It’s a crucial key to our health and happiness. This is one revolution I can get behind.

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution airs on Fridays at 9 pm on ABC. This week Jamie Oliver heads to the kitchen at Huntington High School.

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A Look at Jamie Magazine

As many of you know, I consider myself a huge fan of Jamie Oliver. I’ve written about his recipestelevision shows, and cookbooks multiple times. I have enjoyed his recent focus on seasonal cooking, and I admire the positive work he has done with school lunches in England and his chain of restaurants called Fifteen. I’ve even become an official fan of his on Facebook. If that doesn’t prove my devotion to this man, I don’t know what else I can do.

My husband Jim is fully aware of my Jamie Oliver love and is not intimidated by it at all. In fact, while walking through the Heathrow airport on his way home from our trip to Prague, he noticed my favorite chef’s face on the inaugural cover of Jamie Magazine. He picked it up, brought it home, and promptly bought me a subscription for Christmas. Now every two months I get an up-to-date dose of Jamie Oliver, delivered straight to my door from the U.K. Unfortunately the magazine isn’t available on newsstands in the U.S.

jamiemag

As I eagerly flipped through the pages of the launch issue, I encountered many of my favorite Jamie Oliver trademarks. The photography is just as beautiful as in his cookbooks, and the magazine is printed on a gorgeous uncoated paper stock. Oliver’s words are predictably light and goofy, and the design is clean and quirky. As expected, Jamie Magazine is a visual delight.

The content is varied and should interest all types of food lovers. Travel pieces, such as a lovingly photographed piece on Stockholm, alternate with more recipe-based articles. Also included are shorter columns on wine, cookbooks, and harmless celebrity Q&As. (Brad Pitt and Ricky Gervais have appeared so far.) I have always loved Oliver’s recipes, so I tend to pay the most attention to these sections of the magazine. In the first issue, I appreciated the simple tutorial on omelets. The second issue, which I received last week, includes many budget-friendly recipes, as seen in features about one-pot Greek dinners and cheaper cuts of pork. The only problem for me is that the ingredients are listed in grams—I might finally need to buy a scale so that I can make these recipes at home. I also enjoy the special pull-out poster illustrating meal ideas for next two months. 

However, amidst my love for the magazine’s design and recipes, I do have one complaint about the content: the blatant, overwhelming amount of product placement. I guess it wasn’t enough to package the first issue of Jamie Magazine with a smaller catalogue for the Jme Collection, Oliver’s line of house wares. That article about aioli and beautiful wood serving pieces? It also functions as a plug for the chef’s line of all-natural boards and platters. The recipe for orrechiette with lamb ragu? Paired with an article about the designers for the Jme Collection, it’s yet another vehicle for endorsing the product line. And on and on it goes, every few pages containing a short article that also encourages the reader to invest in Oliver’s herbs, sauces, and house wares. I’m happy to say that the product placement in the second issue has been toned down a bit, but there’s no escaping some of the promotional propaganda. I doubt that a feature article on chef Adam Perry Lang, who is about to open a chain of barbecue restaurants with Oliver, would have been included otherwise.

Perhaps I should take a look at other celebrity-driven magazines, such as O, The Oprah Magazine, and Every Day with Rachel Ray, just to see how they compare in terms of self-promotion.  I understand that Jamie Magazine is driven by Jamie Oliver and is meant to capitalize on his name and personality, as well as to sell his brand. But as I turn the pages and see all of his products it tries to sell, I can’t help but feel uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I will stick with my favorite chef and watch the magazine evolve over the next few months. I hope to see more great recipes and articles, and less product placement. Because that’s what true fans want from Jamie Oliver.

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