Sigh. Jamie Oliver. I love Jamie Oliver. I love his food, I love his books, I love his app, I love the mission he is on. Jamie Oliver is trying to change the way we eat, and by doing so, he plans to deal a massive blow to the likes of obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. He is trying to encourage us to get back into the kitchen and cook for ourselves and our families, thereby cutting out the fast and overly processed foods that are making us sick. And fat. And depressed. We are getting this information from so many sources at this point that it’s hard to deny the link between bad nutrition and the host of bad effects it is having on our wellbeing. Even PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, according to last week’s Economist, sees what is at stake and is reducing salt and sugar in Pepsi products, promising to rid schools of all their sugar packed sodas by 2012 (what a gal!) So Jamie is having an effect. He recently won the TED prize for his efforts to change our diets, as chronicled on his new TV show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution on ABC Friday nights at 9 pm. Check him out in any of the aforementioned ways. He is pretty great.
Check out this inspiring video.
Interview with Jamie Oliver
What inspired you to start this movement?
So many things, it’s hard to know where to start. Working with a family, rich or poor, that has a terrible relationship with food, and seeing how even the simplest bits of information can completely change their future is inspiring. Seeing kids learning how to cook and knowing they’ll be able to feed themselves when they grow up because of it also inspires me.
Heart disease and other diet-related illnesses are some of the biggest killers in the US, way bigger killers than homicide though you’d never know that from the news. These diet-related problems are really hurting people and it upsets me because if people knew how to cook, they’d be able to make better choices and feed their families better, and for less money than the local takeaway charges them. There’s not enough proper food education out there, and no limit to how many fast-food restaurants are allowed to open. We are so obviously in a place where we care more about dollars and pounds than we do about the health of ourselves and our kids. Being upset about all these things inspires me.
This whole Food Revolution movement isn’t about taking away your burger, or telling someone they can’t have candy floss at the fair; it’s about sharing information and knowledge so we can change the day-to-day stuff and get back to having healthy, happy communities.
Give us a little bit of knowledge on what is happening to us as we are eating more and more fast and processed foods? What are the real risks here?
Well, I think it’s pretty simple really: Forty years ago we ate mostly fresh, local food, and we knew where that food was coming from. But then fast and heavily processed foods crept in and totally changed our palettes and food businesses. And ultimately, this food is killing us. Obesity and weight gain are the most obvious symptoms, but the problem I have in telling this story is that there are also loads of skinny people suffering because the garbage they are eating is affecting them in a different, but equally dramatic way.
Another real risk I see is that we’re in danger of completely losing touch with all the best things about food. I’ve worked all over the UK and the US and I’ve been in many homes with no kitchen table at all. I know that’s got nothing to do with health directly, but it means there’s no sitting down together, no conversation, no family meals. I’ve gone into schools where kids are eating with their hands instead of knives and forks, and they can’t tell me what a potato or a tomato is… I think that’s pretty shocking. If our kids aren’t learning about food at home, we’ve got to make sure they learn at school in a contemporary, relevant, and exciting way.
What can we each do individually to ensure that our kids are eating good food in school?
I honestly believe signing my petition is a move towards ensuring this in the long run so please, if you’re reading this, go straight to the petition and sign it.
But also, whether you’re a parent or a kid, you need to know that it’s alright to be aware of where your food comes from and what’s in it. If your food is massively processed and full of things you can’t pronounce, you absolutely have a right to ask for, and expect, change.
As a parent, now is the time to be paranoid and have an opinion. Everyone may say “It’s all good.” but if you go into most school freezers and look on the boxes you’ll see it’s not all good. Talk to other parents about what’s going on with the lunches at school because if we put the effort in now we’ll be able to sort things out. Milk isn’t even safe! The majority of milk drinks consumed in American schools have as much sugar in them as a can of fizzy pop! Just remember, when it comes to your kids you have every right to know about what they’re being fed.
Your big thing is getting people into the kitchen to make homemade food for the family. Are there any super easy recipes that you could recommend people start with that pack a good nutritional punch?
Cooking is a life skill you’ll use every day of your life and, aside from the mortgage on your house, your local supermarket is where you’ll probably spend most of the money you earn in your life. That’s why I think getting your head around the basics is a really cool thing to do. These recipes from my Food Revolution book (or Ministry of Food as it’s called here in the UK) are really achievable, tasty and simple.
You can make this using any white fish or salmon. It’s incredibly quick, and really good to give the kids for dinner.
Jam Jar Dressings
In my opinion, the most important part of a salad is the dressing. It’s all very well saying everyone needs to eat more salad, fruit, and veggies (it’s true, we do), but it should be a pleasure, not a chore! By dressing a salad you can make it delicious, meaning you want to eat it rather than feel you have to. The other good news is that your body can absorb far more of the nutrients from salads because of the presence of oil and acid in the dressing. So dressings give you the double whammy of being a healthy benefit and also delicious! Don’t drown your salads in dressing, though—remember, a little goes a long way—and always dress them at the last minute before serving.
I like to make my dressings in jam jars because it’s so easy to see what’s going on—you can shake them up easily and any leftovers can be kept in the jars in the fridge. I’m going to give you four basic dressings that can be used with all the salads in this chapter. With the exception of the yogurt dressing, they are based on a ratio of 3 parts oil to 1 part acid (vinegar or lemon). Generally, this ratio is a really good benchmark for making any dressing, but it’s always sensible to have a little taste once you’ve shaken it up. If the seasoning is there but you’re finding it a little too acidic, you’ve cracked it, because once the dressing is on the salad leaves it will be perfect.
Interview with Jamie Oliver
If you could replace all of the sugary, processed food in vending machines, what would you put in them?
This is a really interesting one because psychologically it’s good for us to have treats in life. And actually, I think having a well-run tuck shop or vending machine that stocks a variety of better-quality treats can be ok. The problem we have is that treats are taking over and a lot of companies are using cheaper sugar, cheaper chocolate, and other stuff that’s making them even worse for us.
The fact is kids are still going to buy that stuff on their way home from school, so it’s not as simple as ripping out all the chocolate and replacing it with muesli bars. I think it’s about being smarter about how the machines are used. Some schools I’ve seen have vending machines that use cashless cards so parents can actually track what their kids are eating. Other schools have their machines on timers so kids can only buy treats after they’ve eaten their lunch. We can definitely be smarter about what these machines are stocked with—if we embrace food made by companies using better-quality ingredients and include a more varied selection that would be a good start.
But again, information and education is the key. Ultimately, if you’ve got kids being taught to cook so they’re less scared of things, and interested parents who make sure any gaps are being filled at home then things tend to work out naturally. As you can see this is a fairly meaty subject!
What is it like being so brilliant and so cute all at the same time?
Ahhh! Bless you Gwyneth.
Well I at least try to be brilliant, and I was cute as a baby but I think those qualities are probably very debatable subjects these days!
Be sure to catch Jamie Oliver’s TV show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution on Fridays at 9 pm on ABC.