Last night I attended a talk at a renowned university in London about celebrity chefs and food politics. I had apprehensions as I knew it wasn’t going to be all praise and love, but I did not expect so much unfounded criticism. From the moment I got there to the end an hour later, I experienced excitement, anger and finally happiness. My god I was tired after that talk!
I did not understand why one of the speakers went on and on about how people like Jamie Oliver make money out of selling branded goods as well as fighting for a good cause and that somehow, it makes them bad people. Since when providing for your family has become a bad thing?
I did not get her point. Yes she had far too many cook books on her lounge shelves (as she showed us on her Power Point presentation) (compulsive shopper?) and yes you can find Jamie Oliver foods in the supermarket and Jamie Oliver saucepans and knives in the shops but does that make his actions less worthy? No one is forcing her to buy all these products. Or maybe the point she was trying to make was that people buy things they don’t need when presented them in shops? But what would that have to do with last night’s talk? Surely you can’t blame book writers and food makers for trying to sell their products!
In my opinion, if anything, having his products on shop shelves makes him more famous and that can only have a positive outcome. The more famous the better, as the greater the impact. I mean, remember back in 2006 when he campaigned for better school lunches? Being a celebrity – with great communication skills, lets not abstract that – helped getting results! How hard did he work on that? Then in 2009, he did Ministry of Food, a program in which he went across England to try teaching and empowering people. People who took part were then meant to share the recipe they had learned with 6 other people, and so on, spreading the knowledge throughout the whole country. Would it have worked half as well had it been conducted by a regular person? It takes time to see change but last night I found out that food education will be compulsory in schools for children aged 7-14 from September 2014. And it doesn’t stop there, the aim is to get parents involved too to make sure changes occur at home. That definitely was the highlight of my day! I can’t believe I did not know about it. Where have I been?? Ah that’s right I was in France last week.
I admire Jamie Oliver for his investment for a healthier nation. I wish more people were aware of the health consequences of unhealthy eating. Maybe they would invest more in food now in order to pay a smaller price in the future.
Anyway, some people argue that his food isn’t that healthy. Well here is my response to that:
1) in his last book “15 minute meals”, he got a nutritionist to help and each recipe has a calorie count now. Changes are being made on his side too.
2) his point was always to get people who feed themselves ready meals and takeaways to cook at home. Change occurs step by step. If you ask someone who only eats takeaways to make salads everyday from now on I doubt it will work. 1st you learn that cooking is possible and can be easy, fun and tasty. Then you improve to maybe using less fat or so. Or maybe buying more veg, one step at a time.
At uni we were told that the government recommendations should in fact be 10 fruits and vegetables a day but that they could not officially declare this, as most people struggle to match the 5-a-day recommendations already. They decided that giving an aim that is too hard to achieve leads to discouragement rather than progress. Same goes with running. Ask someone who doesn’t run, to go out run a marathon, it will not work! My point being, with eating habits, it goes back to how our mothers cooked for us, how their mothers cooked, etc. I think what’s happening at the moment is pretty amazing and we should look back on it in twenty years time to evaluate the changes.
Have a look at a couple of articles on the new National Curriculum and food education below. This is all very exciting! We can be proud of the people who got involved. Jamie is not the only one of course, but his media coverage is so gigantic that it definitely got things moving. And that is why, I support 100% celebrity chefs who get active for a good cause. Go Jamie!
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution: