Sunday, March 28, 2010

No We Can't

I have mixed feelings about Jamie Oliver. There is something deeply annoying about his elf-like enthusiasm. I thought his "Naked Chef" show was bizarre. The husky, off-camera, Hal 2000-like female voice asking Jamie questions was positively pornographic: "Jamie, tell us what you're going to do now with that cucumber."

On the other hand, he really can cook. I've tried some of his recipes, and they are very good.

So it was with some skepticism that my wife and I watched the first two episodes of "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" in which he sets out to tackle obesity and bad eating habits in America's fattest town, Huntington, West Virginia.

I have to say, it was compelling TV. Jamie gets powerful push back from just about everyone, the local radio host, who says they're not going to sit around eating lettuce, the school cooks, the skeptical bureaucrat in charge of school lunches.

Speaking of bureaucracy, I was horrified by the rigid, nonsensical rules that constrained the content of school lunches threatening to tie down Jamie like Gulliver in "Gulliver's Travels." I mean really, two starches with every meal? Who eats like that? Who came up with that?

What struck me more than anything was not just the resistance to change when it was clearly and desperately needed, but the outright, aggressive hostility to it. Everyone knows that Huntington has a serious problem, but most reacted with barely contained fury when Jamie tried to do something about it.

In a sentence: No we can't.

And that seems to be the attitude of a large slice of America about just about everything. We have become the can't-do nation. We can't change our eating habits. We can't solve our health care problem. We can't switch to alternative energy. And on and on and on.

What I found particularly ironic was the mind-numbing bureaucracy that the people of Huntington accept, indeed vigorously defend, in their school lunch program. Excuse me for making assumptions, but I think it's fair to assume that Huntington has more than its fair share of teapartyers who decry government bureaucracy.

And I thought charity begins at home.

I will be interested to see how Jamie fairs in the coming weeks, but I'm not optimistic.


  1. I came across your blog via the New Haven Independent and I've just spend a solid 30 minutes reading through it. Kudos to you and your love of all things food from actual cooking/creating to mentioning pop culture t.v shows, movies and books. I've book marked your blog for further reading. Thanks for reminding me that people still actually enjoy cooking.

  2. I love Jamie Oliver. Thanks for the review--we'll try to check it out.

  3. Thanks for the kind words, Jennifer. I hope you keep reading.