Over the next few weeks, I will share my opinions on each episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (ABC, Fridays, 8 p.m.). I encourage you to leave your comments and thoughts as well.
These posts are not meant to be recaps; they assume you have seen each episode. If you are Tivo-less or did not have a chance to watch an episode during its original run, you can always head over to the Food Revolution page on ABC.com.
This week had a back-to-back twp-episode special. I will comment on both episodes in this post.
WHAT I LIKED:
- Jamie himself! In a television land littered with over-the-top gurus (i.e.: The Biggest Loser’s obnoxiously tough-loving Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper, Celebrity Fit Club‘s “I’m a tough former marine, hear me roar” Sergeant Harvey Walden, the overly-polished Dr. Oz), Jamie Oliver just… is. Whereas two continuous hours of any of the previously mentioned “personalities” would be as pleasant as hammering my toes hard for me to sit through, I thoroughly enjoyed Jamie. The lack of Chiclet-like beaming veneers, bulging muscles, designer clothing, and Stepford-ish manufactured quips is a breath of fresh air on network television.
- Realistic resistance. While we can’t forget this is reality television (we are shown a very small percentage of what was filmed, and it is presented to us in a very carefully edited fashion), I appreciated the realism depicted. The Edwards family did not magically give up pizza and soda overnight, nor were the elementary school students begging for more of Jamie’s salad the first day they tried it. This is precisely why we are talking about a food revolution; this is massive change that happens gradually.
- Kitchen confidential: I was so glad that this show depicted what takes place — and, most importantly, doesn’t take place! — in school cafeterias across the country. Unused appliances, bundles of frozen processed food ready to be reheated, and who can forget those artificially colored hygrogenated oil-laden potato pearls?
- The bigger issue. I initially feared that this show would be too “micro”, and depict Huntington school officials as the ones who had complete authority over what students ate. While the school officials’ lack of questioning (and sheep-like following) of USDA school lunch standards was disturbing, I was glad that the show briefly touched on the bureaucracy that surrounds school lunch (the best example being that every lunch must contain two grain servings).
- Dollars and cents. The scene in which Jamie first met with the elementary school’s director of food services, ended on a powerful last note. The camera zoomed in on the words “all about the $” on a whiteboard. That served as an important reminder that schools in the United States are under very tight budgets when it comes to school lunch.
- The first five minutes. Pizza and sugary cereal floating in fluorescent sugar-spiked milk for breakfast. You couldn’t have asked for more powerful — and horrifying — images.
WHAT BOTHERED ME:
- What happened to the 3 Rs?: The complete absence of recycling absolutely bothered me. I don’t expect Jamie Oliver to tackle that as well, but my blood pressure rose significantly every time I saw a plastic milk bottle get thrown into a regular trash can.
- Food waste. I understand that showing the gallons of chocolate milk consumed on a weekly basis makes a strong point, but I never like to see food wasted for the sake of making a point. A part of me hopes that the “chocolate milk” poured into that parachute was dyed water? Maybe? Perhaps? Anyone?
- Meat, meat, and more meat. I wish Jamie would have prepared at least one meatless meal at the school cafeteria. A bean-based chili, pasta primavera, or rice and beans would have easily made the point that a filling meal can be done without the presence of meat on a plate. This is not about converting anyone to vegetarianism, but to help people think outside the prevalent “one meat and two veg” box.
- Adults matter, too. When Jamie discussed the cafeteria’s overly processed offerings to the cooks, he was met with “so what?” attitudes and responses along the lines of “I eat that all the time.” In one instance, Jamie responded by saying “it doesn’t bother me that adults eat it.” While I understand the angle this show is going for is the “think of the children!” one (which always strikes a chord with viewers), healthy eating is just as important for adults.
I’m looking forward to next week’s high school episode. It should present a larger challenge, since dressing up as a vegetable and doling out “I tried something new!” stickers are not going to prove effective.
I am glad the show is tackling an entire school system, rather than only focusing on the much-easier-to-mold-and-entertain pre-school and elementary school students.