The Sad State of Food in America
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last couple of weeks, you likely have seen a lot of talk about Jamie Oliver’s new show Food Revolution. The series takes the super-celeb chef into schools in Huntington West Virginia where he is bound and determined to change the face of the foods that are are being fed to kids in schools which he believes are slowly killing our youth. It was coincidental that this show happened to premiere the weekend after I had been asked to do a cooking demo for a group of kids from a church after school group and had encountered a similarly alarming situation. The class was supposed to be a career day. I would demo something the kids would eat and they could ask me whatever they want about my profession.
Since it was St. Patrick’s Day, I opted to present all green foods, in line with my focus on healthy eating. I brought an assortment of veggies including cucumbers, broccoli and snap peas and made them an avocado dip. Needless to say, most of the kids were afraid of the dip and definitely of the veggies. I enticed them to at least try it by offering cookies as a reward. I managed to sneak in health oats and pure maple syrup instead of white flour and sugar, but they didn’t need to know that.
The most disturbing part of the whole day was when I was asked where I ate when I went out. I admitted to very rarely eating out and without thinking mentioned I hated fast food, especially McDonald’s which in my opinion isn’t real food and is really bad for you. If looks could kill I would be dead by now. Those kids were mortified that I would bad mouth their favorite food. I in turn was mortified at the response.
Look, I like an occasional pizza and hamburger too, but not the likes of the processed specimens found at most fast food establishments or in the frozen foods section of the grocery store. That moment and the subject of Jamie’s show really got me to thinking about how dire the situation is in the U.S. The fact that many kids don’t recognize and will not eat most vegetables and that they subsist off of school breakfasts and lunches that have more ingredients with multi-syllablic chemicals in them than actual food is alarming. Over and over again they pointed out on the show that this is the first generation of kids that have a shorter life expectancy than the previous generation.
I’m not a physician and I’m not a parent, but what I am is a chef who cares about food. I care about he quality of food you and I eat, where it comes from and how it tastes. I know that sometimes our pocket books dictate what we eat, but I think too many of us are settling. We can do more on a budget that not only will help us increase our life expectancy but will help our local economies. I believe that what we eat directly attributes to how much we will spend on health care in our lifetimes. So many of the diseases we suffer from can be eliminated or controlled through diet. And I’m not talking about only eating lettuce. I’m talking about cutting out processed, unnatural foods that don’t even taste good. We just have to start cooking again.
If you care, start watching Jamie’s Show on ABC. It is eye opening. Then check out some books that may open your eyes even further. One i’m reading currently that may be of interest is Jill Richardson’s “Recipe for America: Why Our Food System is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix it.” Others on my list of favorites are Michael Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma” and Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.”
In conjunction with this I’m planning on focusing my menus more on Mediterranean cuisine highlighting locally produced foods and less on typical mid-western fare. It may be the financially risky approach, but it is the one that agrees with my moral and culinary sensibilities. Check out our monthly menus on our website at www.chestnut-inn.com.