Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hey strangers

Oh lordy. I keep starting to write posts here and then abandoning them. Here is why: I have not yet come up with a way to use my computer in front of the TV at home. Faced with the choice of vegging out for 2-3 hours on the couch in front of the TV or sitting in an uncomfortable chair in the room occupied by Daisy the Bunny to use the computer (after 8 hours in front of my work computer) I have been going for option 1. I am lazy, but at least I'm not an internet addict, right?

Well, anyway. I have been watching copious amounts of TV, and that's what I wanted to talk about.

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Oh jeezus.
OK I love West Virginia. And I used to really adore Jamie Oliver before he got incredibly over-exposed. And before I went vegetarian, I guess, since there's really not a whole lot I would eat from the one cookbook of his that I have. But my apprehensions about this show were pretty much entirely validated when I finally got around to watching it on the DVR this morning.

Really, incredibly wealthy British man? Have you not given any thought to the culture clash that is inherent in your imperial health food world take-over plan? You are really surprised, and upset to the point of tears, that the "lunch ladies" in WV are not down with switching from USDA-approved convenience food to spending all day peeling potatoes at your command? And you're shocked that newspapers and talk radio aren't getting behind you?

I went back and forth between thinking he was faking his surprise at their reaction, and kind of buying that it was real. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle -- I think this guy has probably not spent a lot of time in the US aside from in liberal coastal cities or maybe on sustainable meat ranches. And I haven't seen the shows about his UK project where he managed to convince the national government that he was right about school lunches. But if he'd done ANY research at all (by which I mean, thinking on a very, very basic level about what kids get taught in school about nutrition, what the guidelines are for school lunches, and most importantly WHO is setting those guidelines) he would realize that he is going about this project in absolutely the wrong way. Why would you think you could just convince KIDS to eat brown rice instead of pizza, and why would that be your step 1 to trying to get a hostile, food-addicted, foreign city on your side about eating healthier?! Sheesh!

I'm going to have to say "to be continued" on this one because I don't really have time to try and parse the rest of my thoughts on it, but I'm going to stick with the show. In the giant industry of reality TV, they're pretty good at manufacturing happy endings and I'll be very interested to see if Jamie O is able to reform the school lunch program in Huntington, WV. But I will also be interested to see if he takes his fight to the real source of the problem -- industry capture at the USDA and the huge, evil agribusiness companies who pay the lobbyists who decide what children learn about nutrition and what they are fed.

This is pretty much my #1 issue that makes me angry, but over the last few years I've stopped talking much about it. Largely because I think it can make me sound like a wacko, but also because people want to eat what [lobbyists and companies that manufacture addictive food additives tell them] they want to eat. They don't want to talk about factory farms or corn syrup or whatever. It is daunting, and exhausting to think of, I know. I do my best to use my dollars to express my politics about food, and I will continue to do that (and probably go further with it in terms of avoiding pesticides and stuff) when I have kids but I'm just one person and I don't really want to be a crusader. Sigh.

But as a last point, I think of it kind of like this: sometimes we are harsh critics of our own friends or family, but when an outsider comes in and wants to bad-mouth the people who are close to us, we'll defend them to no end. As a country, Americans obviously know that we have poor nutrition and issues with obsesity-related disease, etc. How many people watch shows like The Biggest Loser, Ruby, Dance Your Ass Off, etc.! We know! But when a Brit comes in and starts tellin' the rubes in WV how to "eat good," it rubs even me, a coastal elite with strong feelings about food politics, the wrong way. Come on, Jamie Oliver, really.

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