Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Dear Jamie Oliver,

(photo from channel 4 on the Guardian website, guardian.co.uk)

Thank you.

I had recently seen advertisements for the new reality show about how we eat in America, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. I knew it would be up my alley from what I'd seen, but I was completely unprepared for how emotional it was. I watched episodes one and two back to back, tears streaming down my face. This man truly cares about helping human beings live happier, healthier lives together and is going straight for the source. Food. Simple, healthy, seasonal food made from fresh ingredients and learning how to prepare it and eat it together.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a family where dinner was an unspoken requirement every evening, one I looked forward to. We had chicken cheesy breadcrumb, spinach raviolis from Costco with fresh tomatoes, spaghetti and meatballs, salmon with rice and green beans, and we always sat down to enjoy it together. Mostly my mom cooked, sometimes dad would put together stew or chili or spaghetti. Both of them almost always from scratch. Neither of them ever really asked us to do it though. Neither my brother nor I ever volunteered. So once freshman cafeteria year in college was over, I was totally lost. I relied on my then boyfriend for occasional healthy meals. On my own I ate mac and cheese. The boxed kind we were never allowed to consume as children. I ate instant potatoes, lucky charms, scones from the campus store and okay, here and there a hummus and cucumber tortilla wrap. All the way to my fourth year of school when I headed overseas to Germany.

Germany is where I learned to eat. Not necessarily because Germans have the healthiest food in the world (they don't) or because they do it all right. Maybe because they make a little bigger deal out of eating. But it was mostly because other people I met during my studies, and while living there after graduation, had been taught to cook and passed on some of their skills to me. That's really all it takes. Kristofer taught me to make Swedish meatballs with potatoes, Fläskpannkaka, and apple cake. Amy taught me how to make lasagna, and that pretty much any good simple pasta meal can start with olive oil, onions and garlic in a pan. Matthias taught me how to cut an onion and how to make my own spaghetti sauce. That no matter what you have to do in the morning, you must sit down to breakfast. Matthias also taught me, that regardless of how little money you have, there is never a better way to spend it than on good, healthy food. He swatted my hand away as it reached for colored marshmallow gummies at the grocery store, wrinkled his nose in disgust when I described the box mac and cheese of my adulthood. This was one thing everyone in our Berliner squat stood behind, and I'll never forget what our downstairs neighbor said when I moved in. He always had a crock pot of soup or curry from scratch in his kitchen available for anyone who dropped by with an empty stomach. "You will never be hungry here," he told me. And he was right.

So to everyone who has ever taught me how to cook a simple dish or fed me healthy food, thank you. To Jamie Oliver, I see what you're doing and it is a massive challenge. I support you wholeheartedly and I think between you and Mrs. Obama, we can get something accomplished here.

See him yourself if you have 20 minutes to spare:


colleen k.d. said...

i dedicated a blog post to Mr. Oliver too because he is profoundly amazing and making a big difference not only for humans and our consumption habits but also in the lives of the animals we consume (Jamie Oliver Saves Our Bacon) promoting eating happy animals who are treated with love and respect.

I loved this post.

I also still love Mac 'N Cheese outta the box, but recently made my first macaroni from scratch and started with a french bechamel sauce (MUCH BETTER)

Caitlin said...

I just went back and found/read your saves our bacon blog post! Somehow that one passed me by on the first round...Jamie Oliver really is amazing, isn't he?

Dude, I just discovered a ridiculous secret. My former roommate bought me black truffle salt from the Meadow as a thank you gift when she stayed with me a couple of weeks ago, and it tastes AMAZING on mac and cheese made from shell noodles with just some grated sharp cheddar, cream and butter. It seems so silly to put such a gourmet salt on such a comfort food, but I really can't tell you how amazing it is :)

By the way, we've made macaroni and cheese from scratch together! Right? Baked it with some broccoli and breadcrumbs?

Rachel Wrong said...

Your dinner traditions were uncannily similar to mine. We always had sit-down dinner which my mom typically cooked but my dad occasionally stepped in with his spaghetti specialty. My friend Liz has been trying to get a recipe exchange together forever. Maybe we should make this happen.

Hannah said...

Here here for recipe exchanges!

Broccoli and breadcrumbs sound like a brilliant addition to boxed mac n cheese, Cait/Colleen. K and I used to add our own smelly cheeses and tomatoes...

Cait, I'm really impressed and inspired by your cooking/food evolution- I've had similar struggles and it's a really exciting thing to realize how easy and fun it can really be.

I miss those meatballs/cake you made and hope to enjoy them/learn more about them someday soon!

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