Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jamie Oliver: Champion of the People or Fatphobic Mansplainer?

I confess, I haven't seen an episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.

I've heard two very contradictory opinions from sources I trust.

One point of view says that he's addressing a very real problem about the quality of food in schools, the growing dependence on pre-made meals, and worse, the growing ignorance of basic cooking skills.

The other point of view says that he's a privileged wankadoodle who thinks money and time grow on trees, and what is it any of his business what people eat or weigh?

Not having seen the show, but having opinions about this sort of topic, I imagine the truth is somewhere in the middle.

On his website, there is now a petition.

In one box, it has this message from Jamie: "If you care about the health of your children and the food they eat please sign this petition now."

In a box next to it is has this message "from you" for the petition: "Sign Jamie's petition to save cooking skills and improve school food.

I support the Food Revolution. America's kids need better food at school and better health prospects. We need to keep cooking skills alive."

I feel like those messages are contradictory.

Jamie's message conflates weight and health, which is a HUGE issue.

"Our" message demands better and more healthy food at schools, and to improve education on how to cook. That's kind of important.

Not to quote a truly bizarre source, but uh...did any of you ever see the movie Heavyweights?

It's about a kid who goes to a fat camp that got sold to a fitness madman (played hilariously by Ben Stiller in an obvious precursor to his role in Dodgeball), the kids stage a coup, and run the camp their way.

In their renewed vision of the camp, they have a fucking blast being kids in a warm, positive environment, and one of the clips in the montage includes a cooking class. Not a "how to cook low fat meals" class, but an honest to goodness class on how to cook food that tastes good.

I've seen with my own eyes people eat more healthfully once they start to learn to cook because they're caring about the quality of the components they're using, not which frozen meal is on special that week.

I realize this veers back into the "money and time don't grow on trees" category. However, I get the sense that part of "The Food Revolution" is a movement to bring better food options to underserved neighborhoods.

Anyway, I hope that the good intentions of this show and movement aren't paving a certain road. I hope that there's an understanding that weight and health aren't one and the same. I hope that there's an understanding that sometimes living off of canned and frozen items is all a person can do.

But I really hope that this show isn't all the bad that I've heard, and none of the good.