Menu Join now Search

Can Cooking Save Us?

You’ve heard of Jamie Oliver, right? He’s the cute British chef who used to have the Naked Chef series. Well, he’s won the TED prize. He wants to change the way kids eat. Google it up. Watch the video. You will freak out when the kid can’t identify an eggplant and thought it might be a pear. The health statistics will make homicide seem like small change and a heart attack a not so unlikely event.

It’s not that the kid who can’t identify an eggplant is stupid. It’s not that his parents are stupid. It’s that somehow basic cooking skills slipped away from us, washed away in rip-tide of marketing; mad men who made us think cooking was hard, or dirty, or menial, or not worth it. People shopping at Wal-Mart where there is never ever a season, how could they know better?

Jamie’s got heart and he’s tackling this one town at time, and sending out messages to the world to wake up, but we’re talking about needing to reverse oceanic tides before there is any difference in the way people eat.

First, take a look at supermarkets. Everybody loves Trader Joes, we finally get a Trader Joes in Manhattan, and I go to see what the fuss is about. And I still don’t get it; there is nothing but prepared food. High end, but it’s still prepared, processed food. Whole Paychecks (aka Whole Foods), take a walk around, the fruits and vegetables are arranged like precious art at precious prices, and even so, most of the store is prepared and processed foods.

We left the States for a few months, and when we come back, I’m shocked! I want to know what happened to butter? There is five times more shelf space devoted to “I’m not butter spreads” then there is to butter. Yogurt for kids now needs to be sold in garish colors with a quarter pound of candy on top, and more sugar inside. Everything comes with dried, processed, reconstituted blueberries that are sure to anti all of my oxidants, even though I’m fairly sure it might be better to eat fresh blueberries. On one hand, it defies the laws of nature and common sense; on the other hand processed food makers and marketers are making a bundle.

It’s not going to be an easy battle to buck the ad men, they adapt. Kraft Foods bought up organic companies, not because of philosophy, but because of market share strategy. I’m not anti-capitalist, but I am a cynic and believe that if Kraft saw a trend toward Soylent Green they would buy that up without a qualm.

There is a supermarket chain that is advertising how a family that eats at home will save money … and what do they show mom buying? Prepared foods that cost substantially more than the raw ingredients.

Or my new favorite nominee for “You Gotta Be Kidding” ad of the week: The Anti-Soda Tax Ad. A nice, local grocer explains how his customers bring calculators to the store so they can keep track of every penny they spend; see because they need every penny to buy soda so they can save up for their diabetes treatment. 

OK, enough bitching. If you are here, reading this, I’m very, very happy, but we’re all in the same choir singing to each other. Ideas anyone?

I for one am willing to donate my time and skills to getting people to cook. You have a venue, and I’m around I’ll come and teach for free.

If anyone else feels the same, let’s organize a web presence and do what we can to get people back into the kitchen. This is a call to arms; bang your pots and pans and make some noise.