July 16, 2012

It's Not Revolutionary, It's Just Cooking

 I love Jamie Oliver. In addition to the fact that he's pretty adorable, I greatly respect him professionally. He's an excellent cook himself and he's inspired many other people to cook. He's helped disadvantaged youth in his native England learn to be restaurant chefs (documented in his TV series Jamie's Kitchen) and he's written a number of easy to use, beautifully constructed cookbooks. He was no doubt influential in my own interest in cooking (remember The Naked Chef?). He's also started a number of campaigns to get us cooking and eating better - which I think are some of the most creative and effective campaigns out there.

You might be familiar with Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, a campaign-turned-TV show aimed at improving the quality of school lunches in this country while educating individuals and families on how to cook healthy food for themselves. I think he's right on point with his campaign and agree with virtually everything he does. He wants to get people cooking. So do I. 

He just got the title wrong.  

We don't need a food revolution. There's nothing revolutionary about home cooking and eating in a way that's good for you and good for your community. And if you think you're doing something revolutionary by turning on your stove, or your oven, or chopping up fresh vegetables in your kitchen, or making soup from scratch, or roasting a chicken, or boiling pasta on your own - you're not. And in the long run, that's a good thing for you, for me, for the food movement and for the world. Today, cooking what has come to be termed "real food" seems to be something which only a select, informed few can realistically participate in on a regular basis. It's not, it shouldn't be, historically it's something almost all people participated in, and it's something we should all get on board with once again. We shouldn't be starting a revolution. We should be getting back to the basics. 

On a day to day basis, I don't like participating in revolutions. Revolutions, as far as I can tell, are a lot of work. They seem tiring. By cooking for myself most days, am I a revolutionary? I don't think so. From my own experience, home cooking is not revolutionary, not radical, and not something that requires a special skill set. You don't have to know what "real food" is, you don't have to tweet what you eat, you don't even have to like kale chips or salted caramel. You just have to understand the benefit of cooking for yourself in a healthy and sustainable way while connecting with good food. Those things are pretty straight forward, and they don't require the commitment of a revolutionary. 

The real revolution started over a century ago when companies and corporations began preparing our food for us, dictating what we eat and how we eat it. No doubt, this resulted in some good things. We were able to feed more people, we increased our efficiency in farming, and we innovated in ways that allowed people in Vermont, say, eat fresh vegetales 365 days a year (as a New Englander, I'm happy about that). But they also realized that food which is good for people and good for the planet doesn't improve their bottom line, and so they came up with new - and truly revolutionary - methods of producing, perserving, distributing and serving that food which has landed us smack in the middle of an obesity epidemic, an unhealthy planet, and people who can no longer connect with one of life's most basic pleasures: good food.  

Over 33,000 McDonald's locations worldwide and over 12,000 alone in the United States? That is truly revolutionary, something which required overwhelming acts of invention and industrial power to make happen. Home cooking? There's nothing revolutionary about that. That's something we can all do, simply, affordably and regularly. 

Turning on your stove should not be a revelation or a revolution. It should be something you do most nights around 7pm.

Jamie, you're doing a great job. But the British already caused a revolution on this side of the Atlantic. One was enough, thank you.

Want to start cooking yourself? Check out the recipes page