4/25/2010

Tami Hagglund's Food Revolution

I wrote last week about Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution; I caught up on his reality show a bit late on Hulu (we have an HD antenna, primarily for watching sports, and resist letting TV tell us when we need to be planted in front of it! Someday my computer geek husband will build us a PVR, which is basically a do-it-yourself TiVo, but until then we loves us some Hulu!).  I really liked his show- sure, it was a reality show, and the unnecessary creation of drama in each episode- will he get the funding? Will Alice ever support him? Will Rhonda let him roll out the from scratch lunches to the rest of the schools?- was a tad much for me, but I loved the heart of the show enough to get past that.

One thing that really struck me was how Jamie never came across as disparaging or sanctimonious.  Yes, he thinks people should eat well.  But it's because he doesn't want to keep seeing people- kids, especially- live off of crap food and become so fat that they can't live enjoyable lives and then die far too young.  Jamie was compassionate and withheld cruel judgments.  He did judge, in the right way.  He told the morbidly obese parents of the 318 pound preteen that they were killing him and eating completely wrong, what with their routine of fast food and frozen everything else. He didn't, however, dehumanize people or mock them.  He was all about seeing those people make the changes in their lives, particularly by eating healthy real foods, to lose the weight and learn what it is to truly live.

I told my husband that I wish Jamie Oliver were my cousin and, to my shock, Jason agreed with me. Normally he thinks I'm over the top in my "I claim this person as a friend-soul-mate" ways but even he finds Jamie's charisma and passion contagious!  Regardless, I love Jamie's fiery passion to see people learn to cook and eat real food that isn't chock full of preservatives and, well, badness.  I completely agree with him and am glad that he's spreading the word.

Something hit me today as I created a marinade for a recipe I'm working on this week (I can't wait!  I'll try to share it either later this week or next week; I have a few that I need to type up and get posted already, though, so we'll see when it gets up here!).  I had out my beloved Cuisinart food processor (Mine's the previous model- the only difference is it is white, but I found it on clearance for $100!), and I was making a pesto of sorts using garlic, cilantro, red onion, and olive oil.  I was thinking about Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and the fact that I was creating fresh food from scratch, that I knew I was making a pesto, and how 5 years ago I had never even heard of pesto.

See, I grew up in a home where Hamburger Helper was FANCY.  We were deeply impoverished, and I thought of HH as rich people food when I was a kid.  On the rare occasion that we went out to dinner, it was McDonald's, in the days when Happy Meals were $1.99.  Even then we could hardly afford it.  Salad was wilted iceberg lettuce and limp shreds of carrots and red cabbage from a bag, drowned in 350 calories worth of ranch dressing and another 75 calories from saltine crackers.  Vegetables were green beans, peas, and corn, almost exclusively from a can, dumped into a saucepan and all but boiled on the stove.  I don't remember ever eating fresh veg, unless it was corn on the cob.  That's not to say we never did, but I don't remember it.

[In my parents' defense, they didn't know any better.  They grew up in the '60s and '70s, during the days when WonderBread made the world go 'round.  The way we ate was normal. My mom did try to always get wheat bread, but she didn't know that wheat and whole wheat were two different worlds, and that the kind of wheat bread our budget allowed (read: cheap) was chock full of preservatives and high fructose corn syrup.  They did the best they could with what they knew, just like many of the people on Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.]

I do remember my roommates during Teach For America at first laughing at me, and then apologizing profusely when they realized I was serious, when I asked what hummus was.  They were patient with me when I didn't realize it was food at first.  I was 24 years old, and having my first experience with things like tahini, falafel, cous cous, and, of course, pesto.

Nowdays, I feel a bit ashamed of myself when I realize that I don't know the difference between an aioli and a remoulade.  I at least know both have something to do with mayonnaise. Still, I had never even heard either of those words even 3 years ago.  My culinary growth has been steep, and I'm grateful that I no longer consider processed "foods" to even be food.

Balsamic glazed carrots- one way I LOVE them!
This is why I'm thankful for Jamie Oliver.  As I watched his show, it hit me that I'm on the other side, but he made that show to reach people like me, where I was a few years ago.  If I weren't currently in the life-changing process I'm going through, regarding a healthy relationship with food and being active, my children could very well have been the 100 pound 5 year old or 300 pound 12 year old.  I would have hated myself for doing it to them, but I wouldn't have known how to be different.  I, like the at first antagonistic Rod, thought eating "healthy" meant eating carrots and celery all day long.  I knew nothing about the joy of creating delicious, simple meals from scratch chock full of veg and way more delicious and satisfying than a box of broccoli au gratin Rice-a-Roni. I tried so many times to be healthy, but then would just give up because, well, I hate raw carrots and celery.


So, now, I'm grateful that my life and our children's lives will be completely different and better.  I'm learning to worship Jesus in how I live every aspect of life, including eating and exercising.  And, as is clear, I love cooking and I love sharing the recipes I create.  I found myself recently putting this unneeded pressure on what I came up with, like I need to be fancy and impress people so I can get lots of readers who will be amazed with my culinary prowess.  Finishing up the season of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, though, helped me remember why I post recipes- I love real food.  Cooking real food, creating delicious meals to bless my husband and others, eating it in moderation as worship of Jesus, is something I'm passionate about.

Even more, what I want to do is encourage the non-cook, and the person who grew up like me thinking flax was a synonym for slack, to make these types of food.  Real food.  Delicious food.  Food that fuels the body and lengthens life.  Some of it might be fancy-sounding, but once you get used to it the intimidation factor fizzles.  A basil chiffonade is simply rolling the leaves into a shape like, well, a marijuana joint (for the record, I have never smoked the ganja! Sometimes I wish I had tried it before meeting Jesus, but knowing how easily I get addicted to things I think I'm better off!) and then cutting the ends off so you end up with little ribbbons.  It's actually the easiest way to chop basil!  And an aioli is a twist on mayonnaise- olive oil, egg yolks, and garlic.  A remoulade is typically made with an aioli base, with pickles, capers, anchovies and herbs added.  Sort of like a fancy french tartar sauce.  I looked it up while writing this and now I know!

So, in sum, I was reminded today that I need not try to impress anyone.  I need to just keep living my life, and writing about what I learn along the way.  That's what Jesus has called me to.  Best of all, I enjoy doing this, and hope that my enthusiasm will spill over and affect others.  I know most of you that read my blog are well aware of what pesto is, but for anyone who isn't, I hope you are encouraged to know that this food revolution isn't just a great one, but the transition really isn't that hard and I'm living proof that your average American who onced lived on frozen pizzas and chicken nuggets, whose only fruit was ketchup and vegetable was deep fried potatoes, can successfully transition into eating real food and not only enjoy the better food, but not even miss the old unhealthy stuff.  If you are that person, you can do it too.

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