Saturday, August 28, 2010

Food for thought

I have been following Jamie Oliver's food revolution for a while now. For those of you who haven't heard of him read here. He is also the recipient of the 2010 TED prize. His Food Revolution is a campaign that is run in the U.K. and the U.S., to understand how kids (and their parents) think about the process of making and consuming everyday meals. In his TED talk, he talks about how most deaths in the developed (and in the affluent parts of the developing) world are totally preventable.
It also shows little videos where Jamie goes to schools with a bag of vegetables and none of the kids can correctly name what he is holding up. I was following him on television too, where he went into high school kitchens and asked the cooks why the meals in the cafeteria were mostly pizza and french fries. The answer was that it is cheap and easy to cook and THAT IS WHAT THEY ARE BEING TOLD TO DO.
He interviewed some obese teenagers and asked them what they eat. The answers were shocking and so were their confessions about how they feel about being obese. I think being overweight/obese in your teenage years leaves much more than just weight to deal with for the rest of your life. It is a situation that has to be dealt with great care, love and a lot of positive thinking from the parents' side. Obesity does not get as much "sympathy" as malnourishment, mostly because it is a result of excess consumption, which is often related to indulgence and lack of self-restraint. Ellen Gustafson describes obesity and hunger as two sides of the same coin. Although her perspective is different, I think if hunger denotes the complete lack of food, obesity denotes lack of understanding about food. In that respect, Jamie has indeed done us all a big favor by being so blunt and outspoken about what is going on in our society.
Cooking a healthy meal is not that difficult. It needs a bit of creativity and patience. I was watching Jamie Oliver on one of his culinary adventures in Istambul. He went to the bazaar and bought an earthen pot. As he walked browsing through the market, he kept adding ingredients to his pot. Carrots, beans, pumpkin, okra, tomatoes, stock, lean meat etc. In the end he stopped at a spice shop and seasoned the contents with the spices that appealed to him. He put his earthen pot straight on to the fire. It was like coming home from the supermarket and putting your shopping bags in the oven!
Cooking also keeps you mentally healthy. The planning and execution that goes into it brings you out of your everyday stress. It is a healthy distraction if you are one of those work-obsessed people. From my own personal experience, cooking and exercise are the most frequently done activities that take me away from my computer. I consider the times that I am not using a computer very important times of my day. This is where cooking and exercise become a part of my emotional well being too. Growing up around parents who constantly experimented with food in all possible ways, it was inspiring to see how much of a change in attitude a mere change in diet brings about. One of the noteworthy experiences was when my mom was going through a detox diet that did not allow her to eat anything solid for four days. She became particularly toxic at work that week. :)
My dad's experiments with his blood sugar levels by controlling variables like diet, insulin doses, water intake, exercise etc., made me aware of all the chemical reactions that go on behind our skins. The dejection that baba faced at his failures, his dedication in going as far as plotting excel charts for his blood sugar levels and on his "25 years with diabetes" anniversary, calling the disease his best friend made me aware that very few things can be taken for granted when it comes to the chemicals in your body.
Life should not be all about food. Investing a little time in cooking everyday does not mean turning into a gourmand with epicurean tastes. However, taking that balanced time out and planning a meal for yourself, even if it is just for yourself, is equally important. It is not just food for the body, it is also food for thought. :)


Random Thoughts said...

I did watch "Food revolution" led by Jamie Oliver. Even though what he was trying to say makes perfect sense in every way after a couple of episodes I was not very enthusiastic about watching it with passion. I do feel passionately about the issue though.
The main reason for me personally which made methink twice about the show is that he was doing the very same thing(trashing food) which brought tears to his eyes.
When school children just threw most of their food (good or bad,healthy or junk) in trash cans he almost broke into tears.And what did he do with food to make his point? Got HUGE amounts of food, all fatty, fried the so called BAD food and put it all together in a tarp cloth and trashed it himself. That totally turned me off.
Throwing away food is seen way too commonly in this country. As they all say, "when in doubt throw it out". I too am guilty of wasting veggies more than a few times. I buy things and never get around to cooking them and they rot in the fridge. I feel terrible when that happens. And I can not help but remember what my parents say over and over again. "खावून माजा पण टाकून माजू नका."
Anywho. I tend to take this topic to heart a bit too much. Nice post as usual.

Saee said...

Yeah..thanks for adding that. I was going to conclude with that but since I wrote this post in parts I forgot.
I agree with your feeling. I have a little trick I do myself to avoid wastage. I shop for the next 4 meals and plan them in advance. Even then, sometimes having sudden social plans ruins it. I love going to the market for veggie and food shopping. It is a very creative process. :)
One of my Aussie flatmates was amused to see that the first water I add to my food is usually from rinsing the tomato paste can or the blender where I made the spices. I don't know if they think I am super greedy to make value for my money, but I think I do the right thing.:D
It adds more flavor too.

शिरीष said...

Hi Sai!
Good post as usual!I am glad you are so conscious about your food habits and do not indulge in the fast food track.With your international exposure you have a mature thought process.