My mother is a great cook. Her mother was a dietician and my father’s mother was a doctor. Good food and good health have always been essential ingredients in our family life and in what we were taught as children. Fast food was not allowed. I don’t think I ever really questioned my parents’ stance on this, or if I did, the answer was pretty simple: ‘it’s bad for you’. Naturally, this contradiction was puzzling – how could something so delicious be so bad? If it was that bad for us, why were they allowed to sell it?
Recently, I watched Supersize Me, and to say it has changed the way I look at fast food is a gross understatement. I was horrified. What took me by surprise the most was not that the food was so bad for one’s health – I knew that already, but more that there was even a market for such a size as ‘super-size’. Did people not know that there was simply no way that amount of food in one meal could ever be safe? What kind of culture could justify promoting this sort of gluttonous behaviour?
Jamie Oliver is one of my mother’s heroes. I understand it completely – everything she’s ever said about pre-packaged or fast food, every rant she’s ever had about the dangers, the chemicals, the cholesterol levels – all of it was being repeated by this relatively well-known, but by no means famous, chef from Essex. When Jamie’s School Dinners first aired, I was thirteen. Since then, Oliver has crusaded relentlessly on both sides of the Atlantic for greater funding in education about food.
He spoke last year at a TED Conference – it’s 20 minutes long but it’s pretty harrowing. His passion for the issue is inspirational.