Saturday, March 10, 2012

Weekend Cooking: In Conversation with Jamie Oliver

On Tuesday night this week I was lucky enough to head to the gorgeous Regent Theatre here is Melbourne with a friend to see Jamie Oliver speak in a Wheeler Centre event. The conversation was hosted by Australian celebrity foodie Matt Preston in what was being billed as one of Jamie's only speaking engagements in Australia this year.

The focus of this conversation was very much on his activism work - ranging from starting Fifteen ten years ago, through to the school dinners program he ran in the UK, then onto Ministry of Food in the UK, US and now here in Australia.

On the same day he was speaking to us, Jamie Oliver had made an announcement about working in conjunction with the state government of Victoria about taking the steps to start fighting against obesity in this state, so he was actually quite positive about our politicians. It is fair to say that there are plenty of politicians around the world that he thinks a lot less of!

Oliver was relaxed, even taking advantage of some local ale as he talked about the challenges that he faces as he tries to raise awareness of the issues that he has chosen to focus on. It is clear though that the antagonism that he has faced over the years, the roadblocks that have been put in his way, and the frustrations in dealing with government takes its toll on him.

He also talked about the power of television as a medium for educating relating the example of a documentary that he did in the UK where he showed the different types of eggs (caged, free range etc) and how showing that documentary made a significant difference virtually overnight to the way that people shopped for eggs.

Of course, the questions from both Matt Preston and the audience were designed to showcase Jamie the person as well as the work that he does. It seems to me, that Jamie the person does put his money where his mouth is when it comes to using his name to raise the profile of issues, but also to employ people in various ventures he is involved in. At one point he talked, somewhat reluctantly, about money and basically said that personally he has everything that he and his family needs, so he invests in programs and campaigns because he is passionate about his causes.

If I had of taken only one thing away from his talk it would have been admiration at his tenacity. I have no doubt that I would have given up had I faced only half of the negativity that he has faced. Instead, he talked about how when the big picture stuff gets too hard he narrows his focus down to one issue, or one family or group until he can once again go back to looking at the bigger picture again!

The message that Jamie Oliver wanted us to take away from the night was about education. This is a theme that Jamie has spoken about before, for example, most specifically when he was given the TED prize a couple of years ago. I have embedded the video of Jamie's prize speech below.







Just like in the TED speech above, Oliver challenged each person in the crowd to write to their local Member of Parliament or the papers to say that our children need to leave school at least knowing knowing a handful of recipes that are cheap, easy and nutritious and how to budget so that they have basic life skills as they start adult life.

It seems like something that should be achievable and attainable!

I actually thought that most high schools at least had to provide some basic food education, but I think it is over two half years in early high school so how much of that stays with kids as they leave school is difficult to say.

Questions from the audience included how to get kids to eat vegies, about the politics of sugar and about the future of the world specifically in relation to water and future shortages. All interesting stuff.

As an obese mother, I was challenged again to think about the messages that I am giving to my child. We do cook together but there are significant chunks of time when I am too tired/lazy/disorganised to cook and so I need to once again get inspired to start trying new recipes and being better organised at things like meal planning. The lack of new recipes appearing on this blog so far this year is a fair reflection of how our home cooking has been so far.

I am glad that my friend and I attended. Definitely money well spent.

Now I think I am going to go and find the Ministry of Food cookbook that has been languishing on my bookshelf for a year or so since I last looked at it, and see if I can find something new to try!

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42 comments:

  1. Sounds like an amazing event! I quite like Jamie Oliver, I watch a lot of his shows and own one of his cookbooks (for Rob of course, haha) and I think he has very interesting ideas and lots of passion. Would've been great to hear him talk.

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    1. I think I own at least four of his books now. My favourite to look at is the Great Britain one.

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  2. while I agree with many of his issues..I have always found him personally rather annoying..lol

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    1. He used to annoy me when he first started out, but these days he doesn't. I don't think you are alone in that reaction to him either. When we sent the email around our group of friends there were a few who refused quite vehemently because they don't like him.

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  3. Its nice to see someone using their celebrity for the good of others...I found it interesting how he copes with the negativity and feelings of futility that come up by narrowing his focus to a single person or family that he can help...good advice I think for anyone trying to take on big issues where you don't always see the impact in person.
    I really enjoyed this post :)

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    1. Definitely seems like good advice! Thanks for stopping by.

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  4. I've always admired Jamie Oliver and your experience has only solidified that feeling. I'm glad to hear that he puts his money and his energies where his mouth is. What an amazing event. It's so, so difficult to eat healthfully because so many of our foods are contaminated by pesticides, chemicals, hormones. It's truly scary. I've listened to half the video and I'm going to come back to listen to the rest.

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    1. Beth, I hope you do get to listen to the rest of the video, especially to get to his wish at the end.

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  5. Wow--I'm a huge Jamie Oliver fan, and how cool that you got to hear him speak in person! I struggle a lot with finding the energy to shop and cook properly, particularly since my husband regularly opens the frige and says, "But we don't have any FOOD!" when what he means is there's nothing ready-made. It's definitely worth making the effort to do it properly, though.

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    1. Beth, I often go shopping and come home and wonder exactly what meals we have in the fridge!

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  6. Sounds like a great event, I really enjoy Jamie Oliver. Didn't at first, not at all, but he definitely grew on me in time and I think he's done some amazing things to bring attention to his causes. I enjoyed your post.

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    1. Carol, like you I didn't like him all that much, but I have definitely come around now!

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  7. What a great opportunity for you, Marg! I know you're a fan of Jamie Oliver.. you must have been so happy to attend this lecture.

    I clicked on the video and when I saw it was nearly 22 minutes long, I thought I'd just watch the first few minutes, but ended up watching the whole thing! I wholeheartedly agree with every single word he says in this speech. It's incredibly sad and frustrating that such a basic thing such as eating healthfully and educating people about eating healthfully has become such a low priority in our society.

    I couldn't believe that those kids couldn't identify any of those vegetables!!! How frightening! :(

    The Huntington Kitchen sounds like an amazing project. I would totally volunteer to work in a Main Street kitchen like that to teach people about healthy food choices and how to cook them.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

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    1. Christine, I have watched it a couple of times now even though I heard him talk on some of those issues already.

      Yes, it is a bit scary about kids not being able to identify basic vegetables.

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  8. I really enjoy Jamie! We had a show on here in the states where he went into our schools and tried to help them serve healthy food. It was interesting how much resistance he got! Here is my recipe for Irish Boxty

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    1. Peggy Ann, he seems to have faced a lot of that same resistance everywhere!

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  9. What a great post, and I'm glad you got to hear him speak. I think his cause of improving school lunches is so achievable and can make a big difference in the obesity problem in America in particular. The schools that have made changes have seen such a difference.

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    1. Diane, it does see like such a simple, and sensible, change to make doesn't it!

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  10. He is one of our heroes alive in the world. Thanks for posting this. Wonderful. And lucky you to have seen him.

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    1. Nan, I am really glad that we decided to go.

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  11. Sounds like a wonderful, inspiring and informative event. Glad you attended and came away determined to concentrate on healthier eating. As Beth mentioned, it's quite a challenge even with the best of intentions because of the way our food sources are contaminated, or how big corporations influence how food is marketed and produced.

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    1. Jama, he talked about the big corporations like fast food chains and supermarkets and how they should be taking responsibility in the area of food education. For example, he suggested that for supermarkets they can have their junky food/sugary drinks etc on sale, but they should have to have a one for one strategy. For each junky thing on sale they should have to have something healthy on sale too.

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  12. I think he's pretty amazing frankly. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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    1. Cath, I do too. He is passionate about these issues and puts his money where his mouth is. Plenty to admire.

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  13. I love Jamie Oliver but I didn't realize he was quite that dedicated a crusader for education about nutrition. Awesome.

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  14. I have done some relief classes with 13 year olds where we have made spag bog. Home Ec is seen as a bit of a bludge though by most of the students and by the time they get to yrs 11 &12 Home Ec has morphed into Hospitality and is heading down the Tafe stream. I wonder if there might be an argument for a bit more of a life skills course incorporating food budgeting etc at the yr 9/10 level

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    1. Sean, my son is doing Food Tech in year 7 and 8, but yes, a life skills class in year 9 and 10 might make sense as that is when so many of the at risk kids are leaving. In the charity I work for we run some food related programs for this very reason.

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  15. How cool, you got to be in the same room with him! *fangirlish squee*

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    1. Yes, me and a few hundred others, but still.....squee!

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  16. I envy you for having seen him in the flesh :) But seriously, Jamie is an incredible inspiration and advocate for achievable, healthy food for everyone.

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    1. Chinoiseries - absolutely agree!

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  17. I am so jealous! I would love to see him speak, especially know that I know how socially aware he is.

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    1. Lisa, I am definitely glad that I took the opportunity

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  18. Great post, Marg! If Jamie Oliver is ever in my city, I;m definitely going to see him speak.

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    1. Vasilly, he was definitely a very interesting speaker

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  19. Great to know that Jamie Oliver comes across sincere in person.

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    1. Joy, there was no doubting his passion.

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  20. Sounds like Jamie provided quite an impressionable talk. He's always so passionate about (healthy) food and it sounds like this comes through in his community appearances as well.

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    1. He is always passionate about healthy food, and his enthusiasm is catching, even if only temporarily for me.

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  21. I like Jaime's passion when it comes to food and cooking. It sounds like a great talk.

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    1. Shelley, it really was. I would definitely go to see him again.

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