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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