May 2, 2010
Long Live the Food Revolution
Like many, I’m sure, I’ve been enjoying Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution reality show the past several weeks, and was disappointed that it was such a short series. At one point I remarked to my roommate that if the entire horrific, sordid history of reality television in America has led us to this point, it’s been worth it. Much as I had qualms about one town being used as the embodiment of American ill-health, I thought it had real potential to get people interested, and angry, concerning food issues and especially how we feed children.
Of course I’m also aware that people and situations had to have been manipulated in the interest of making exciting television; it was still television, after all. Jamie had a more than slight tendency towards mild hysteria and blowing situations out of proportion, notably his assertions that if the local hospital wasn’t impressed enough to donate $150,000 to his cause, or if Alice was negative with a visitor, or if DJ Rod wouldn’t come over to his side, then the Food Revolution would be OVER.
He was wrong, of course. Not insofar that the support of elected officials, local popular figures or lunch ladies is important to changing our food culture, but that the kind of overblown, invented competitions that make for suspenseful reality television will be what accomplishes the food revolution.
A friend of my roommate’s–a kindergarten teacher–was visiting over her spring break and watched a couple episodes with us. She e-mailed recently to say that when she went home and back to work, she asked her own kindergarten class to take the plain milk at lunch instead of the chocolate milk. Not only did they do it, they said that they liked it better.
This will be how we actually accomplish the food revolution–incrementally and cumulatively, person to person, by parents parenting (and getting together to put pressure on their own school lunch programs) and teachers teaching, through confidence that we are capable of making small but meaningful changes to make our food culture better.
Jamie frequently asks his fans and readers to learn two of his recipes, and then teach them to two other people; if everyone did that, it wouldn’t be long before we all knew how to cook again. Well, I already enjoyed cooking before the Food Revolution came along, having started making my own food, and baking, when I was about six, and most of the people I’m close to here already cook as well. So in the spirit of spreading the revolution, dispelling the myth that good cooking must be difficult or expensive, here are a couple of my own recipes I love making and sharing.
Chicken and mushroom cream sauce
I threw this together from stuff I had in my kitchen one day.
6-7 cloves garlic
2-3 stalks fresh rosemary
8-10 oz. baby portobello mushrooms
4 chicken legs (with thigh and drumstick)
About 1 stick of butter
About 1 cup white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
Heat oven to 450°. Melt about 2 Tbsp. butter and brush over chicken legs in a baking pan. Put chicken in oven to brown.
Mince garlic, slice mushrooms, and snip up the rosemary or strip it off its stalks if they’re woody. In a big skillet over low heat, melt the rest of the butter. Add garlic and rosemary and simmer a few minutes (don’t let the garlic burn!) until they start to get fragrant. Add the wine, return to a simmer. Add mushrooms. Continue simmering and stirring gently. Add cream, and keep stirring and simmering until the sauce is thickened and very fragrant. It may be a little brown from the mushrooms; that’s okay.
Check the chicken. When it’s very nearly cooked all the way through, take it out of the oven, pour the sauce over it, and put it back for 10 minutes or so more, until it’s completely done. Pepper to taste. Serve with lightly steamed green beans or asparagus.
Italian Bread Salad
My mother taught me this. It’s a stretch to even call it “cooking,” but it’s an easy, light but substantial meal, wonderful in the summertime. It came about as a way to not let stale bread go to waste. I made it all the time when I worked in a little Belgian café here and was always coming home with half-stale baguettes.
1 stale baguette or Italian bread.
Any combination of the following: sliced Roma tomatoes, red onion, cucumbers, and olives
A little crumbled feta cheese
A couple tablespoons olive oil
A dash of balsamic vinegar
Cut the hard bread into chunks about 1″ square. Place in large bowl or pot with all the veggies and cheese. Add just enough olive oil to coat the bread mixture and a dash or two of balsamic vinegar. Cover the pot and shake to mix well. Leave covered in the refrigerator overnight. The bread will become tender and chewy again from the oil and moisture from the vegetables.
I’m always on the search for simple, good recipes myself, so share yours, and support the Food Revolution, in the comments.