You could have spent yesterday night glued to cable news or C-SPAN, watching a contentious debate over the politics of health care in America. Or you could have put on ABC and watched the first episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Which, in its own way, is also a contentious debate over the politics—or at least the culture—of health care in America.
In the show, British chef Oliver goes to Huntington, W.Va., “the unhealthiest city in America,” to try to improve the town’s diet and health, starting with the school lunch program. But besides being about healthy diet, the conflict in the show arises from its being an issue for some of the same issues that arise in health-care reform (and in other health-related political controversies, like New York’s efforts to regulate transfats or even salt): Who decides what’s healthy? What changes can be imposed? And what are the costs of the status quo?
These tensions are heightened in Food Revolution since (1) much of the action concerns school lunch (i.e., a government program), (2) it involves kids (and thus touches nerves about both their safety and the responsibility of parents) and (3) Oliver is British, which becomes an explicit issue in the first episode—i.e., who is this outsider to come in here and tell us how to live our lives? Why’s he trying to impose his way of life on our culture? I want my country back!
As I wrote earlier, I enjoyed the show, not just because it’s well-meaning and well-made, but because it gives a respectful airing to the Huntington locals (like the school lunch ladies in the premiere) who doubt Oliver’s ideas, or think he’s naive, disrespectful or both. The show begins in its regular time slot on Friday. If you watched the preview, let us know whether it hit the spot.