Have you been keeping up with Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution? I watched the most recent episode online this morning. Is it just me, or did the other LAUSD school board members look extremely uncomfortable when Superintendent Cortines assertively told Jamie that he was the one who made the decision that Jamie shouldn’t work with the Los Angeles schools?
Maybe it was just part of the drama and build-up of the show, but I do believe in the message Jamie is trying to communicate, and I do think that he is drawing attention to an issue that can definitely make people feel uncomfortable. People don’t like to be told that the “foods” they love are unhealthy, and for some reason, many people have a hard time justifying the little bit of extra money that would be spent upfront on healthier food options. Unfortunately.
And look, I consider myself an empathetic person, so, being a former public school educator, I tried to see things from the superintendent’s point of view: Certainly he has a lot on his plate and has a lot of students’ welfare to look out for. And in an environment where high stakes testing takes precedence in the list of qualities of good schools, I think his fears of camera crews trying to stir up drama in an environment of concentration and learning are valid. Supposing Jamie Oliver were permitted to study the school food that is served, Cortines would be faced with the risk of having his school district known as “the district that serves the wrong food to its students” instead of a district known for its students’ academic achievement, high test scores, or exceptional sports performance. Finding that balance and being willing to take that risk when individual student safety and liability could be at stake? That is no easy task.
But it’s another thing entirely to avoid an issue that is so clearly affecting our nation’s youth by refusing to engage in a dialogue to determine what compromises or changes could be attempted – if only for a trial period. Because, when it comes down to it, when you don’t have an option in the school food you are served each day, academic and extracurricular performance is only going to get you so far: if you don’t have your health, you have nothing.
Now, I realize much of the show, though only just now being aired, was filmed while Cortines was still superintendent. It appears he retired in April of 2011, so much of my thoughts in this post are less frustration with the current leadership on the other side of the country, and more a commentary on what I saw on the most recent episode of the show. As is likely the show’s intention, I felt frustrated and passionate after watching this episode, and, as the photos to this point in the post suggest, I had the urge to go photograph what’s going on in my garden. I wanted to see something fresh and thriving with the promise and magic of healthful growth.
Thankfully, my garden didn’t disappoint.
And in Jamie’s honor, I decided to cook something from his Food Revolution cookbook.
Pot Roast Meatloaf (adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution)
Yum Factor: Alex – 8.2, Jessalyn – 8
– 1 onion, diced
– 1 teaspoon ground cumin
– 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1. Saute the onion in a bit of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and the cumin and coriander seed. Cook until onions are softened but just before they take on their color. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
– 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
– 1/4 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
– handful of Ritz-like crackers, crushed in your hands
– 2 generous tablespoons Dijon mustard
– 1 pound good quality ground chuck
– 1 egg
2. Add all ingredients to the cooled onion mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix together with your hands. Turn the meat out onto a plate or cutting board and form it into a loaf shape. Drizzle both sides with a small amount of olive oil and rub it in with your hands.
3. When ready to cook, place the meatloaf into a large dutch oven skillet and put into a preheated 475F oven. After you’ve closed the oven door, turn the heat down to 400F, and bake for 30 minutes.
– 1 onion, diced
– 1 garlic clove, minced
– 2 tablespoons diced garlic scapes (optional)
– 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
4. In another skillet, saute the onion, garlic, and garlic scapes in a bit of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and the smoked paprika. Stir frequently to prevent burning.
– 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
– 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
– 1 (14 oz.) can garbanzo beans, rinsed
– 1 (28 oz.) can whole tomatoes and juice
5. When the onions have softened and the spices have begun to cook (about 5 minutes), add the remaining sauce ingredients, breaking up the whole tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Continue to simmer until needed.
– 2 sprigs rosemary, chopped
6. After 30 minutes in the oven, remove the meatloaf. Carefully pour off the grease from the meatloaf pan into a small bowl. Stir in the rosemary. This will be a flavorful garnish.
– 8 strips bacon (optional)
7. Carefully pour the sauce in and around the meatloaf in its dutch oven. Top the meatloaf with the slices of bacon, layering them to cover the meat (even though the meat may be fully submerged in the sauce). Drizzle over the rosemary garnish. Return pan to oven, uncovered, 15-20 minutes or until bacon has become crisp around the edges.
What I liked about Jamie’s meatloaf is that it did not have the traditional ketchup glaze on top, but still included tomato sauce. The addition of the garbanzo beans helped each serving feel a bit more substantial–almost like a meatloaf stew. It had some nice smokey flavors from the smoked paprika, cumin, and coriander seed. It wasn’t the prettiest looking dish in the world (indeed, ground beef tends to be pretty homely looking in most cases), but it was nourishing. It was messy, and rather difficult to cut into slices, and even more difficult to photograph nicely, but sometimes life is like that, you know? Messy, difficult, unorganized, and it sometimes doesn’t give you the prettiest picture to look at, but ultimately, just as there is sunshine after the rain, we find it in ourselves to keep going, to try to be good people, and, in many cases, things work out for the best.
Keep up the good work, Jamie Oliver and team! And if you haven’t gotten on board with the Food Revolution yet, consider checking out this infographic, reading this book, watching this film, learning about this alternative, and tuning into Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution television show to learn more.
What are your thoughts on the state of eating in America today?