Thursday, 15 January 2009

I guess that makes me elitist

I went to see 'The Nanny Diaries' this summer. I love chick flicks, I love ScarJo, and I was in desperate need of air conditioning (oh how I long for those days now). And that movie made me mad.

For the most part the movie was cute, harmless fun. But there is one scene where the lovely Ms. Scarlett, in her role as an Upper East Side mother's nanny, decides to 'liberate' her charge from the horrible restrictions his mother puts on him.

What are these horrible restrictions? His mother wants him to *shudder* eat organic food all the time! No processed food! No sugar! It's practically child torture, no? Scarlett, angel and child advocate, decides to introduce her poor, suffering subject to the glories of, what else, peanut butter and jelly on white bread. Also known as sugar on sugar with some aflatoxins thrown in for good measure.

I realize what the movie was trying to do, which is address how we shouldn't treat children like little adults. How we should let them just be kids. Hey, I totally agree that dressing a child up in a suit on a daily basis is a little ridiculous :) My beef is with the idea that eating healthy organic food should be lumped together with all the other obviously unpleasant constraints the mother puts on her child.

I was thinking about this issue today because I was reading about Jamie Oliver, a British chef who has publically decried the crap available to British school children in their school lunches. He is frequently accused of being an elitist snob because he thinks children should be served fresh, unprocessed food. I doubt Nanny Diaries was going for deep social commentary, but I think that the scene mentioned is telling in indicating a more general American attitude towards food.

It is singularly amazing to me how little some people seem to care about what they consume. I am amazed because we are talking about items that one is literally putting in one's body. And then the media tells us if we care, we must be rich snobs with too much time on our hands? If we want to feed our kids healthy food we're somehow depriving them of a normal childhood?

I don't understand how that happened. When did it become so fundamentally uncool not to eat sugar? Or Cheetoes? Or any of the other processed crap major food companies make tons of money off of? This kind of manipulation makes me angry.

We get the majority of our information from biased sources: big food comapnies who have a vested interest in have us consume their products, and the FDA, a political institution that is subject to lobbying by said large food companies. I highly recommend the movie King Corn, which makes this point far more graphically and eloquently than I ever could.

Worse, the information is transmitted not just in the obvious ways, such as food commercials, but as the Nanny Diaries illustrates, in far more subtle ways as well. This is why I'm in favour of measures of accountability from these entities. Take, for example, making major restaurant chains post their calorie counts. To those who rail agains the nanny state--WAKE UP. The public needs more information about food from more sources. Doesn't it freak you out a little that these chains would be so resistant to doing so? Posting calories is a very small step towards accountability. I'm not advocating take fast food commercials off the air, or ending product placements in movies. It's a free, capitalist country. All I'm saying is, don't we all deserve a little truth with our food? Shouldn't we all start to care just a little bit more?


Loth said...

Hello! Popping over to say hi and thanks for delurking! Glad I came across this post as I definitely think you have a point and poor Jamie Oliver has been getting crucified for his trouble, particularly by the kind of people who went to the school he converted to "proper" school lunches and handed burgers and fries through the fence to the kids inside!

Also, I suspect we may be distantly related. This suspicion is based entirely on my love for kitchen gadgets and guacamole which I note you share.

Cave Cooking said...

Oh god, the 'burgers through the fence' scene is burned in my mind--I loved that television series.

I think those are very solid bases for a potential relation. Also, we're both in law (scary!).

tokaiangel said...

I read a really good piece in the Guardian this week about how Jamie Oliver is actually one of the only celebrity chefs in this country who addresses social concerns and actually considers the working classes rather than just creating aspirational dinner party food porn. I think he's doing a fine job.

Although seeing calorie counts plastered across menus would cause me great personal anguish, I do hope that a result of the calorie shaming will mean more healthy options in restaraunts. I love meeting friends for dinner, but rarely do it because its such a nutritional minefield!

TA x

Anonymous said...

Love your thoughts on this. Granted, kids (and adults) can't be expected to eat only real food every second of the day, but we as the general population have GOT to start caring more and putting in the effort to be healthy. You've made some fantastic points here.

Adore Jamie:)

- Sagan

Cave Cooking said...

:) And I certainly would never fault parents for feeding their kids treats occasionally. One of my fondest memories as a child was my mom making whipped cream happy faces on my oatmeal before school. I just wish, for example, kids got more fruit salad and veggies and fewer french fries and candy.

Jamie has some AMAZING recipes. I think he's brilliant.