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The Food Revolution Comes to Romania

de (17-6-2012)

You’ve all heard of that Brit chef Mr. Jamie Oliver, whose spicy and colorful meals, are thrown together in just minutes, all with a nod to the healthy side of life. Well, Jamie’s been on a quest for the past several years that has now reached a global audience. Food Revolution Day was marketed worldwide and hundreds of events were held across the globe to raise awareness of what’s good and what’s not to have on our respective plates.

It all started in a little town in the U.S. called Huntington, West Virginia, and Jamie took a lot of flack for it both on the telly and in the newspapers and radio. He went in with the best of intentions to try to make some much needed drastic changes in the school lunch kitchens there. Now please don’t get the wrong impression here. Many places and most people in America ARE health conscious, many are vegetarians and due to information and education, most schools, organizations, restaurants and cafeterias are savvy about what’s not so good to put on your plate. There are programs all over the country which encourage a healthy lifestyle. This town, in particular had been doing things the same way for so long that what they ordered from supply companies, how the kitchen cooks made the food and what was served for lunch in school were all not the current choices. For example, in many schools across the US, it is no longer allowed to sell or provide soft drinks or candy bars in vending machines for students to buy. Instead, there is water, natural juices and teas. Lunch lines now have a lot of salad fixin’s and vegetable/fruit choices along with dairy products, especially in the colleges. For Jamie in this town, however, it was a hard road, but he and his supporters prevailed, so much so that the town and its leaders lobbied for permanent changes in the menus, the ingredients and the lifetime cooking and eating habits of the citizens and they won. Although it wasn’t a huge win immediately, it certainly was in the long term as one at a time, young and old learned about alternatives, the real contents of processed foods (it was fairly disgusting to see the amount of fat in frozen chicken nuggets!), how to recognize what is better for their bodies and had fun in the process learning some fast and furious cooking skills from Jamie himself. The campaign was inspiring and many benefited, most especially the kids in the school lunchrooms, from his spirited and unyielding dedication. Then he decided to invite the rest of the world to get on board with his quest. So on May 19th, with the help of mass media and Jamie’s unfathomable charm and realness, thousands of people shared meals, skills, discussions, presentations and ideas about food, glorious and good-for-you food.

Romania was in on it, too. Bucharest opened up a “FoodRev” page on Facebook and there were dinner parties, tasting sessions, and farmer’s market tours. They did a wonderful job of representing the best of Romanian garden ingredients used to make new and delicious creations a la Jamie with a lot less fat, grease, salt, oil, sugar and meat. Not only did they cook traditional foods,but they were also enthusiastic in making other dishes, international ones, which aren’t so regularly served, if at all, on the dinner tables of the average Romanian family. It all looked wonderful and I wanted to join them there, but I’d already made a date with a third grade class for my own monthly cooking class to happen. So we had our own garden party, myself and my best friend here at school, both of us teachers, along with six of her Hungarian students to make a picnic fit for a queen. On the menu were seasonal, fresh fruit sticks dressed with a sweet mixture of Greek yogurt, wildflower honey from St. George and poppy seeds, an Italian-herbed primavera pasta salad made with broccoli florets, multi-colored crunchy peppers, black olives, cherry tomatoes and gouda cheese, savory toast triangles made from middle eastern pita bread, olive oil and Jamie’s imported Himalayan pink salt and my famously delightful (and much delighted)* carrot raisin cake: *ALL the kids in Romania that I’ve had cooking class with know how to make it!

We had a super day outdoors as they washed, cut, sliced, diced, grated, arranged, mixed, folded, poured, measured (with regular cups, and by eye!), chopped, stirred, baked, served and ate all of the spoils of their hard work along with their parents who beamed with pride as they finished the last bites of their children’s springtime picnic fare. It was all a fine success: the children received certificates for participating in the first annual Food Revolution Day, I was able to send the recipes out to the parents and teach a bit of how most of us, including myself, in America cook…with an eye to what’s healthy and a nod to an international palate, and along with others here in Romania and around the world, Jamie and his ever growing team, became connections in a purpose which no one would say is without merit.

Of all of the classes in cooking that I’ve had in the three years here in Romania (there have been more than thirty), this will probably be the most memorable because it was the last I will have before I go on to distant shores and it was great for reaching others (along with Jamie’s Food Revolution website help and interactive map of events) with the message that you don’t have to look very far to find the best that the good earth has to offer, you don’t have to work very hard to make something that you can serve to company and you don’t have to sacrifice taste, or more importantly your own health, to eat right. So I say, go Jamie and go kids and friends of mine who’ve learned a bit about eating for their futures…it’s been great to share the table and the kitchen with all of you and I’ll be waiting to see how you come up with your own new recipes and healthier versions of traditional foods for your families that not only taste fabulous but send a message that you care about what you eat and who you feed.!/FoodRevolutionBucharest


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