Earlier this month, I started this article. I was going to write some piece about me being all pissed off on the latest threat by New York Nanny State: have restaurants stop adding salt to their cooking. Yep, the food police were inside of my booth at Sardi’s.
The specter of Healthcare Passed was raising the government do-gooder fever pitch.
Chefs in the Empire State were quick to dismiss the proposal as “absurd”, but let’s see how absurd really looks when an establishment is fined $1000 per violation for adding salt to their meals. As a recovering restaurateur, I know that a chef without salt is like an artist painting only in beige.
I’m positive that the dining public knows that there is salt, and even – God forbid, butter – in most fresh cooked meals they order in a restaurant. If this law is ever enacted, a small bistro goes bland and risks its existence while the local Mickey D’s has twice the sodium per meal to embalm small animals.
Shortly after that headline broke, I was smacked right across the face with another ‘ brilliant’ idea: Doctors propose 18% pizza tax to fight obesity and offset healthcare costs. What the freakin’ hell? I thought Obamacare was offsetting the costs by cutting Medicaid?!? Social engineering run amok.
Before you get the wrong impression, I am not against eating healthy – especially in our public schools. My main point is that in a “learning institution”, you can teach good nutrition, but it should not be forced nutrition.
I hadn’t paid much attention, but there was a new series premiering on ABC, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Having come to fame across the Pond as ‘The Naked Chef’, Oliver had set his sights on Huntington, WV, which in 2008, was deemed the most obese and unhealthy town in America. His focus was to change the eating habits of the school kids as that is where lifelong bad eating habits begin. Oliver believes that his light and healthy style of ‘naked’ cooking could help this otherwise doomed city of nutritional ill-repute.
The one thing that Oliver didn’t expect as he armed himself for this revolution – there were more opposing sides than he realized.
Enter the United States Government.
While government intervention is nothing new, I want to take you back to a little ‘clarification’ a few years back called the Food Pyramid. Do you remember the original pyramid, with its neat horizontal layers? It was a good start, or so the Feds thought, but it needed something more, ahem, encompassing. Enter MyPyramid.gov. The site, sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture, is a cross between WebMd and Jillian Michaels.
Since its inception in 2005, the MyPyramid site has been criticized for being unduly influenced by food, meat and dairy lobbies. After all, they lobby for us to eat more but not necessarily healthy. It is these exact guidelines that are the basis of the Federal School breakfast and lunch programs.
One fact that must have remained on ‘Food Revolutions’ cutting room floor is the amount of children who participate in the free or reduced food programs at the public schools. In effect, families subjugate two-thirds of their kids meals to the government. Oliver may have been horrified by the sight of children eating ‘breakfast pizza’, but if you follow the government guidelines, it doesn’t much matter how you build the pyramid as long as you use all the colors.
This is the same government who is behind the push to publish the calorie counts of all items on a restaurant menu.
As the show continued last night, I watched child after child getting food heaped on a tray whether they asked for it or not. The result? As the kids exited the cafeteria, much of the food went right into the trash. Your tax dollars at work. Let’s say the kids cleaned their plates; how many calories did child just consume? Does portion distortion, too, play a factor along with the lower quality processed food that is forced en masse down the throats of American schoolchildren?
Earlier this year, First Lady Michelle Obama started her own revolution against childhood obesity, ironically dubbed “Let’s Move”. The First Lady offered a first-had look into her own daughters’ eating dysfunction and battle with weight. I guess the President isn’t one to play hoops with the kids.
So, with Mrs. Obama also targeting the school lunch program as part of her quest, she now must turn the wooden spoon on herself. Loosely speaking, the Executive Branch must fight the Legislative Branch for the mouths and stomachs of America’s youth.
As the true statist, she is pushing for more federal funds in the program for fresh food choices. (Remember where the food from the Huntington grammar school kids trays went.)
If you caught a recent episode of Iron Chef America, there was a special DC battle between White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford teaming up with Bobby Flay against the dynamic culinary duo of Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse. As much as they pushed the ‘secret ingredients’ – all fresh picked produce and herbs from the White House garden – it was revealed later that the produce was, in fact NOT from the White House garden. Oopsie!
OK, maybe that wasn’t the best secret ingredient they could have chosen (I would have suggested pork).
In a related story, Michelle and the First Kids sauntered off to a little holiday to New York City for some shopping, sightseeing and a play. While in the Big Apple, the First Family went to Grimaldi’s to sample some authentic New York pizza. (As if they couldn’t have chosen any one of a thousand ‘green restaurants’, but I digress.)
Then came one of the most disingenuous lines about New York since Hillary Clinton said she was a Yankees fan during her senate race – Mrs. Obama said this when asked about Grimaldi’s pie:
“It’s the best pizza, and I’m from Chicago.”
I’m sure Roger Ebert is Tweeting about the sacrilege right now.
As part of the complicit media, ABC was a co-conspirator in the election of the President. Then came the healthcare debate, where once again, ABC News tossed softballs at the President while excoriating dissenters. Could it be that they are finally coming down hard on Mr. Obama for expanding the role of government to an unheard of level in our nation’s history? Not so fast.
ABC has broken it’s figurative arm slapping itself on the back with Oliver’s Revolution series. Oliver, the hero, is out to single-handedly slay The Man as he tries to feed our kids swill. That may seem to run counter to what ABC would expect as a nutritional entitlement from the Feds.
And the reason ABC doesn’t? You guessed it – it’s the kids’ families fault!
After all, it’s the obese moms and dads that are mired in sloth who do not take issue with the quality of their kids’ nutrition. Too long have they sucked from the government teat that they are oblivious to thinking for themselves. They may have damned themselves to shorter, disease-ridden lives, but to place this death sentence upon their kids was reprehensible!
Ahhh! Liberals trashing the society their policies have helped create. The 50,ooo residents are an example of what happens when the will of the people is supplanted with the state-run, single-provider solution.
In the meantime, ABC gets to play both sides of the argument.
The 2-hour premier had its kitchen arguments, family crisis, classroom lectures and media backlash (that’s a shocker). The episode concluded with Oliver meeting at the end of his first week with the superintendent and the nutritional director for the school district. After a contentious week, complete with made-for-reality-TV drama, conflict and celebration, it was decided that Chef Oliver was granted a stay of another week or two. Normally never an issue when it comes to government spending, at any level, Oliver had gone over-budget by 100% and needed to trim that or he would be the one tossed into the trash bin.
Yes, I’m happy that the former ‘Naked Chef’ was using his stimulous for the sake of the kids, but he did sound like an old ‘school marm’ at times.
I am one to believe that you can still have fresh-er food and not sacrifice quality, but then there’s the food producers lobby to battle. To retrofit public schools from heat-n-eat to traditional food preparation is a gargantuan job. Dare I suggest that if the Nanny States of America wasn’t so deeply involved in when we ate, what we ate and how much to eat, there may be less of a problem? What happened to brown bagging like when many of us were kids? Has the government nuked the nuclear family and the only way kids make it through until dinner is by way of the Feds?
Despite what the Government thinks or what Chef Oliver portends, I am a believer in ‘all things in moderation’. A slice of pizza won’t kill you, unless you have it for breakfast every day. MyPyramid may be a good guideline but it remains a blatant example of one-size-fits-all mentality present is all government.
I think that ABC, Oliver and executive producer Ryan Seacrest may have a psuedo-hit on their hands, but if I wanted to really want to skip all the sanctimonious BS and guilt, I’ll watch the Kardashians instead.
Michael Fidanza is a foodie and Managing Editor of Parcbench. His show, The Armchair Energist can be see weekdays via Livestream and heard on podcast at www.ArmchairEnergist.com.