Pivot Point

The unlikely combination of a British chef, Ryan Seacrest and a West Virginia town has me hooked. I’ve been watching “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” a show produced by Seacrest that hopes to reduce obesity in Huntington, WV. An article in The Times of London yesterday gives some behind-the-scenes insight:

After 11 years trying to break America, “on the a***-end of the Food Network”, Oliver says he’d been about to scale down his U.S. ventures when ABC offered the show…   The time’s right. I’ve been trying to get someone to tell this story here, ever since I found out America was the worst of pretty much everything I was learning about, doing research [for School Dinners] in England.”

Nonetheless, Huntington was a tough gig. America, he says, is five years ahead of Britain in its food degeneracy and obesity levels. At least the kids in Greenwich, South London, where he launched School Dinners, could identify a tomato, and when Jamie showed them what chicken nuggets were made of, by grinding beaks and carcasses, were suitably repelled: American kids watched this and still elected to eat them over roasted meat.

The show resonates with me because I underwent my own food revolution four and a half years ago. I also like the way Seacrest’s production staff shows respect for the power of radio deejays. Rocky and Rod at 93.7 The Dawg have been regulars on the show. Morning co-host Rod Willis takes on the role of the bad guy, verbalizing the opinions of those who resent Oliver and his efforts. In episode four, Rod finally sees the light after a powerful segment in the local funeral home.

Jamie Oliver and Rod visited Reger Funeral Home and Chapel, where the morticians showed them a double-wide casket for the morbidly obese. It’s so big that it requires the purchase of two cemetery plots. Rod asked if larger deceased persons could be cremated instead of buried. They hinted at the answer, which I knew a little more about thanks to one of Dr. Bill Bass’ lectures. Not only would it be difficult to fit a body that big into a standard cremation retort, but the heat generated from the excess weight could damage the chamber.

I am hopeful that the Food Revolution will have a positive effect on Huntington and the rest of the nation. One good sign is that tourists are visiting places they’ve seen on the show. Comedian Ricky Gervais doesn’t believe it. He told David Letterman that Oliver will fail because Americans like fattening food too much.

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