Tuesday, March 30, 2010

That's NOT finger food!

If you live in the States, you may well have heard that British chef Jamie Oliver is here with his Food Revolution, attempting to revamp the menus in the nation's school cafeterias. He is starting in Huntington, in rural West Virgina, which apparently has one of the worst obesity rates in the country, and indeed, the TV show was startling. He did the same in the UK a few years ago although received a very mixed reception. This week however, it has been revealed that in the UK schools serving Jamie's menu, scholastic achievement has improved. Well done Jamie.

He performed a few of the same tricks that he did in England - showing the kids a variety of vegetables to discover that few, if any of them could name a single one. They didn't even know that French Fries were made out of potatoes. He also demonstrated what went into chicken nuggets by making them in front of the kids. In a remarkable exception to the usual result, even though the kids were suitably revolted by the crap that went into the nuggets, once they were shaped into nugget form and fried, (the nuggets that is), all the kids still elected to eat them. Jamie was, not surprisingly, shocked at this result and realised he had perhaps under-estimated the goal of revolutionizing school meals in the USA.

And you wanna know the bit that depressed me most? Not the fact that the kids wouldn't try anything new (heck, come over to my place), nor the fact that the adults were complaining about the cost of giving the kids real food - but the fact that lunches were served without knives and forks.

Anyone who's spent any time here will know that Americans regularly forego a knife at the table. Only last week I had lunch with someone who attempted to cut up iceberg lettuce - with a fork! (The knife was right there on the table.) My own children cut up their food like cavemen despite years of me standing over them and physically putting their hands in the right position. It's just not a big thing here. A lot of kids' food is what they call "finger food" - burgers, chicken nuggets, corn dogs, and pizza. My 14 year old tries to cram as many food items into that category as he possibly can, such is his aversion to using cutlery/flatware. I remember yelling at him a few years back "Ice cream is NOT finger food."

So, I am popping over to Jamie's web site to sign his petition to get healthier food into American schools (please join me), but I'll be adding my own little addendum - "and give them knives and forks too".





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23 comments:

  1. Hats off to Jamie! I signed his petition over here to get the government to spend more on school dinners. Luckily, my school serves excellent healthy food so my daughter is well catered for.

    I totally agree about the cutlery too.

    Table manners are a big thing in this house!

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  2. I can not stand the table manners in America (especially of children whose parents simply don't care). My parents forced good table manners on us and still today when my brother and I (both in our late 20s) are with them, we get told off for not putting our cutlery in the right position or using the wrong cutlery. These basic skills are what can make all the difference in the future. You never know if you're going to have a business lunch and good manners impress the client (even subconsciously) or when you are going to feel embarrassed for not having basic table manners. The little things like this are terribly important.

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  3. yes I will certainly sign - and mention cutlery too. It drives me mad when my daughter uses her fingers to eat eg yorkshire pud, if she has been at a friend's house and picked up bad manners. x I just read that Jamie was in tears with frustration over there - some kids didn't even know what tomatoes were.....

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  4. When my lovely teen comes over to visit you please have fun with him on the table manners. I nag nag nag and he says ' but it's pointless, and no-one cares mum....' but Limey is so right I think. I will keep at him, My dad kept at me night and day, and I am so glad now. I am not virtuous by any stretch, but the point is I can be when I choose to be. Having the choice is everything

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  5. YES YES YES! I love Jamie! I've been telling my American friends about Jamie's UK school revolution and now blogging about his USA attempts. The show is eyeopening! To borrow from Charlie and Lola...my kids will never not ever eat a school lunch until things change! I signed the petition weeks ago but continue to harrass everyone I know to do the same. The lunch ladies are terrifying! My MIL used to live in Huntington, and it is just as it looks. ugh.
    Rock on Jamie - crusander for our children.

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  6. You took the words right out of my mouth Toni.
    I was going to blog about the knife issue next week. I confirmed with my son that he is indeed prohibited from using knives at lunch but he can use a fork. Now I ask you, can't just as much damage be done with a fork? I find it all extremely shameful and a symptom of a much larger issue in this country, which I'll address further in my post. I'm really proud of Jamie and I actually emailed him during the UK dinners show and asked him to please bring it here. I think if he joined forces with the Obamas, amazing things may happen. I've got my fingers crossed.

    By the way, I just found this blog where a teacher is eating school dinners school day for a year. She's a brave soul.
    http://fedupwithschoollunch.blogspot.com/

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  7. You beat me to it Toni - and wrote a far better post than mine would have been on this topic (tho' I may post it anyway, just because!) I was stunned when I realized that US public schools don't provide knives at lunch - I worked in private schools here in the US for 18 years (before switching to public school) and there were ALWAYS knives in the dining room and the kids were expected to use them!

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  8. And I laugh watching British people trying to eat pizza and hamburgers-on-the-bun with knives and forks instead of just picking them up!

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  9. That man rocks... did you watch his TED acceptance speech? Best 20 minutes I've spent watching stuff online for a while.

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  10. Great post. I love what Jamie is trying to do and admire his passion and dedication to the cause. Eating healthy, nutritious food and having proper table manners are the two things we work hard on instilling in our house.

    I'm an American who was raised with a fork AND a knife which I know is rare. Happily, my children don't try to saw away at their meat with a fork. It would be too painful to watch!

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  11. I haven't seen any of the US Jamie shows here in the UK. But remember the uproar created by his UK version. There were actually mothers feeding McDs through the school fences because they disagreed with his ideas, silly, silly women. I had no idea US schools had no cutlery, really?

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  12. Has anybody mentioned peer pressure? My (American)kids have been raised with knife and fork (I'm Dutch), and "real" food. But boy, the influence of friends and the outside world is mighty tough to fight.

    Go Jamie!

    The problem with knives and forks in (many) schools is the safety issue: They can be used as weapons when violence breaks out.

    What a world. Now I'll go sign the petition.

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  13. NFAH - I must admit, the only time I use a knife and fork with a burger is when the darn thing is too big to get in my mouth and I end up opening it and eating it like a regular meal! And I eat pizza with my hands too!

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  14. Yay Jamie! I think he's a star for what he's trying to do.

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  15. In our house we have a distinction between "home manners" which include using just a fork (that one's me) and licking the plate (I know, I know! I tried to prevent husband doing it in front of son when he was little, but in vain. I'm so ashamed.I'm a failure as a mother!) and "away manners" which involve eating properly with a knife and fork. It's still a point that needs pressing home fairly frequently though.

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  16. Pizza tastes much better eaten with your fingers, anyway. It's just not right eaten with cutlery. I would never order it in a restaurant for that reason! Same with burgers etc - not that I really eat them anyway tbh.

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  17. I loved that show and totally believe in Jamie's genuine hope to change people's eating habits. More power to him.
    ;-)

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  18. One thing that I appreciate from going to a British school when I was a child, were the manners and habits that I picked up; I think it goes a long way to understand proper eating etiquette. Don't get me wrong, pizza, burgers, fries, nuggets, etc. are definitely foods that should be eaten with your hands- but it's important to know how to eat properly at the table as well.

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  19. When I first moved to the UK I immediately realised I had better learn to eat like the natives. Fortunately, it was easy and i find eating with a knife and fork much easier than with just a fork (American style). However, I still find myself reaching for chips/french fries with my fingers and it is a rare day I will eat pizza with a knife and fork and even then I feel a bit silly.

    I had no idea US schools dont leave out forks for kids at lunch. Shows how old I am I guess--we always had both. Good luck Jamie!

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  20. I cannot believe what passes for food in this country. My biggest shock moving from Norway to the US was the quality of the food.....so much processed, nothing fresh.
    My kids get a packed lunch from home and have done all their lives. Frankly I just don't trust my kids nutrition to anyone else. "You are what you eat" as far as I'm concerned.
    I really hope Jamie makes a difference over here. People laugh at me because I still use a knife and fork to eat a burger, but hey, I've had to sit next to grown businessmen at lunch and listen to them scarf down a mega meal (not pretty.)
    The saddest thing about this show was when he showed the kids what goes into a chicken nugget and they still wanted to eat it. When he asked them why, one kid said, "Because we're hungry." I think that says everything. There is a level of poverty in this country that I've only ever seen in the third world and we all know that if you're hungry you'll eat anything.....with or without a knife and fork!

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  21. I know this is an old post but I had to comment. I wrote about the same thing a couple of weeks ago, ranted about SPORKS in school. I feel like an old hag yelling all the time at my kids to USE A KNIFE .

    I cheered Jamie when he asked where the knives are! Because for years I felt like the whinging Brit at the table, moaning about terrible habits and OMG what do they teach kids in the cafeteria!

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