Friday, 7 October 2005

And what will Madam have for afters?

There’s this restaurant on the King’s Road. It’s called Big Easy and it’s been around since 1991. I’ve never eaten there, but I’ve just read a review of it by Toby Young (not my favourite person in the world, but he seems to know his stuff). Apparently Big Easy has “always been renowned for its huge portions, but at the beginning of this month they went one better and introduced the Lobster Challenge. This is a plate of food that includes a 2lb steak, a 1lb portion of chips and a 4lb lobster, making it Britain’s most calorific meal. If you can finish it in one sitting, your name goes up on a board in the basement.”

What on earth do they think they’re doing? I love America, but there are a few things we shouldn’t emulate and one of them is the amount of food its inhabitants consume. There is already a problem with obesity in this country, especially among children. Who in their right mind would encourage people to eat more?

Ok, the food served by Big Easy is not junk, but it only makes it marginally better. What about the junk people shove down their throats on a regular basis?

Enter Sir Jamie Oliver! (He’s already got an MBE, but he deserves to be knighted ASAP – don’t you just love acronyms?) You know, you hear about this programme on the telly, about how Jamie Oliver tried to change school dinners and stop kiddies eating crap and you go, “Yeah, yeah! Another one of his antics!” But you watch it anyway because it’s been trailed to death and you know everyone will be watching it and you want to be able to discuss it with your mates and – BAM! – it’s a revelation. The guy is amazing. And what he’s done is incredible. He’s forced the government to take action about the problem. Unheard of!

Hey, my American friends, Jamie is landing on your shores very soon. He’s determined to tackle your junk food problems. I wonder if you’re prepared for him.

We in the UK have just had a wake-up call. I’m slapping Big Easy and all the other promoters of force-feeding out there. They’re like drug peddlers. They have to be stopped. At least the red-and-yellow people with the arches never got to impose their supersize portions on us here.

PS. Who said I didn’t like celebrity chefs. *grin*


  1. I heard about Jamie Oliver coming here and fixing the school lunches and I could barely stand how excited I got. Institutional food in this country shouldn't be called food at all. It's slop. I remembered when I was growing up the school lunches were invariably pizza, hamburgers, "sloppy Joes", and other variations of meat, starch, and cheese, with french fries, and maybe some overboiled green beans as a gesture toward vegetables, which nobody ate. Alice Waters of Chez Panisse here has revamped the whole cafeteria for her daughter's college, and other colleges are beginning to follow her lead in buying local, seasonal produce, installing salad bars with appetizing choices, and creating more appealing, varied, nutritious menus. But that's college. The younger kids are still stuck in the sugar ages. Also, they're strapped for cash, so they tend to invite fast food franchises to sell food to middle school and high school students. My own high school and middle school served Taco Bell burritos, Pizza Hut pizzas, and tons of ice cream and soda during lunch. It was an abomination. So yes, send us Jamie Oliver! Someone's got to fix this mess, and for whatever reason we can't seem to manage it ourselves.

  2. He's only 30 and full of energy: he will sort you out. LOL!

    The amount of money available was 37p per meal, now it's going to be a minimum of 50p. If you want to read more about what happened after the TV prog, here's a good précis:

    I never had school meals because my parents were apparently earning too much money (it wasn't true, but my father was self-employed so we didn't qualify). I have no idea what sort of food was on offer in French schools in the '50 and '60s. However, I did have experience of school meals in England in 1969-70, when I was a French Assistante (working in two different schools in the same small town): I used to take my meals with the teachers, who had the same food as the kids. It was stodgy, wholesome British fare. The boys had healthier meals, I thought: lots of fresh salads. On the whole it was very tasty and everyone, me included, enjoyed it. I put on some weight (which was good for me at the time). But that was 35 years ago. It went downhill after that.

  3. I never got to buy a hot school lunch when I was a kid, either, not because we were too well off, but because my parents couldn't afford to give me lunch money. So I ate soggy peanut butter sandwiches next to my friends, who ate their burritos, pizza, etc. I remember feeling envious of those hot lunches, just because they were something I couldn't have, but looking back, I'm glad to have missed them.

  4. It makes me feel ill when I read about such gluttony. How ironic that one of the biggest threats to people living in first world countries is dying of obesity. And their health care is costing us tax payers millions! I can't abide greed in any form. When I first came to the US I was aghast at the enormous portions people were served in restaurants. I ordered a cobb salad minus the bacon once and it was so huge it could have fed 3 people. My husband and I prefer to eat at home now, because the food in most restaurants is filled with so many fats, bad preservatives and other chemicals to make it taste 'good'. (No doubt so that people eat more and make pigs of themselves, and spend more money.) My MIL was visiting us last month and asked to be taken to IHOP for breakfast, and I have never seen so many obese people eating such unhealthy food in my life. Many of these people looked red in the face, huffed and puffed, and weighed over 300 pounds - they were eating 6 egg omelettes fried in lard, stacks of buttered pancakes and double thick milkshakes. They are heart attacks waiting to happen, and it's tragic. Guess who is going to pay their medical bills???

  5. Oh, how wonderful, Jamie is coming! I have a real weakness for Jamie and he is on my list of "things" I miss about Britain. If I hear him saying "pukka" on TV here in the States, I may just burst into happy tears.

  6. What on earth is "pukka"? I can't even begin to guess.
    Jamie Oliver I have never heard of, but school lunches I do remember. Every Friday we had fish sandwiches, and on Mondays there was spaghetti. How wonderful is the ignorance of youth. When caloric intake, grams of fat, and the percentage of carbohydrates per serving were not measured. Yes, and look what we've become. A country where close to 62% are considered to be obese.
    Most learning skills began at an early age, so maybe within the elementary schools is the place to start. However as quiet as it's kept... I do miss pizza day.

  7. The problem in the UK is that parents are not on the side of the good guys. Just yesterday a headmaster was complaining that since they had introduced Jamie-style meals, i.e. healthy food, in his school, kids were coming in with lunch boxes full of rubbish: crisps, cheese dips, the infamous “turkey twizzlers”, etc. Their parents were presumably raised on processed, fatty foods themselves and can’t see the point of what Jamie - and now the government - are trying to do. They give in to the demands of their kids, who refuse to try anything new and are addicted to their fatty and sugary diet. When the programme came out, at the same time as Jamie was saying all that about the parents, the education secretary was saying, “We mustn’t blame the parents.” It’s a ridiculous situation. The spectacle of little children not being able to answer a single question about where foodstuff comes from or even what it is (they have no idea what most vegetables are called since they never see them in their original state, for instance) was disheartening.

    "Pukka" is an Indian word favoured by the excitable Jamie Oliver when describing ingredients and/or his own dishes. LOL! One of its meanings is: “absolutely first class”.

    M, there’s nothing wrong with pizza, is there? The Italians, who have one of the healthiest diets in the world, strive on it. When it’s made with fresh ingredients it’s quite good for you, I think.

  8. Dear J,

    Just wanted to wish you a very healthy, happy and peaceful New Year.

    May you and yours be inscribed for a good year.

  9. Thanks, B! Happy New Year to you too!

  10. Oh, Blogger ate my comment again! What a greedy thing it is!

    Just wanted to say: the Italians "thrive" on pizza; I "strive" to get it right - and frequently fail. LOL!

  11. I used to live in the UK (Gerrards Cross) and we had a pub that would sometimes have an "all you can eat" contest, probably because so many American expatriates lived in the area. Too late, Bela, we've already exported it. It's just growing now. :)

  12. I generally eat vegetables (spinach being my favorite), fish and a lot of fruit. I have never been a big eater and am most happy choosing from the appetizer selection, a lot of the little samplings. Fresh everything. Sliced tomato, mozzarella topped with fresh basil a drizzle of virgin olive oil, that is my kind of snack.
    Because of my lack of movement I don't burn off food. And I'm never hungry. I eat because I have to, but without hunger. I'm a nibbler.

  13. Fred, I'm aware it's too late for the adult population, but I believe there's still hope for young children. Those kinds of establishments should definitely be banned.

    Stop it, M, you're making me hungry! LOL! I'm rarely hungry too because my diet is sooooo boring: I just don't care about the food I can eat.

  14. i still hate jamie oliver tho. and i resent him for doing such a grand job in revamping school dinners at it sort of redeems him and makes me seem like a curmudgeonly old witch for continuing to loathe him. and my neighbours are killing each other. wheeee!

  15. They aired the show here in Sweden and it made me cry.

  16. SG, you are an old grump, aren't you? LOL! :-)

    Wasn't it an incredible feat, Jennie? When people are united by a common goal, they can achieve miracles. I liked the recalcitrant dinner lady (can't think of her name, just now).

  17. Oh yes, the dinner lady was incredibly charming (what WAS her name... I also forgot).

    But what made me cry was the interview with the doctor at the kiddie health clinic explaining what happened to these kids, who only ate saturated fat, what their inside looked like... And when kids said: "Is this asparagus" about leek, or refusing to eat fresh raspberries, just wanting fried food and potato crisps...

    *stops ranting*

    I am not a big fan of TV chefs, but this show really did something.

  18. Never stop ranting, J! :-)

  19. I love Jamie Oliver. I watched him cooking for his baby on one of his shows and couldn't believe it. Actually has the tyke eating garlic. School lunches hell, I want to him to tackle my DS.

  20. I was always fed whatever the adults had, albeit in a different "format". LOL! I was eating marinated herring, chopped liver, Camembert, etc. when I was a tiny child. I think the idea of giving children different things to eat - like fish fingers, stuff like that - is a fairly recent one.

  21. I find the gigantic-portions restaurant gimmick revolting too, not because it makes people fat but because it's a big, throaty ha-HA! in the face of people who are starving. Few people can eat all that food, and it's unhygienic to do anything with the leftovers but throw them away. The amount of food wasted is staggering.

    My mother and I had brunch once at one of these places. My omelet came out on a platter big enough to hold a turkey. There were 8 slices of American cheese on the top, so I estimate the whole thing was a good 16x8 inches. My "side" of bacon was one pound, cooked up into a crispy, greasy, wavy haystack. I ate about 1/8 of the omelet and 2 pieces of bacon, and watched while the rest was carted away to the trash.

    A friend of mine who lived in Saudi Arabia for 6 months told me she used to get strange looks for jogging on the beach. It wasn't because she was a woman doing something inappropriate, it was because the locals -- most of whom were terribly poor -- couldn't comprehend the idea of WILLFULLY burning off precious energy doing absolutely nothing constructive. In the U.S., that's what we do: overconsume and then burn it off at the gym. Instead we could be consuming *enough* and using our energy to help build houses or pick up litter or propel ourselves to work instead of fueling our cars to do so. From a macro-level perspective, it's a tremendously inefficient use of resources and energy.

  22. You’re making me ill, K. I can’t imagine what it feels like to ingest so much food.

    I didn’t mention the waste, but it disgusts me too: I was brought up to respect food. I find it difficult to throw away anything, even a slice of stale bread.

    You’re right: it’s obscene to overeat and then try to burn if off in such a useless way. Our priorities are completely wrong.


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