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'Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution' last night: Kindergarteners with knives

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If you liked the first episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, last night’s second edition was… pretty much the first episode all over again, with a couple of eyebrow-raising new details. Such as a fight over whether to give elementary-school-age children knives in the lunch room. And the moment when the kids could not identify a tomato or a potato, let alone an eggplant. To its credit, the show managed not to make fun of the children, but rather to leave you appalled at their lack of education by their parents and teachers.

Once again, the cheeky British chef clashed with the residents of Huntington, West Virginia, in his efforts to get them to eat more healthy food. Once again, he submitted himself to being ridiculed by the clever host of a popular local radio show. (When Jamie, wheedling more like Oliver Twist than Jamie Oliver, asked whether he and the host were inching toward friendship, the host took a long pause and said with perfect radio timing, “No.”)

And once again, he faced the wrath and intransigence of the school cafeteria cooks led by Alice. When Oliver made up a lunch menu that consisted of beef fajitas, coleslaw, and an orange wedge, he also asked that the students be provided with forks and knives in addition to their standard spoons. The Americans, including the principal, acted as though Oliver was suggesting each child be handed a small, nutritious hand grenade.

Oliver spoke despairingly to the camera, saying that in England, kids ate school meals with forks and knives, and were taught how to use them as assiduously as they are taught reading, writing, and arithmetic.

I think there was a fundamental misunderstanding here. Oliver acted as though the Americans were afraid to show the kids how to cut up their food. (And while I’m sympathetic to Oliver’s position and am tired of grown adults I know wielding forks and knives in their fists like cave-people, may I also just pause to ask: Why do you need a knife to cut up a fajita and coleslaw?)

Whereas I will bet you anything that when Alice and the principal heard the word “knife,” they thought: eye-gouging, lawsuits, angry parents, and possibly a now-armed takeover of the school by rampaging kindergarteners. In the end, Jamie won — for that day, anyway.

There was a more serious side of last night’s hour, as Oliver accompanied the family he met last week to the doctor and they all addressed the family’s problems with poor diet and obesity. One child was given a test for diabetes. It proved negative, but the doctor told the family that the son had a good chance of getting diabetes if he continued to eat the way he does.

The hope and method of a show such as this is to focus on one family out of many hundreds in the town to be filmed and given the opportunity to have a doctor advise them. Ideally, other families see this and mend their ways. I’ll choose to be as optimistic as Oliver and hope he’s right.

It’s just that I don’t hold out much hope when, at the end, many of the teaching staff, including the school superintendent, wore little specially made badges that read, “I’ve tried something new.” And the apostrophe in “I’ve” was backwards.

These people don’t just need Jamie Oliver. They also need remedial grammar lessons.

Did you watch Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution last night? What did you think?

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