Forget about red state-blue state. Maybe it’s really an arugula divide in this country.
I was thinking about that this afternoon as I was watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution — as I was working out, I hasten to add. You know the show: British chef goes to fat Appalachian town and stirs up a food fight, trying to get local residents to eat right.
Look, in many ways — most, really — I’m sympathetic to his message. It is better for people to eat healthier, and the argument that eating well costs more isn’t necessarily true. More than an Extra-Super-Large-Lard Meal, sure, but shop smart and whole foods can be less costly than their processed cousins.
What is striking is the extent to which food mirrors the socioeconomic divide in this country. My middle-class urbanite contemporaries are increasingly Top Chef-watching, farmers-market-frequenting foodies, the sort who scorn tomatoes out of season and know their radicchio from their rocket. Watch Jamie Oliver’s show and see kids who can’t even identify a potato.
What worries me about the program, though, is I’m not sure if Oliver or the producers get the cultural distinctions that are driving food habits in a place like Huntingon, West Virginia, where the show is set. Perhaps I’m a little sensitive about this — for several years, I worked in West Virginia, less than an hour from Huntington. I was a political reporter who watched national Democrats, members of a party that had dominated the state’s politics for seven decades, squander that advantage, primarily because they didn’t know how to speak to people there, didn’t culturally get them. And I’m not sure if Oliver does either, and it’s about more than accents.
So, while I applaud Oliver’s effort, I wonder if it will go to waste. Just like the roast chicken and focaccia bread he tried to serve Huntington students.