School Lunch and America’s “fattest city”

A few years ago the CDC issued a report (link here) about behavioral risk factors associated with the leading causes of death in the US.  Some of the these included the number of permanent teeth a person had, their level of physical inactivity, and the presence of chronic conditions like diabetes.  Long story short, a media frenzy ensued and Huntington, West Virginia was dubbed the “fattest city in America,” based upon interpretation of the CDC’s results.  Cue the Appalachian stereotypes.

Enter celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and the magic of reality television produced by ABC.  If we look past the editing and conventions, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, is actually an interesting way to begin thinking about school lunch.  The premise of the show is that Jamie, having “revolutionized” school lunches in England is coming to Huntington to save them from the obesity epidemic.  I’m pretty sure most of the things he tried to put in place have long since been done away with, but that right there gets to one of Levine’s points, that school lunch is only partly about children’s nutrition.  In fact, Levine opens with the failed attempts of celebrity chefs to fix lunch.

Should you find some free time I managed to find the entire show (we’ll see how long it remains up).  The early episodes give visuals to the absurd nutritional guidelines, fat content, and prepackaged foods stored in giant warehouses—the “food” aspect—of school lunches, but they also touch on the larger significance of the school lunch program–the politics if you will, because try as they might, it can’t be avoided (and as always class is there, but never really acknowledged).





Mad Men at a Japanese restaurant

Here is the clip from Mad Men where Dan Draper meets up his client of Mohawk Airlines at a Japanese restaurant. The client made a comment that the place reminded him of the Pearl Harbor. Apparently, the waitress who made Dan’s eyes glue to  is dressed in China dress (not in Japanese costume, kimono), holding an exotic cocktail umbrella whose image derives from the concept of the Pacific Rim.  The BGM is Sukiyaki song by a Japanese folk singer Kyu Sakamoto. As you know, the title of this song, sukiyaki, a name of Japanese dish has nothing to do with what the song is about. It is too bad that Dan did not order any food but had some whiskey or bourbon (or dared not to eat Japanese food). I guess this scene is set up around 1961 and it was even before Benihana opened its very first restaurant on West 56th Street in New York, 1964. So I am very curious what kind of food was served at that restaurant.  Although I often wonder how accurately these drama series are created based upon the historical facts, that is not so important after all. I am not surprised to find those dramas are the reflections of how we imagine the idealized or nostalgic life of the 60s was like.  But still it is quite intriguing to me that the director decided to adopt this narrative setting for this episode.

Mad Men, Housewives, and Grocery Stores

Since we’ve been on a kick about TV shows, food references, and their relationship to the book we’re reading each week, I thought I’d add this Mad Men clip.  I think it really speaks to a lot of the issues that Deutsch brings up in the latter chapters of her book.