Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Something You Won't See on American Idol

Jamie Oliver, the Naked Chef himself, is probably best known in America for his cookbooks of simple recipes prepared in relatively straight-forward style. He's a bigger deal in the UK, which makes this article in the NY Times this morning all the more intriguing:
Last Friday, in front of 4 million television viewers and a studio audience, the chef Jamie Oliver killed a chicken. Having recently obtained a United Kingdom slaughterman’s license, Mr. Oliver staged a “gala dinner,” in fact a kind of avian snuff film, to awaken British consumers to the high costs of cheap chicken.
I don't want to get into the ethics of eating meat, since, frankly I like all you, and I want you to continue reading this blog, whether you're a carnivore, vegetarian or hardcore vegan. I will say that this sort of thing seems necessary to me --the world has been eating way too much cheap meat--and if you look around the bookshelves of your local bookstore, I think you'll agree that I'm not alone.

America, or at least the publishing industry, has begun to take a closer look at what it eats. Books like Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, David Kamp's The United States of Arugula, and Barbara Kingslover's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, examine the American system of food production and consumption, either through journalistic reporting, sociological study, or personal memoir. These books, each exploring the issue in a different way, hope to detail a revolution that's afoot in America, and I guess, in England as well. Whether they'll be able to change the way we eat remains to be seen.

What these writers also represent is a golden age of food writing. Their work, along with that of authors like Michael Ruhlman, Bill Buford, Jeffery Steingarten, and even Anthony Bourdain, makes me wonder: has there ever been a better time to read about food? It's fitting that 2007 saw the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism given to a food critic for the first time, LA Weekly's own Jonathan Gold. While it probably won't lead to Rachel Ray decapitating chickens (would she wear a special sweater for that?), I hope it at least makes her discuss where those drumsticks came from.

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