Wanted: 200 Million New Cooks -- pass it on

Sliced Boiled Eggs

Sliced Boiled Eggs

Whew. I got my at-least-annual "I don't really garden" confession out of the way yesterday, and now I can indulge in writing about something I DO do. I cook. I value cooking as crucial to my independence in the world, yes. More than that, I cook because cooking delights me.

Recently I learned about Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food, and his pass it on initiative. First, I read Alex Wichtel's fine New York Times article, "Putting America's Diet on a Diet." I immediately got in line for a library copy of Jamie's Food Revolution, the cookbook that spells out this simple, profound idea: Teach four people to cook a specific recipe, AND extract a promise from each person that she or he will teach four more people to cook that same dish, provided THEY also make the "pass it on" promise.

The night I got my library copy of the cookbook, I had a hard time sleeping. Jamie's math took over my head. He says:

Let's say, for instance, that you teach four people how to make a recipe, then each of them teaches four more people....The cycle only needs to repeat itself seven times and we've packed out Yankee Stadium one-and-a-half-times. Repeat it thirteen times and we've got more than the entire population of the United States cooking -- high aspirations, I admit, but why the hell not?

I realized I don't have an answer for that question. Why don't we all learn to cook? I have not worked out exactly how I will teach four people to cook a certain number of recipes just yet. I am finishing up projects, co-hosting convivial Cornbread Suppers weekly, helping with a certain political campaign, and working to sharpen my work skills so I can complete the work I do more quickly. But this is one revolution I intend to join.

Sharon Astyk and Aaron Newton assert in Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil that we need "100 million new farmers and 200 million new cooks in the US, and more worldwide." A Kentucky farmer I trust ranks cooking skills -- knowing what to do with what the earth produces --  in first place as the thing most needed to advance direct sales of Kentucky farm products to Kentucky families.

Two more tidbits:

  • Watch an engaging video of Jamie Oliver teaching us how to make a cheddar omelet (and tossing in side helpings of nutrition and cooking advice): Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution: Perfect Omelets (just short of five minutes)
  • ABC will show six episodes of reality television (my first!) starting March 23, 2010, Jamie Oliver's efforts to persuade and teach the people of Huntington, West Virginia, to increase their skills and commitment to cooking delicious, healthy food for themselves. Details here.

Hmmmm. I'm doing math again....Maybe a cooking class in the spring, followed by a video showing - six classes times six dishes - passed on to four people, who pass the cooking instruction on to four more people each, and in a mere 15 or 16 turns, we are a world of cooks!

That's the world I want to live in, the world in which Jamie Oliver is the Prime Minister of Food, and every neighbor can reliably cook at least five good dinner meals for family and friends. Let's get cracking.