Can Jamie Oliver Fix Our Fatness?

October 19, 2009

A couple of Sunday’s ago saw the New York Times fall food emphasis in its magazine section.  Interesting article  (click on this link to read it )  about British chef Jamie Oliver who went from a dishwasher (in his Dad’s pub) to a global superstar worth somewhere north of $60 million. Oliver has set his simple foods sights on Huntington, West Virginia,  which is reportedly the most unhealthiest city in the U.S. based on the percentage of its population that is obese.

Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver

Research has shown for many years that the more you cook yourself, the less that you are likely to eat; that home prepared foods are typically of smaller proportions than commercial prepared foods; and that ingredients such as fats and salts are typically applied with a lighter hand at home than at the local restaurant.

America is one of just a handful of societies in which the poorer you are the more likely you are to be obese.  Calories are cheap in the U.S.  Eating healthily and cooking for yourself requires effort, time and in some cases more money than driving through the fast food take-out window.

A multi-generational tradition of cheap, heartening foods is a hard habit to break.  Temptations are everywhere.  The television commercials plead with us to just drive on down for a big feed.  Pre-prepared and attractive meals are microwavable and taste pretty good to boot, regardless of their additional salt and fats added for mouth-feel.  Oliver has a formidable task in front of him. We wish him luck.

Come on…tell us the secret!

October 6, 2009

Lots of folks sidle up to me (either in person or over the phone, in a dropped-voice confidential tone), and ask conspiratorially,  “Come on, tell me really what the best cookware is?”

Supposedly, since I have spent the past 30-plus years in the one end or the other of the cookware business, I have some superior yet secret knowledge that one, and only one type/brand of cookware is truly the “one”.

But I am telling the truth when I say,  “that depends.” What’s best for you isn’t what is best for someone else.  What I find to be the best, might not be the best for you either.

A hodge-podge of kitchen pans

A hodge-podge of kitchen pans

Don’t mind scrubbing pots, or enamored of making “fonds”, then stainless steel cookware may work best.  Are you old fashioned and like country-cooked meals, then cast iron may be your choice. Or, if you are time-stressed and don’t want to scrub cookware and are used to cooking  30-minute quick meals, then nonstick coated aluminum might be best.  Into pots of stews bubbling on the back burner for half a day?  Then an porcelain enamel cast iron pot could be the best.  Whipping up lots of egg whites and cream, then a copper pan might suit.  The best cookware depends on the cook and recipe.  As I often joke:  A really good cook could take a coat hanger and a license plate and produce a pretty good meal.  I know cooks who would burn water in a $500 piece of copper cookware handmade in France.

I suggest trying a pan or two first rather than buying whole sets of cookware. That way you can determine what fits your lifestyle.  For many cooks a variety of pans suits better than having everything visually match. That might mean a nonstick fry pan for eggs, and sautéing, a large heavy Dutch oven for slow cooking of stews and soups, and a variety of sauce pans for vegetables and other foods.

If you could peer into my kitchen cabinets you might laugh.  There’s cast iron in there that dates from the 1920s.  My grandmothers multi-ply stainless she purchased in the late 1950s (still works great), and pieces that are less than six months old.  And yes, I use them all.  It depends on what is on the menu.