If we want to do something about greenhouse gas emissions then we should look to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Jamie Oliver, and Gordon Ramsey. And forget about Brown, Barroso, and Sarkozy.
With their TV shows like The River Cottage Treatment, The Ministry of Food, and the F-Word, these chefs are inspiring a change in attitudes to cooking – and starting to build a culture of food and cookery in the nihilistic, hellish wasteland of obesity, pot-noodles, iniquitous factory farming, and microwave dinners that is England
Fearnley-Whittingstall plucks five takeaway addicts from suburban housing estates and places them on a farm in Dorset for a week where they have to kill chickens, catch fish, feed the pigs, pick vegetables, peel carrots, bake bread, and cook fantastic wholesome suppers for the first time in their lives. Fearnley-Whittingstall appeals to their palates or to their pockets, to their sense of self-respect or their sense of pleasure, and, if that does not work, he takes them to a factory farm and horrifies them and wracks them with guilt. Many are converted to a new way of eating and living.
Jamie’s Kitchen followed how Jamie Oliver turned problem kids brought up on rough estates, drug dealers, and young offenders into chefs. They not only learned how to cook but also the maturity and skills to escape the problems which beset them in their earlier lives. This initiative is now continued by an international charity the Fifteen Foundation.
Food is central to our biology and to our culture. By helping people sort out their attitudes to food, the TV chefs help them sort out their lives as well. When you hear a fat kid express delight at how much better it is to spend the afternoon on the allotment than slouch in front of the telly – whether it is drama or reality, it is uplifting.
This is reality TV watched by three to four million people. It rubs off. The lives of hundreds of thousands of people are improved, and thereby, the lives of millions of chickens.
Food has a head start over climate change. Food is fun and delicious and the benefits of home cooking are instant. Walking to work, insulation, thermostats, and holidays in Bournemouth are not so interesting. And the benefits are a long way off. But if we want Joe Six Pack to cut his emissions, we have to engage him, just as the way to get him to cook is to show him River Cottage. Is there a cool and charismatic home insulation fitter out there?