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Here in the UK Channel 4 is broadcasting Jamie Oliver’s Los Angeles Food Revolution over the next few weeks.

Those visiting this blog regularly will know that I am not exactly a fan of Mr Oliver’s, although I admit that his earlier series from the 1990s were quite useful for making rustic dinners on the hop.  I still use many of his shortcuts and flavour combinations.

In his latest Food Revolution, Jamie meets with strong opposition from the school board which is about to shut his programme down entirely.  But our beestung-lipped chef and entrepreneur also has other irons in the fire, namely restaurateur Deno Perris of Patra’s, which sells charbroiled fast food to a loyal clientele.

Deno’s father started Patra’s from nothing.  Deno inherited the business when his father died.  Characteristic of many Greek restaurant owners, he wants to make people happy and finds that the best way is through good, home-cooked food.  Deno has a small diner with takeaway and drive-thru sections.

One of my better childhood memories is eating in large Greek-owned restaurants that served all the time-honoured American favourites.  They have mostly disappeared now but used to be in all major American cities right near the best shopping areas and theatre districts.  They had lengthy menus and it really did take a quarter of an hour to decide what to have!  The portions were huge, delicious and very reasonably priced.  Ahhh — happy days, happy days!  But I digress.

So far, Jamie has persuaded Deno to start offering the same or similar dishes but with lower-calorie yet equally flavoursome ingredients.  Deno must decide if he should put what his father taught him to the back of his mind and entertain ideas from Jamie, a glib stranger.

All credit to him, Deno does limited experiments incorporating Jamie’s suggestions.  And, of course, because we’re in televisionland, Jamie needs to show us how successful they were.  Naturally, episode three shows us all sorts of people entering Patra’s and walking out happy customers. Crowd manufacture?  Who knows? At the end, a registered nurse collars Deno and tells him how grateful she is that he is incorporating healthful foods into his menu.  It did not seem as if she was a regular customer, just an opportunistic nudger.

How did she get there?  Probably through informal community organisers like Jamie and his crew.  ‘Quick, we need a nurse involved in dietetics and nutrition to talk to this guy.’

Jamie Oliver is all about community organising and nudging.  Every time I watch him I hope he fails miserably.  He should just leave people to get on with their lives and focus on his own.  But no, he has to interfere.  If you want to find out why nudging irritates so many people in the US and the UK, look no further than his programmes.

Another nudger is Sofia, the student in Jamie’s class at West Adams High School.  She meets privately with Deno and Jamie.  Her story is different, because one of her sisters contracted Type 2 diabetes as a young woman.  Their parents are also diabetic.  Naturally, Sofia worries as she often has to care for them and wonders if they can ever truly get their conditions under control.  Intimations of mortality loom large for her, understandably.

Yet, and it’s unclear whether it was Sofia herself or Jamie and his film crew who put this into her mind, she told Deno that it was because of people like him that her sister and parents have diabetes.  Deno was visibly saddened.  He did attempt polite, reasoned resistance but to no avail.  She became more assertive in making her point.  However, neither she nor her family had ever been … customers of Deno’s.

It’s worth noting that radio personality Ryan Seacrest, who interviewed Deno on the air, also produced this series.  Interesting.  Wheels within wheels. And Sofia’s dad still prepares fried meals twice a week at home.

But Deno has the right outlook: Deno and other diner owners are not forcing people to eat in their establishments.  And if the food isn’t right, people will just stop coming in.  Then he and his fellow restaurateurs will lose their businesses and their staff will also be out of jobs.  Then what?

People go out to eat because it’s fun and it’s a treat.  I agree that some rely too much on short-order cooking.  But the world is the way it is.  Presumably, Sofia is cooking healthfully for her family when she can.  And that’s where all good habits should start — in the home — not at Deno’s restaurant or at school or in church. It’s just common sense.  Healthy eating didn’t start yesterday.  Women have known for generations that you shouldn’t eat too much fat and sugar.  They didn’t need a Jamie Oliver for that.

We cannot help the lack of self-discpline that some folks have.  But let’s not penalise and control everyone so that all we eat are veggie burgers and soya shakes.  Ugh.  What a dire world that would be.

By the way, it’s worth noting that Deno and his family — as was his father — are all of normal proportions, from what I could see.  (The shot of Deno’s family was brief.)  So, eating fast food or short-order cooking is not an evil in and of itself.

It’s difficult minding one’s own business.  It’s a lot easier poking one’s nose where it shouldn’t be.  Jamie really should resist the temptation.

Of what we put into our mouths, Jesus said:

18 “… Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, ”What comes out of a person is what defiles him.” (Mark 7:18-20)

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