As Jamie Oliver launches his Food Revolution Truck, his publisher is re-issuing Oliver's ninth cookbook in paperback form. Wait, which one was the ninth? Jamie's Food Revolution, of course. Even good causes need a constant flow of publicity fuel.
And so, Oliver has dedicated the paperback version of the 2009 original to “all the wonderful people of Huntington, West Virginia.” More on that later.
The book is described by Oliver as “inspired by all the people I've met who thought they could never and would never learn how to cook.” You already know how the story ends. These blokes in the kitchen meet Oliver, they learn to cook, their lives are forever changed, and Oliver signs another mega-book deal.
Yet even though the recipes are takes on basics for the beginning cook, there are also interesting little twists on how to get the kids to eat their peas (tuck them into mini pasta shells with a creamy bacon-mint sauce) as well as some additions to your everyday breakfast oatmeal that even more accomplished cooks might be tempted to try. Like adding mashed banana, a jigger of whiskey (sure, why not?), nutmeg and honey to the cooked oats. Or melting some good quality bittersweet chocolate and adding a spoonful of orange marmalade to your oatmeal.
But mostly, this book is recent college graduate gift material. There are clever variations on basic pot pies (the ultimate toss-anything-in dinner), as from one basic recipe you see — literally, in the photos — how you could top it with puff pastry, turn the pie into more of a dumpling stew, or make a boiled, sliced potato crust. Herb mashed-potatoes could go on top, too. These are the sort of hearty but home cooked meals that Matthew Borrington, a bricklayer and budding home cook featured in the book, says make him cook “stuff I never I would have imagined doing.”
Oliver's publisher also gets kudos. The paperback version, which will be released next month, doesn't skimp on the photos in the original as many paperback cookbooks do these days. The color shots of Oliver's hands in a mess of meatloaf, or the step-by-step instructions for making that sage stuffing, are as charming as Oliver's new-found culinary disciples. Mick Trueman, a miner who says he had never turned on his stove, says he “can't believe that within eight or nine minutes I can now get a full meal on the table, with all these amazing tastes I've never had before in my life.” Trueman goes on to describe Oliver as “like the horse whisperer bloke, but instead he's the 'cook whisperer' who can turn anyone into a great cook.” You get the sense that if any of these people bumped into Oliver on the street, they would instinctively get down on their knees and offer him every homemade granola bar in their pockets.
But hey, if Oliver really can get that sweet and sour stir fried pork recipe with red onions, yellow peppers and pineapple that follows Trueman's profile on the table in less than ten minutes, maybe he really is the second coming of Julia Child. Okay, maybe not. On our recipe glance, just cooking the rice alone is going to take 20 or so minutes. But what do we know? Oliver is the multi-millionaire promising the Food Revolution.
Speaking of, in the book's dedication to West Virginia, Oliver continues with this: “The food revolution in Huntington was hard, but the community came together and I hope and pray they keep it going and become a shining example of how one community can make inspiring changes.” As we already know that likely isn't going to happen (his Huntington's Kitchen is out of broccoli money), might we suggest Oliver consider a paper money version of his paperback book dedication? As in, turn those sterling book profits into greenbacks and donate the proceeds to Huntington's Kitchen. Now that would be a broccoli salad revolution with the staying power of leftovers.