Food Revolution Day (Metro, 16th May 2013)

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FoodRevolution

Chef Arthur Potts Dawson gets to work in the kitchen (Picture: Victor Frankowski)

There’s revolution in the air – but it’s the scent of delicious food, not the whiff of gunpowder, that you can smell.

This Friday marks the second Food Revolution Day – a global call to arms kick-started by Jamie Oliver, which asks people to get together and stand up for good, everyday food and essential cooking skills.

‘Last year we pulled it together in a matter of weeks and we still had thousands of events in hundreds of cities around the world,’ says Oliver in typically upbeat fashion, ‘so we decided to do it bigger and better this year.’

He’ll be hosting a street party outside his restaurant Fifteen in Shoreditch, east London – but the aim is for communities in 75 countries to come together and share cooking skills with street markets, cooking classes, dinner parties and pot-luck suppers. ‘I’ll be based in London,’ says Oliver, ‘but I’ll definitely be looking at what’s going on globally and keeping in touch online.’

As Oliver, who we’ve all watched morph from cheeky chappie to culinary crusader, points out: ‘For the first time in history we’ve got more people dying from diet-related diseases and eating too much than from eating too little – we’ve lost our way with food and we need to get back on track before it’s too late.’

FoodRevolution

Arthur Potts Dawson and his budding team of chefs (Picture: Victor Frankowski)

And with many ready meals stuffed with preservatives, salt and even donkey meat, I’m keen to learn to cook myself something healthy instead.

But whenever I step outside a limited repertoire of fail-safe suppers, mainly comprising big salads and egg on toast, the night generally ends with me standing on a stool, flapping a tea towel under the smoke alarm and swearing. There’s only so many times a girl can eat food flavoured with ketchup and a hint of burn.

The idea of cooking for other people is even more intimidating because I’m paranoid I’ll either poison or disgust them – and that they’d be too polite to say anything. It’s clear I could do with some professional help and, in honour of Food Revolution Day, with its motto of ‘cook it, share it, live it,’

I ask chef Arthur Potts Dawson (no relation, though he is the step-nephew of Mick Jagger) to help me prepare a healthy meal for a few housemates and friends. Potts Dawson is head chef at Oliver’s latest venture, Jamie’s Diner, and a founder of The People’s Supermarket, a Camden food co-operative that sells wonky-shaped but perfectly good vegetables big chain supermarkets would reject.

In the past, I’ve foraged with ‘freegans’ in bins to highlight the scandal of institutional food waste and travelled to Rwanda to discuss food insecurity with subsistence farmers, so I’m fully behind Potts Dawson’s sustainable and ethical food principles.

And at 6ft 6in with some great tattoos, including an enormous phoenix on his back which he whips up his T-shirt to show off, it’s impossible to deny that he’s also – to use the technical term – pretty hot. Thus it’s even more embarrassing when he thrusts a celeriac under my nose, asks me what I’m smelling and I squeak: ‘Fennel!’

Remember that bit in Jamie’s School Dinners when he holds up various bits of veg in front of a classroom and they can’t identify them? That’s me but without the excuse of youth. Nevertheless, Food Revolution Day is all about sharing knowledge, not about making anyone feel bad, and Potts Dawson is well used to teaching – in schools and as part of Oliver’s apprentice platform, Fifteen.

He sets me and my friends to boiling, chopping and roasting and we whip up a simple, nutritious but most importantly delicious starter of roasted vegetable antipasti. I’ve never roasted garlic, celeriac or beetroot (which I’ve only ever eaten in pickled form) before, or realised that you need to tear fresh herbs to release their flavours properly.

Next up is a main course of spaghetti and meatballs, which I love but would have always assumed to be a bit too fiddly to bother making myself. However, made with the secret ingredients of Dijon mustard and bashed-up crackers, they actually take barely any time to prepare and go down a storm.

Basking in my newfound status as a domestic goddess (with a particular flair for Italian cuisine), I try to cool down with a glass of tap water, which I realise far too late contains washing up liquid. You never see Nigella looking like a rabid dog…

Still, in just one night I’ve learned two new meals, umpteen culinary skills, gained a whole lot of cooking confidence and had a great time with good friends – which is exactly what Food Revolution Day is all about.

For more information about how to get involved, and more carefully balanced recipes, see www.foodrevolutionday.com