In part two of my interview with former Obama personal chef and Obama White House food activist Sam Kass, I got schooled big-time about the role visuals play in how you eat at home. "The first lesson that I learned, that I think is maybe most helpful for people, is you eat what you see. How you set your home up can have a transformational impact on what you actually consume. Basically, the things you're trying to eat more of, you should put out in plain sight, and the things you're trying to eat less of, you should put on the top shelf or the back of the freezer, in the bottom of the drawer, because you see the bag of cookies on the counter, and then you say to yourself, 'Oh, I'd like a cookie.'" That's what Kass taught the Obama family, and if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me and probably for most serious eaters as well.
Though he served as one of the leading figures in the good-food movement, via his position as executive director of Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative, Kass doesn't have time for the purists: "It pisses me off, to be quite honest with you, that we make people feel a certain way about how they're wrong when it comes to how they're eating. This book"—Kass's recently published Eat a Little Better: Great Flavor, Good Health, Better World
—"is really an attempt to celebrate progress over the ideals, and also to give people strategies about how to actually do it, 'cause we spend so much of our time talking about what you should or shouldn't do, but no time on how to actually get it done."
And ditto for the kind of elitism that tends to be reflected in conversations around nutrition: "If we want to change the food system, you have to change most people. We're too satisfied in the food world with doing it really great for a really small number of people. Scale matters. That's one of the things the White House showed me, is that the world functions on a huge scale, way bigger than we can comprehend and way bigger than most people even have any sense of.... If you want to have an impact, you've got to deal with millions of people and millions of acres and huge supply chains. That means you're going to have to make some compromises. It means you're going to have to make compromises in what you're asking of people. If you can get a lot of people to eat just one or two more servings of vegetables a week, that's a big impact."
Sam Kass has a lot to say in his provocative new book, Eat a Little Better: Great Flavor, Good Health, Better World, and he also has plenty to say in part two of my conversation with him on Special Sauce. You won't want to miss it.