In her books The Comfort Table and The Comfort Table: Recipes for Everyday Occasions, Katie Lee makes a tasty case for “conscious consumption.” You’ll find her on CBS’s Early Morning Show whipping up fresh foods with ingredients your Grandma would find reassuringly familiar–not like the slop that got Jamie Oliver so distraught when he descended on her hometown of Huntington.
Lee is proof that back in the day, people in West Virginia knew how to make wholesome meals from scratch. And so did the rest of us. What’s truly extraordinary about the people of Huntington is really how ordinary they are, a microcosm of the rest of the country. I asked Lee if she would share her thoughts with me about her hometown and her passion for good food, and she graciously obliged:
Kerry Trueman: What was your first thought when you heard that Jamie Oliver had chosen your hometown of Huntington, West Virginia in which to launch ‘his’ Food Revolution?
Katie Lee: As a long time fan of Jamie Oliver, I was so thrilled to hear he was taking his ideas of healthy living that had worked so well in the UK and bringing them to my hometown. Huntington may be statistically the most unhealthy city in America, but it’s not far off from most areas in our country. It’s an opportunity for people in Huntington to get healthy and be role models.
KT: Can you tell us how the food that Jamie’s show depicts the folks there eating now compares to how you ate as a child?
KL: We had a handful of fast food restaurants in the area, but more “mom and pop” local restaurants that served homestyle food. It wasn’t necessarily low-fat, but it was real. People cooked at home more, too.
KT: What did your friends and family have to say about Jamie and his show when you went home for the holidays last week?
KL: Jamie’s revolution is the talk of the town. I think the feelings on the premise of the show are mixed — some people really believe he can help the town, others think it’s impossible to change. I’m hoping as the show progresses, we will see more people have a change of heart.
KT: Given that you’re known for your prize-winning Logan County Burger (which is really more of a patty melt) and your meatloaf recipe, it might come as a shock to some people to hear that you were once a vegetarian. What role does meat play in your meals these days?
KL: Yes, the burger queen was once a vegetarian! I do eat meat now, and I enjoy it very much, but I am very conscious of where I get my meat and how it was raised. My diet is not meat-heavy, so when I am cooking meat I seek out the highest quality.
I also participate in Meatless Mondays, an initiative to not eat meat one day a week. Going without meat just one day can make a huge impact.
KT: Your definition of comfort food is based on the notion that since we are what we eat, we ought to know what we’re eating.
KL: I always think that comfort food starts at the source. To be truly comforted by your food, you need to know where it comes from and be comfortable with the way it was raised and how it got to your plate. I believe in eating healthy, real food and being comfortable.