Jamie's Ministry of Food: The truth about Rotherham's eating habits

When I set off to live in Rotherham for six months to write 'Welcome to Everytown', some people quipped that they would have to send me food parcels. It was a bad joke then – didn't they know that my local Morrisons stocked such delicacies as octopus and excellent local cheeses? But it's an even worse one now. Jamie Oliver has managed not only to confirm every negative stereotype about northern pie and chip-eating monsters, he's made the caricature worse.

It's not that it's difficult to find examples of bad eating in Rotherham. I saw far too many kids in prams with chocolate spread around their faces, being fed sweet treats before they even had the words to ask for them. Parental ignorance was widespread. I saw a girl being offered an apple or a KitKat to complete her meal. When she chose an apple, her mother overruled her.

Jamie's crime is not that what he shows isn't real, it's that it is presented as the norm. His "pyramid cooking" plan was designed to teach every resident of the town 10 of his recipes, so they could eat properly. This assumes that no one in Rotherham has an adequate diet. To justify his zeal, the programme shows the status quo in the worst light. It wasn't enough that one mother always gave her daughter junk food, we had to see her eating it on the floor.

When I was back in the town recently, I met a local doctor who had provided a programme researcher with obesity statistics, only to be asked if he could find worse ones. Many could benefit from 'Jamie's Ministry of Food'. But there's nothing super or smashing about being sensational – it just leaves us feeling a little sick.

Julian Baggini (www.julianbaggini.com) is the author of 'Welcome to Everytown: A Journey Into the English Mind' (Granta), about life in Rotherham

The Jamie Effect

Jane Tomlinson, Redhill Farm Free Range Pork, stallholder at Rotherham Farmers' Market

"We haven't seen any Jamie effect. The market we held after the big event to mark the end of the series was the worst we have had. We do 15 markets a month and are known as the stall with the queue, but Rotherham is down at the bottom with Worksop. A lot of people perceive farmers' markets to be elitist, but they are not. Like for like supermarkets do not compare and you can keep prices down and be healthy if you cook with fresh decent ingredients."

Kate Venables, Monti Deli delicatessen, Mexborough

"People are getting a little bit more adventurous, trying different Mediterranean products and we have a lot of very loyal customers who come here for our olives, pasta and garlic. But we haven't seen any increase or decrease since the programme. We were worried that the people chosen to be on the show didn't reflect everyone in the town and we don't want people to think that everyone in Yorkshire is like that."

Michael Mavrakis, 5-A-Day, Listerdale Shopping Centre

"We started as a juice bar but we weren't making enough money so we had to start making more of their kind of food. We try to stay on the healthy side, but kids will always want burgers – you are not going to get a kid to eat a Greek salad. People aren't changing the way they eat, but they do seem upset about the way Rotherham is being made to look. The roast chicken and salad box is still our best seller."

Jonathan brown

A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: International Customer Service Administrators

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...

    Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

    £38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

    Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

    £35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

    Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

    £15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

    Day In a Page

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea