It seemed as though the entire British public tuned in to BBC One last night to watch celebrity chefs compete to make 'budget' dishes on an austerity themed version of popular TV show, The Great British Menu.
The Great British Budget Menu was a one off, pairing chefs such as Angela Hartnett, James Martin and Lorraine Pascale with families an ld individuals that struggle to make ends meet, in order to raise awareness of food poverty and teach the British public how to shop, cook and eat well on a budget.
If the show was well-intentioned, it lost it when someone produced fresh salmon, declaring that they knew they had blown their budget, but with no hint of apology.
Another of the chefs added insult to injuries as he asked incredulously "What happens if someone doesn't have enough money for food? Do they have to put some back?" I sat there hollering at the television set, head in hands, because what could have been an utterly brilliant concept has left the great British public, the policy makers and politicians, thinking that struggling single parents are dining out on smoked salmon dinners.
I had hoped to see something resembling my own Pasta Alla Genovese recipe, at 28p per portion, or Mumma Jack's Best Ever Chilli, or even the fish in tomato sauce with rice I cooked earlier this week - but even the 'budget banquet' dinners, the grand finale, featured 3 for £10 packs of chicken - a luxury that I haven't been able to afford for two years now.
The 'recipe book' folder handed to the participants and found online features ingredients well beyond the means of the truly impoverished in Great Britain. The half a million people queuing at food banks, as reported in Oxfam's Walking The Breadline report last month, cannot stretch to Thai curry paste or coconut cream as detailed in Aiden Byrne's Root Vegetable Thai Curry, nor the pricey aubergines that Antonio Carluccio recommends here in his Aubergine and mozzarella bake.
All was not lost, however. looks worth a go.
The Great British Budget Menu was a brilliant concept - but it needed to take more inspiration from frugal cooking queen and author of Economy Gastronomy, Allegra McEvedy, who lists a recipe for a simple Spaghetti Carbonara. Tony Singh's Beef And Pea Pilaf, made from simple and low cost ingredients.
It is clear that there is a vast disconnect between celebrity chefs and popular culture, and what is happening in households and around tables in Britain. Commentators stated that the Government need to do more to tackle food poverty, but I hope that they have a wider view and a deeper understanding of food poverty than the trivialised display that James Martin et al put forward last night.
As I said in Hunger Hurts, in July:
"Poverty isn't just not having enough food, or turning your heating off, or unscrewing your lightbulbs and unplugging the fridge. Poverty is the sinking feeling when your two year finishes his one weetabix and says 'More Mummy? Bread and jam please Mummy?' As you wonder how to take the TV and the guitar to the pawn shop, and how to tell him that there is no bread and jam."