The reality of eating well means never being lazy

Jamie’s ‘Skint Meals’ represents a reponse to UK poverty with which I was nauseatingly familiar during my skint days

Share
Related Topics

I suppose I should thank Jamie Oliver for stirring me from my post-bank holiday lull this week and filling me with an invigorating annoyance that I haven’t felt for some time.

Not since a sudden benefit cut left me scraping by on just £14 a week for food have I been so hyper aware of how pervasive such facile responses are in the UK poverty debate. Now working closely with an amazing community food project in inner city Manchester the Jamie-esque voices have thankfully been drowned out by the inspirational responses of real people in real situations, and the emergence of bloggers such as Jack Monroe and Miss South of northsouthfood now means that these voices can be heard by everyone.

Jamie’s ‘Skint Meals’ represents a reponse to UK poverty with which I was nauseatingly familiar during my skint days. The Thrift Chic approach to poverty mitigation; the rosy-cheeked Cheshire housewives desperate to pass on their knowledge that one can knock up a frightfully authentic North African tagine using only turnip tops sautéed in self-satisfaction ‘if only people would take the time to learn’.

I assume that it is the advent of this cultural oddity that account for the allegations of ‘cosy frugality’ levelled at food blogger Jack Monroe this week; a commentator must have assumed that this well-spoken grammar school girl had simply taken the fetishisation of post-war austerity a little too far. It might sounds churlish to criticise those earnestly reporting on an important issue or even to criticise the good intentions of these self-styled saviours of the poor and uneducated, but Jamie Oliver’s recent comments expose an uncomfortable truth; pity breeds contempt.

This is why I find this new wave of budget food blogging genuinely exciting. They are communicating the human reality of UK poverty by producing blogs that speak to genuine experiences; neither fashion statement nor martyrdom. They have humanised the experience of a very low income; Jack Monroe emphasises that although it may be possible to eat for a tenner a week, it is incredibly difficult. These blogs speak to my experience; the feeling of everything being precariously balanced.

Ostensibly small problems are a big deal; I vividly remember the prick of tears and tightening of my throat when I realised I’d been given the wrong change in the knowledge that it would screw up a meticulously planned budget. The overwhelming majority of things are more difficult when you’re aware that you’re walking a financial tightrope with no safety net. The human experience of poverty is lost in the myths propagated by Jamie et al and in the media reduction of poor people to victims.

Jamie Oliver would surely agree that food is not, and never has been, simply fuel; it is social, it is nurturing, it is about pleasure. He would be well-advised to read the blogs of people who, like him, view food as comforting and evocative but have to balance this with a simmering anxiety and a set of inflexible monetary calculations. In stark contrast to the myths, eating well when you’re skint means never ever being lazy.

These blogs are a genuinely transformative for the reporting of UK poverty; they highlight that it is possible to eat for very little money without suggesting that having to do so is excusable. They are underpinned by a righteous anger, and the use of lived experience in these blogs is incredibly refreshing; it provides a genuinely empowering account of UK poverty without the victim blaming.  

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Case Handler

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Case Handler is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Sales Apprentice

£15000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £20,000 - £60,000

£20000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Team Leader

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would ramp up Britain's spending on science

Paul Nurse
A family remain in the open for the third night following the 7.8 quake in Nepal  

Nepal earthquake: Mobs of looters roam the camps and the smell of burning flesh fills the air, but still we survive

Bidushi Dhungel
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence