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: Customer Service Executive

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

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Education Editor: This shocking abuse of teachers should be taken seriously

Richard Garner
Brand loyalty: businessmen Stuart Rose (pictured with David Cameron at the Conservative conference in 2010) was among the signatories  

So, the people who always support the Tories... are supporting the Tories? Has the world gone mad?

Mark Steel
War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?