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

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

C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

Junior Database developer (SQL, T-SQL, Excel, SSRS)

£20000 - £30000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Junior D...

Helpdesk Team Leader / Manager

£45000 per annum + pension,medical: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable gl...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born