Sarah Sands: Jamie can make the sun shine in half an hour

Share
Related Topics

It is not easy flogging books to the public during a recession, and the excellent figures for Penguin last week were cheering. What lifted the fortunes of the publisher was the record-breaking success of Jamie Oliver's 30-Minute Meals. Why this book rather than learning to cook in 24 hours, or like an Italian?

Jamie has cracked the brilliant contradiction in the consumer psyche. We yearn for terroir – eating al fresco with friends and family, sensuous and relaxed. But we would also like the meal cooked and cleared at top speed, so we can reply to the day's emails and hit the pillow. We would love to shop at vibrant markets, tasting the tomatoes and cheeses before pedalling off with a baguette in the basket, but the reality is a sweaty commute and a dash to Tesco Metro.

How can one combine good life cooking with a work ethic? For the past decade, we have had slow cooking disintegrating down our throats. Nothing was worth eating if it had not been soaked overnight and simmered for five hours. Slow-cooking festivals attracted pilgrims at their own crawling pace. Even last year we swallowed the film of Eat Pray Love, lingering on an American's delighted conversion to an Italian credo of eating and "doing nothing". No wonder Julia Roberts, the film's star, looked embarrassed. Who, apart from the southern Mediterranean, buys laziness as a philosophy?

Time management is the grail of our age. It is not the same as cutting corners. That is why many of us were offended when Delia Smith suggested we serve frozen mash and tinned mince. It was a wretched return to post war, monotone England; it was Elizabeth David denial.

Jamie Oliver puts "beautiful" and "quick" in the same, genius sentence, where before they were regarded as antithetical. But he sympathises with the Very Busy Readers, too modest to mention his own hydra-headed life, multiple businesses, and permanently pregnant wife. His realisation that cooking is an emotion as well as a skill owes much to Nigella. She has been using evocative words such as "summer", "home" and "comfort" for years. She, counterintuitively, launched herself as an Italian mamma at a time when professional women quoted Shirley Conran's bleak aphorism that life was too short to stuff a mushroom.

Nigella then tried to reposition herself with her Express book, which aimed to cut down time in the kitchen. She may have had the iron soul of a tiger mother by then, but she could not renounce her preposterously sensuous frame with commercial impunity, although the men in her life, her father and her husband, both embarked on diets. Nigella is probably as busy as Jamie, but her overwhelming appeal is unhurried. We all want to cook faster, but nobody yet had dared suggest Express sex.

What Jamie deduces in his latest book is that our hearts are Mediterranean, our heads Anglo-Saxon. It is why we will never resolve our relationship between Europe and the US.

The 30-minute recipe is not the same as having it all. You are not going to get lamb shanks in 30 minutes. What 30 minutes means, mostly, is pasta and salad. It is optimistic to manage a first course and a pudding in the time without a degree in neuroscience. But, sprinkling basil on tomato, I have a glimpse of terroir that heated-up meals can never offer. Jamie Oliver is doing what successful business people have always done. He is selling dreams.

Sarah Sands is deputy editor of the 'London Evening Standard'

React Now

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

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
The Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, has been dubbed ‘Bibi’s brain’  

Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire

Patrick Cockburn
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz