If you take an interest in how much your meals are costing you, then you’ve probably noticed that the subject of buying food on a tight budget has been in the news quite a bit this week. Jamie Oliver’s comments about educating those whose day-to-day dice with austerity is all very real have touched a nerve with many, but is he making a valid point?
I’m the first to admit I’m no expert on food poverty. Yes, money is tight. And yes, we have to watch what we spend, but for me to say I know what it’s like to live on the breadline would be patronising and more than a bit annoying. So to have a millionaire implying that he understands poverty and we should all ditch the supermarket and seek out fresher food bargains might raise a more than a few hackles (not in the least because I imagine he made a few of those millions endorsing a certain supermarket brand).
I’m the first to admit I’ve never been a fan of the former Naked Chef but I’ll also say he does appear to have his heart in the right place. Yes, he has done plenty of admirable work when it comes to food education, and the fact that he’s done the majority of it when the cameras have been following him around has contributed to a more heightened awareness of these issues, which is no bad thing. Quite a good thing, in fact. But when a person in the public eye chooses to make statements about the eating habits of those most affected by austerity, using broad generalisations and clichés doesn’t really help.
There is no definitive reason that explains why any particular individual or family are in a dire financial situation or why they stay there, so perhaps he shouldn’t be passing judgement on how a large section of society spend the little money they have and what they do in their spare time. Ok, so more often than not, these sorts of comments can be taken out of context. But this also means that he should think more carefully about how he makes his point.
Basically, following that age-old advice of thinking before you open your mouth.
But who am I to comment on such matters? Like I said before, I’ve never experienced poverty so I’m not really in any better a position. Even though I can make a value tin of chopped tomatoes go a long way, I also know that after a stressful day, the last thing in the world I feel like doing is being creative in the kitchen with a few mange tout (seriously, Jamie, mange tout?). But I can use my noggin to work out that living on the tightest of tight budgets is probably extremely stressful, much more so than the sort of stress driving me to stick a few fish fingers in the oven rather than dishing up a rustic Sicilian speciality.
I’m not one to pass judgement on other people’s cooking habits when I don’t know anything about their background. Yes educating EVERYONE about food and where it comes from is vitally important, and if you’re a celebrity who is trying to make a valid point about cooking on an austerity budget, then maybe do it in a less-clumsy fashion in the future.