Those poor people are at it again. First they build their houses out of widescreen televisions and now they are stupidly wasting money on expensive fast food when they could be bashing out Jamie’s Oliver’s 5 minute meals for their tea instead – nice healthy food at half the price. What are they playing at? Jamie’s expert research claims it’s as many as 7/10 of them who are at it (I’d put a reference to this but he’s pulled this particular statistic out of his rump steak).
Few things rile me more than these sentiments born out of a fundamental misunderstanding about what it means to have to feed your family on a tight budget. Jamie is the latest yuppie to wade in with his basil and rocket infused ignorance, this time waxing lyrical about the cherry tomatoes, mussles and fresh pasta eaten by our European partners. Don’t worry though, he did wander around near some poor people so he does understand.
Here are some things that Jamie needs to know:
- It’s not cheaper to buy fresh food – not by a long-shot. Even if you can cost a fresh stew at a lower price than my fish fingers, chips and beans (coming in at an incredible 26p per head) you’ve almost certainly not added the cost of the cook books, equipment and condiments needed to make your culinary masterpiece. A single jar of pesto costs about the same as 100 fish fingers.
- It never takes 5 miuntes. Any family will tell you that tea time is busy. When time is tight people opt for genuinely fast and easy food – particularly if they are a single parent and need to head out for the night shift. My fish fingers, chips and beans takes 18 minutes and requires no prep, no ongoing stirring and only an oven tray and a bowl for the microwave. No blenders, pestle, mortar or skillet necessary.
- Comparing food and TV choice is spurious – see this great blog from Laura McInerny which explains why (http://lauramcinerney.com/2012/10/23/things-rich-people-never-understand/).
But it is possible I hear you say. I don’t disagree. You could do this. That is not my objection. My objection is to the persistent painting of those on a budget as irresponsible folk who deserve their station due to the consistently bad decisions they make. This is offensive at best and fundamentally damaging to our society at worst.
The reality is that buying food, within your budget, that your kids will like, is the rational choice. If we want Jamie’s meals to be that rational choice we should start with increasing employment and wages whilst tackling exploitation through zero hours contracts. If Jamie put his efforts (and £150m fortune) into this he might just see the change he’s looking for.