Every year, for the start of the new autumn term, CW likes to devise a new motto, under which aegis it lives for the following 12 months. For 2011 the maxim was the dashing and inspiring “Always ride out as if meeting your nemesis,” while 2012’s was the far more prosaic “Run up the escalators” — which you could take either as a fabulous metaphor for making an effort even if you’re getting a free ride, or a simple injunction to run up some escalators. CW ran up some escalators.
For 2013, after much cogitation, CW has gone for “Just don’t get in the way.” It’s a basic rework of “Do no harm.” Don’t obscure the progress of someone who — in this bad, sly, lazy, bewildered and misgotten world, with a billion tasks still crying out to be completed — is actually trying to do something good.
And, so, to Jamie Oliver. Oliver’s had a bad week. Launching his new austerity-food TV show and book, Save With Jamie, Oliver gave an interview to the Radio Times that caused a mid-level media-fury: less than Syria and twerking, but more than badgers and gay weddings.
“Jamie Oliver sparks poverty row,” as The Telegraph headline put it. “He attacks families for eating junk food and buying expensive television sets.”
“[You see a poor] mum and the kids eating chips and cheese out of a Styrofoam container,” Oliver said, “and behind them is a massive TV. People say ‘You don’t understand what it’s like.’ I just want to hug them and teleport them to a Sicilian street cleaner who has 25 mussels, 10 cherry tomatoes and a packet of spaghetti for 60 pence, and knocks out the most amazing pasta.”
Almost without exception, every media outlet chose, at this point, to mock Oliver’s imaginary peasant with “25 mussels”, by pointing out that Oliver himself has a personal fortune estimated at £150m, and so, er, shut up. The Mail took it one step further, by providing a useful comparison chart that illustrated how Oliver’s own “Jamie Oliver” food range is “often” more expensive than supermarket own-brand, and linking it to a quote from the foodbank charity the Trussell Trust — creating the misty, helpful inference that it was Jamie Oliver’s Green Pesto being a quid more than Tesco own-brand that has led to 500,000 a week in Britain now using food banks.
Well. While CW is sad that Oliver has fallen for the old “Poor people aren’t really poor if they’ve got a big telly” argument — love, you can currently get a 40” HD Toshiba for £299.99 off Argos, which will supply 90% of an entire family’s leisure activity for the next three years. It is a TOTAL BARGAIN — it is sad to see all this gas-lighting away from what’s really happening.
Is Jamie Oliver — regardless of his mahoosive fortune — right that “peasant food”, in most other cultures, makes middle-class food ponces in London flip their lids? Well, yes. Is Oliver doing something practical — a whole TV series, full of meals at £1.70 per portion — to actually combat how terrifyingly fat, diabetic and broke so many people in this country are? Yes. And is Oliver aware how much a big telly costs? No. Not at all.
Really, the only report you can make on this whole affair is the no-shit-Sherlock response of: “Chef ultimately good at making cheap pies, ultimately bad at nuanced socio-economic analysis. The end.”
Anything else, however pressing your deadline, is just ….. getting in the way.
Caitlin Moran, Celebrity Watch