The Food Police – Round Two

So now that the horsemeat scandal has clip-clopped off into the distance, it’s time for another round of middle-class celebs to get all judgmental about the eating habits people living in poverty. Step forward, Jamie Oliver!

The fat-tongued former face of Sainsburys has spoken out against people who eat junk food but have massive TVs:

“You might remember that scene in Ministry Of Food, with the mum and the kid eating chips and cheese out of styrofoam containers, and behind them is a massive TV. It just didn’t weigh up. The fascinating thing for me is that seven times out of 10, the poorest families in this country choose the most expensive way to hydrate and feed their families. The ready meals, the convenience foods.”

First the condemnation, then the condescension:

“I meet people who say, ‘You don’t understand what it’s like.’ I just want to hug them and teleport them to the 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.”

Let’s start with the TV thing. One of the nation’s favourite criticisms of the poor is that they all have flat screen TVs. Seriously, have any of you tried to buy a CRT recently? Everyone has flat screen TVs because that is all that’s available. A quick glance over the website for pretty much any electrical retailer doesn’t reveal a single CRT TV. The size thing is another common whinge – they all have massive TVs, as though the size of a television should directly proportional to its owner’s bank balance. And since when did TV ownership become a moral yardstick anyway?

“You don’t understand what it’s like.” In all likelihood, the TV chef who’s worth an estimated £150m probably doesn’t know what it’s like for a single parent who’s had their benefits cut trying to feed, clothe and house three kids. Yapping on about 25 mussels like a demented fishmonger is about as far removed from reality as you could get. Are the poor supposed to eat 25 mussels and 10 cherry tomatoes every day? Or do they miraculously transform into whole meals for the next week a bit like the five loaves and two fishes?

As I pointed out in my previous article on this subject, it’s utterly pointless telling someone that they ‘should’ know how to cook healthy meals using 57p’s worth of veg brought home in an organic string bag from the local market. The reality is that they were probably never taught to cook anything more challenging than beans on toast and I expect they’d prefer to spend what little money they have on actual food rather than an expensive cookbook. And for pete’s sake, ready meals are not the lasagne of Satan. No-one is going to die from eating them.

Jamie Oliver has joined the legions of people who think it’s somehow their right to judge the poor and deliver patronising lectures. The increasingly persistent division of the ‘deserving poor’ (visibly disabled, ex-armed forces, elderly) from the ‘undeserving poor’ (unemployed, owners of TVs, more than one child, non-visibly disabled) is beyond ludicrous. Appointing oneself food police in order to further demonise people living in poverty is to totally fail to have any kind of understanding or empathy for someone else’s situation.

Finally: “I’m not judgmental, but…” Yes, you are.

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