Workshy Scrounger

Tag: patronising

Save with Jamie

Jamie Oliver is doing a programme on food poverty. The problem is that he does not believe in it.

The Naked Chef said: ‘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. You go to Italy or Spain and they eat well on not much money. We’ve missed out on that in Britain, somehow.’

Here are my predictions as to what the programme will advise:

– use local markets they are cheap (we all live in London after all)

– splash out on olive oil, it’s healthy (not if you use a bottle a day)

– use cheap cuts of meat and slow cook them (I am yet to find those in my local supermarket and, sadly, there is no butcher here in non-London)

– fresh herbs will liven up any meal (yeah at 80p a pop, they are totally worth it)

With a bit of planning, you too can live on 50 pence a day (doesn’t matter that the recipe is three quid per portion – eat less and lose weight).  Just think and acquire some cooking skills. Food poverty? I don’t think so. You are just a lazy and incompetent if you think otherwise.

I am a glutton for punishment though and I will watch it. On the off-chance that just one of the recipes will prove affordable. After all, the Great British Budget Menu gave me corn fritters. At the same time, I do not hold high hopes that his low-cost recipes can be replicated here. Not to mention that his version of budget grub is probably a big birthday bash in my world.

Life below the line

While googling cheap meals, I came across the Live Below the Line campaign. It’s all about “challenging the way people in the UK think about poverty and making a huge difference”. Extreme poverty affects 1.4 billion people in the world. Translated to the UK conditions, it means that they have less than one pound a day to spend on everything. The campaign asks us to survive five days spending up to £5 on all food and drink.

Pretend you’ve got no money
The recipes suggested by the campaign are ridiculous: traditional jam and porridge – 50g of oats and one tablespoon of jam. It’s only nine pence! Only you cannot buy three pence worth of jam or a third of a carrot. The problem is having to buy all the basic kitchen ingredients in one go so that then you don’t end up eating jammy porridge on water for every meal. Yes, a bottle of oil will last you quite a while. However, every week we spend £3.18 under the broad “cooking” category – oil, flour, tin foil, tomato puree, spices – cupboard staples that you cannot do without if you are cooking everything from scratch.

You’re so funny
There are some more “money-saving” ideas. However, replacing ketchup with a home-made concoction based on canned tomatoes is bad economy – a bottle of value ketchup is cheaper than a tin of tomatoes. Pizza base without yeast? Haven’t you just call it chapattis a few pages ago?

I can’t see anyone else smiling in here
The full menus are even worse – value sausages with 40% meat content. Stock cubes used liberally. Hardly any fish. Hardly any fresh vegetables. Hardly any dairy. Breakfast is bread. Dinner is rice or pasta with frozen veg or a jar of sauce. Or a home made pizza. How uninventive, how tedious, how unviable in the long run.

You’ll never live like common people
I thought that the blogs of people who took part in similar “experiments” would be more worthy. Not a chance. It’s all about the joys of bargain hunting at supermarket closing times and free canapés at art gallery soirees. Or bumping foodstuffs of well meaning housemates and using stuff already in the cupboard. Or going hungry. It just five days so who cares.

If you call your dad he could stop it all
To me, this looks more like governmental propaganda than an awareness raising campaign. All the posh folk foregoing their daily grande skinny vanilla latte with soy and a blueberry muffin for five days thinking it makes any bit of difference or that now they “know” what it’s like to be poor (with the perspective of a huge blow-out at the weekend because, of course, they deserve it after all the deprivations you’ve suffered).

Common people like me
I didn’t know how much we actually spend on food and drink. Our weekly budget of £45 includes toiletries, cleaning stuff, small household items, stationery and the like. It was quite sobering to see that the average from the last eight weeks is £1.9 per day each. Every week the prices are going up and we can buy less and less for that amount.

The campaign has raised £71k so far. Why does the British public have more empathy towards poverty in far away countries than to what is happening on their own doorstep?

Good habits

I was really disappointed with the Guardian today. After putting in quite a lot of effort into publicising the sad saga of benefit cuts, they went and shot themselves in the foot. Or rather showed their true colours in an article about the habits of CEOs.

The intro is so patronising and plain silly that it was hard for me to finish reading the article. It tries to make you feel sorry for the CEOs who have such a tough life. The authors sum it up by saying:

What’s the point of being rich and successful if you have to get up before dawn every day to answer 500 emails?

Well, what’s the point of waking up before dawn to work your butt off for a minimum wage? What work-life balance do you have when you are at the mercy of your boss whenever you need some time off suddenly (sick child, doctor’s appointment, boiler broken)? How do you explain your single-parent status when yet again you cannot work overtime at the drop of the hat? Or if there is no work to be done but you have to sit at your desk pretending to be busy? Or are constantly worried about your hours or salary getting cut and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it?

To save you the heartache, here’s how to become a CEO: be a natural early riser (if you cannot wake up by 6am without an alarm clock, you are doomed); being excited about your life/day apparently helps, too.

Of course, there are no details – vague stuff about checking emails and spending evenings and weekends with the family. No mention of the army of PAs, nannies, cooks chefs, gardeners and cleaners that make working 100 hours a week possible.

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