This week, Jamie Oliver is promoting a new television show called Jamie’s Money Saving Meals and a new cookbook called Save With Jamie in the U.K.
You might think this would be a cakewalk for him: After all, the 38-year-old celebrity chef has published 17 previous cookbooks and hosted 25 previous TV shows and specials, many of which have focused on eating well on a budget. But something went terribly wrong during this week’s publicity blitz: Oliver suddenly began insulting the very people he was trying to market his new products to, and once he started saying condescending things he couldn't stop.
First, in an interview with the Radio Times, Oliver derided the poor for watching TV and eating fast food instead of cooking healthy meals for themselves. “I'm not judgmental, but,” he began—a phrase which, like “I’m not a racist, but” or “I’m not homophobic, but” is a surefire indication that the clause to follow will prove the first clause false. This was certainly true in Oliver’s case; he went on to say:
I've spent a lot of time in poor communities, and I find it quite hard to talk about modern-day poverty. You might remember that scene in [Oliver’s previous TV series] Ministry of Food, with the mum and the kid eating chips and cheese out of Styrofoam containers, and behind them is a massive fucking TV. It just didn't weigh up. …
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.
Oliver seemed to be referring to an antiquated, romanticized notion of Italian dietary habits: A study of young Italians’ eating habits in next month’s edition of the academic journal Appetite notes “a decline … among the young ‘traditionals’ who stand out for their high consumptions of fruit, vegetables and fish,” and a couple of years ago NPR explained Italians’ abandonment of traditional fare by noting wryly that these days, “you have to be wealthier to eat like a poor Mediterranean peasant.” In any case, British commentators seized not on Oliver’s outdated view of Italian eating but on his implication that Britain’s poor are too stupid, lazy, or hedonistic to value healthy eating over entertainment.
( more...Collapse )