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"I'm a lefty, liberal, lezzer cook."
February 21, 2014 1:19 PM   Subscribe

Have you met Jack? Author of the popular "eat just as well when you have less" blog, A Girl Called Jack, Jack Monroe came to widespread attention in the UK and the rest of the world when she wrote a blog entry called "Hunger Hurts", in which she detailed how heartbreaking it was for her to realize that she had run out of money and yet she still had a small child to feed and needed to keep the lights on. The NYT has called her "Britain's Austerity Celebrity"; the Daily Mail hates her as does Edwina Currie, but whether you like her or not, she has created a delightful set of frugal yet elegant recipes. She even beat Jamie Oliver in an austerity challenge cook-off.
posted by Kitteh (82 comments total) 96 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm not unfamiliar with poverty (although shielded by the fact that I was a kid and so sacrifices were made for my benefit), so the part of this whole story that really got me was this:
Monroe, now 25, has featured in an advert for Sainsbury's value range, along with a couple of other noted make-do-and-mend food bloggers, and she has donated her fee to the Oxfam projects.... "I earn my living as a writer, not as the paid face of Sainsbury's so it was a no-brainer really," she says. "When I was at my lowest point I had a lot of help from charities, food banks, to see me through so it is nice to start to give something back."
What an admirable person.
posted by muddgirl at 1:32 PM on February 21 [34 favorites]


That a mother writing a blog about how to cook nice and healthy food for your family on a budget has become the target of such vitriol from the right wing press is depressingly illustrative of their absolute and all-consuming inhumanity and vindictiveness, and a clear indication that the austerity measures and reforms of the benefits system have the very little to do with the necessities of economics or claims of moral fairness and much more to do with punishment and spite.
posted by dng at 1:33 PM on February 21 [100 favorites]


Ah, I'm glad to see Jack make an appearance here. She is a fascinating figure, if for no other reason than her spirited, intelligent dealings with the Daily Mail and its cronies, which can be found along with a lot of other contributions on The Guardian. She also has a monthly column, Austerity bites. The term "kick-ass" can be applied to her without reservation.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:50 PM on February 21 [6 favorites]


This is what I like about metafilter, you get to know such fascinating people. Thank you for sharing this story, kitteh.
posted by infini at 1:53 PM on February 21 [7 favorites]


When I found Jack's blog a while back I was surprised she didn't have her own FPP on the blue - thanks kitteh for rectifying that! I haven't cooked any of her recipes yet but I fully intend to, for what that's worth. And ditto both dng and Celsius1414's remarks re: her treatment by the right-wing press - unconscionable, really.
posted by ianhattwick at 1:54 PM on February 21 [3 favorites]


That a mother writing a blog about how to cook nice and healthy food for your family on a budget has become the target of such vitriol from the right wing press

Semi-tongue in cheek and semi-sincere, why? It's weird, isn't this the very definition of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps? A phrase with an almost erotic purr when uttered by right-wingers?

The world is confusing and strange.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:56 PM on February 21 [5 favorites]


Semi-tongue in cheek and semi-sincere, why?

She does not mince her words regarding how little money benefit claimants have. This is unpopular with a Tory party and media that prefer to reinforce the benefit scrounger trope at every opportunity.
posted by jaduncan at 2:01 PM on February 21 [3 favorites]


the Daily Mail hates her as does Edwina Currie

What on earth have they found to criticize?
posted by orange swan at 2:01 PM on February 21


What on earth have they found to criticize?

See title of this FPP.
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:03 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


Sample:
Jack Monroe: poverty can happen to anyone

The rhetoric of 'work hard and get on' can fall apart very quickly and you can find yourself in a pit of joblessness, benefit delays and depression

This from some upperty single mum? The Daily Mail *hate* her.
posted by jaduncan at 2:05 PM on February 21 [8 favorites]


The Richard Littlejohn thing about how he thought it her a fraud for using friggin' kale for pesto was so weird. Like, "You can't be that bad off if you are eating kale! Kale is for the rich!'
posted by Kitteh at 2:05 PM on February 21 [7 favorites]


Semi-tongue in cheek and semi-sincere, why? It's weird, isn't this the very definition of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps? A phrase with an almost erotic purr when uttered by right-wingers?

Because her existence is a refutation of the thesis that the poor are deserving, being lazy and stupid. Because she's not a real poor, can't be, because she's attractive and intelligent and likes kale. Because she has the class markers of the middle class, in other words. And since she is not a real poor she must be a plant, a shill, the same as the guy in the audience at the medicine show who stumbles up to the stage on crutches and gets cured of rheumatism by snake oil. The editors of the guardian playing the role of travelling salesmen in a top hat and tails, of course. Because she is the perfect poster child.

And also because to the British, to be a celebrity of any kind is to be jumped-up and therefore contemptible. And so they always cheer a little when they see one dragged down, no matter how vile the beast that ends up catching them by the ankle...
posted by Diablevert at 2:07 PM on February 21 [32 favorites]


Is rice and sugar on her blog? That was my staple as filler, with everything else protein/fruit /vegetable that was half price because it was about to expire/go bad. I feel like I should go a week like that just to remember a teensy bit how hard poverty is; better that than to forget and maybe turn into a horrible bootstraps grar person.

And yeah, imagine my surprise (not really) when someone starts raising themselves up by their bootstraps (as it were) and right-wing media members call foul. You'd think they don't actually believe that bootstraps nonsense...
posted by davejay at 2:26 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


While we're talking about cooking on a restricted budget, I can also recommend Beth Moncel's Budget Bytes as a great bloggy resource, as well as her new book with the same name, just out this month.
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:43 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


What on earth have they found to criticize?

I think the Daily Mail writer is upset because a woman has advised poor people to eat a nutritious, low-cost, kale-based meal. If poor people are not eating shitty food, that means there is one less thing that separates him from the people he loathes. A large part of his identity seems to be constructed around his loathing of the poor. Telling the poor to eat kale is practically an attack on his personhood. I think that is why he complains about her tattoos. It is a highly visible social signifier, and it reminds him that he is not like her.

This is what I see the middle-class right-wing descending into: A magical-thinking mindset of "Fuck you, poor people, because not liking you means that I can not ever be like you."
posted by compartment at 2:50 PM on February 21 [13 favorites]


And also because to the British, to be a celebrity of any kind is to be jumped-up and therefore contemptible. And so they always cheer a little when they see one dragged down, no matter how vile the beast that ends up catching them by the ankle...

To a certain type of British person. Non-coincidentally, they are often the type of person who likes to read the right wing press. I don't think that I or most of the British people on MeFi have similar attitudes.
posted by jaduncan at 2:51 PM on February 21 [13 favorites]


The gathering and preperation of food is such a fundamental experience that anyone can relate to. I think that there is such virtiol from the neoliberal because it forces them to enage with poverty sympathetically (because they can identify with Jack) rather than assuming that people are poor because they spend all their money on iPhones and Sky TV. Any relation with others that is not based on competetive greed becomes suspect in neoliberalism. Perhaps its not Jack they are angry at but themselves as they come face to face with their 'ideology'.
posted by amil at 3:16 PM on February 21


Count me among those now kicking themselves that they didn't think to make an FPP on Jack themselves.

Having been an admirer of her work for a while, I was recently pretty stunned to find out she is only 25. To have achieved so much and to be so eloquent and assured by then - I'm entirely in awe of her.
posted by ominous_paws at 3:18 PM on February 21


What on earth have they found to criticize?

According to The Daily Mail she quit a $45,000 a year job with the fire department and went on welfare when she got pregnant.
posted by MikeMc at 3:19 PM on February 21


According to The Daily Mail she quit a $45,000 a year job with the fire department and went on welfare when she got pregnant.

Yep. When you're a new single mother you have to look at the cost of childcare (since your child isn't in school all day like a five year old) versus the amount of money you have coming in.

It's a giant "fucked if you do, fucked if you don't" situation. Given the circumstances I'm 100% sure I would have made the same choice.
posted by Talez at 3:20 PM on February 21 [14 favorites]


Also worth bearing in mind that due to difference in living costs, that 45k might really mean a lot more in the US than it would in the UK.
posted by ominous_paws at 3:22 PM on February 21 [3 favorites]


My favorite bit is how married working dads with a wife at home are totes the same thing as single parents.

(Also, their version of Jack's story is so very different from how Jack tells it that I have to believe that it's maliciously done.)
posted by muddgirl at 3:23 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]


As far as I'm aware she also took strenuous steps to find redeployment in the fire service that would actually allow her to work and raise a child, but was unable to do so.
posted by howfar at 3:24 PM on February 21 [6 favorites]


It's the Mail. It's maliciously done.
posted by ominous_paws at 3:24 PM on February 21 [13 favorites]


MikeMc: "What on earth have they found to criticize?

According to The Daily Mail she quit a $45,000 a year job with the fire department and went on welfare when she got pregnant.
"

I don't know Jack, but she now makes a living off of her writing. How about the righties acknowledge she is someone who worked her way off of the public dole. Isn't that what they all want out of those on assistance?

Thanks for posting this.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:24 PM on February 21 [7 favorites]


It's absolutely true because I read it in the Daily Mail.
posted by howfar at 3:26 PM on February 21 [6 favorites]


I don't think the Daily Mail considers "writing for the Guardian" to be a real job. It's a common bit of shade that conservatives and assholes like to throw to denigrate people they don't like.
posted by muddgirl at 3:27 PM on February 21


Also worth bearing in mind that due to difference in living costs, that 45k might really mean a lot more in the US than it would in the UK.

I assume the cost of living is higher, much higher in the London area.
posted by MikeMc at 3:28 PM on February 21


The angry rich and their lapdogs do not count internal consistency among the more important aspects of polemical spewing.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:29 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


Southend is not central London killer but still fairly pricy. Probably sufficient to note that the decision to stop working was unlikely to have been an easy or irresponsible one.
posted by ominous_paws at 3:31 PM on February 21 [4 favorites]


What on earth have they found to criticize?

Oh, and she has tattoos, she should have spent that tattoo money on nappies or bangers and mash or something British like that.
posted by MikeMc at 3:32 PM on February 21 [4 favorites]


How about the righties acknowledge she is someone who worked her way off of the public dole. Isn't that what they all want out of those on assistance?

No, what they want out of people on assistance is for those people to suffer in silence, and then die.

They can't feel smug and self-righteous and better-than people who...are actually industrious, thriving, and smart.
posted by like_a_friend at 3:32 PM on February 21 [6 favorites]


As far as I'm aware she also took strenuous steps to find redeployment in the fire service that would actually allow her to work and raise a child, but was unable to do so.

Assuming there still is a fire service; the Tories are closing fire stations and selling the land off to Russian oligarchs to build luxury apartment developments on.
posted by acb at 3:39 PM on February 21


What on earth have they found to criticize?

She's not “one of us”, and refuses to become one.

Had she applied herself to climbing up and then punching downward at the contemptible poor, she could have a column in the Daily Mail and a job as a Big Society advisor to the Tories. But no, her charisma is on the other side, eloquently arguing against austerity and the mindset behind it in the Guardian, which is why she must be destroyed.
posted by acb at 3:42 PM on February 21 [14 favorites]


According to The Daily Mail she quit a $45,000 a year job with the fire department and went on welfare when she got pregnant.

According to Jack herself, no.

Also, Richard Littlejohn is an unpleasant, bigoted, clueless lunatic even by the Mail's standards. I would call him the least reliable source in Britain about how the benefits system actually works, but I can't because he lives in a gated community in Florida instead.
posted by Catseye at 3:43 PM on February 21 [24 favorites]


"Yep. When you're a new single mother you have to look at the cost of childcare (since your child isn't in school all day like a five year old) versus the amount of money you have coming in."

Even if you're married, when I transitioned from a 2nd shift blue collar job to a white collar office job we looked at full-time daycare our younger son and decided it would be better for my wife to quit her full-time job and take a part-time job in the evening. After deducting the daycare costs she would have netted $2.50 an hour.
posted by MikeMc at 3:43 PM on February 21 [3 favorites]


Monroe's blog post after appearing on the Channel 5 "debate" is worth a read.
posted by rory at 3:45 PM on February 21 [4 favorites]


According to Jack herself, no.

Wow, he probably stayed at home with the lights off for weeks after that shellacking!
posted by MikeMc at 3:46 PM on February 21


"..the Blackshirts, like the Daily Mail, appeal to people unaccustomed to thinking. The average Daily Mail reader is a potential Blackshirt ready made. When Lord Rothermere tells his clientele to go and join the Fascists some of them pretty certainly will."

I think this is worth remembering. The Daily Mail never really stopped being a fascist paper, it just hides it better now.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 3:51 PM on February 21 [4 favorites]


Same thing goes on in the US. It shouldn't be a surprise by now, but it always astounds me how much visceral hatred I see on Twitter from people if somebody talks about their struggles while being unemployed or thankful for the Affordable Care Act. Usually from people who have a flag or their religion prominently displayed in their bio.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 4:00 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


I really want to like Jack Monroe, and I like everything she stands for, but I find her actual blog kind of not very useful. Part of it, I think, is just that a lot of the recipes appeal to British tastes that are different from mine. Part of it is that I find her blog really hard to navigate. Is there a list of recipes sorted into categories somewhere on her site? If so, I can't find it, and that would be helpful. And part of it is that a lot of her recipes would actually be a lot more expensive for me. So, for instance, both of her recipes in the Jamie Oliver cook-off call for fresh mint. One of them is priced out on her blog, and the mint is listed as free, because it's from the herb garden. And that's great if you have an herb garden, but my apartment isn't really set up for a year-round herb garden, at least not one that would produce enough mint to make those two recipes on a regular basis. So I'd have to add an extra $5 or so to the overall cost of the recipe, and it's not quite so cheap that way.

I'm actually a little curious about whether a lot of people actually cook from her recipes or whether she's popular more as a political figure.

Budget Bytes, on the other hand, is a great site that I use a lot.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:02 PM on February 21


What on earth have they found to criticize?

Isn't it obvious? She has a child. That means that at some point in her past she had the audacity to have a sexual experience without bothering to get married to a man with a stable job. And then she escaped her puishment before her term was up.

That's really what they always criticize, isn't it?
posted by FreelanceBureaucrat at 4:08 PM on February 21 [5 favorites]


Where in the name of all that is good and holy is taking five dollars from you for mint? Even a plastic-wrapped pack from posho supermarket Waitrose in fancypants crouch end only costs me 79p.
posted by ominous_paws at 4:16 PM on February 21 [3 favorites]


Seriously!! Buying non-garden grown mint in a wrapped pack here in Canada MIGHT cost you $1.99 if you're unlucky. I think anywhere that's charging you a fiver for mint is somewhere you might not wanna shop.
posted by Kitteh at 4:19 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


Wow, he probably stayed at home with the lights off for weeks after that shellacking!

If Richard Littlejohn gave a shit about things like that he wouldn't be Richard Littlejohn. The reason I still have a liking for Michael Winner is the true shoeing that he gave Littlejohn for being ludicriously homophobic on Littlejohn's own show.
posted by jaduncan at 4:22 PM on February 21 [7 favorites]


that's great if you have an herb garden, but my apartment isn't really set up for a year-round herb garden, at least not one that would produce enough mint to make those two recipes on a regular basis

Look, I'm not very green-fingered, but mint is an invasive weed. Just bung a pot of mint somewhere near a window and try to remember to water it sometimes. That's the set-up.
posted by howfar at 4:24 PM on February 21 [13 favorites]


Assuming that ArbitraryAndCapricious is in the USA -- supermarket prices for fresh produce are much higher there than they are in Canada or the UK.
posted by junco at 4:25 PM on February 21 [4 favorites]


Confirming that in the USA they charge obscenely for fresh herbs.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:30 PM on February 21 [17 favorites]


Yeah, at my supermarket you can only get fresh herbs in hard plastic clamshells, and they're really expensive. I think they're $3 for a little clamshell thing, and I'd have to buy two of those to get anything that I'd count as a "handful." You can get herbs for cheaper at the farmer's market in the summer, but the farmer's market doesn't run this time of year.
Where in the name of all that is good and holy is taking five dollars from you for mint? Even a plastic-wrapped pack from posho supermarket Waitrose in fancypants crouch end only costs me 79p.
I don't know how this works in the UK, but it's a fairly well-established fact in the US that produce in rich neighborhoods is not only higher quality but also cheaper than in more downscale areas.

You know what's awesome? When you actually are cooking on a budget in a crappy apartment, and people who shop at posh upscale supermarkets chime in to imply that you don't know what you're talking about.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:34 PM on February 21 [16 favorites]


jaduncan: The reason I still have a liking for Michael Winner is the true shoeing that he gave Littlejohn for being ludicriously homophobic on Littlejohn's own show.

OH WOW that clip is great. I felt great glee as I watched it. I think I'll watch it a few more times.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:35 PM on February 21 [4 favorites]


Her blog links to the Observer Food article which discusses the circumstances behind her leaving her job in a little more detail:

After she had her son, she hoped the fire service would, as was its policy, give her more flexible hours. It insisted, however, on her doing two days and two nights. The nights were 15 hours long and the job was based in Brentwood, which is 30 miles away. She applied for a transfer to a job cooking in the canteen. Or installing smoke alarms in people’s houses. “It got to the point where they just thought I was being a pain,” she says. “I think at the time the top seven ranks in Essex fire service were exclusively men. My boss’s attitude was: when you chose to have a baby why didn’t you think this through?”

She had no choice but to leave...

posted by triggerfinger at 4:36 PM on February 21


See how this single mom discovered one weird trick! The tabloids hate her!
posted by tim_in_oz at 4:40 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]


... it's a fairly well-established fact in the US that produce in rich neighborhoods is not only higher quality but also cheaper than in more downscale areas.

Huh. I'm in Toronto where the opposite is true for herbs (biggest, best and cheapest bunches of cilantro in town are in the Asian markets and cheap supermarkets), so that really is news to me.

Jack's prices and supplies won't always map well to where you are in the States, but maybe some options (like risking life and living space by taking in some mint in the spring, when those little pots should be going on sale near you -- maybe?) is one solution to one of the problems.
posted by maudlin at 4:40 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


You know what's awesome? When you actually are cooking on a budget in a crappy apartment, and people who shop at posh upscale supermarkets chime in to imply that you don't know what you're talking about.

Wow, you're projecting. I don't shop at posh upscale supermarkets. I shop at Provigo, which is just a plain old chain just like Kroger's/Bi-Lo/Publix. And I lived in many a crappy apartment in my lifetime and cooked in many a crappy kitchen.
posted by Kitteh at 4:41 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


Wow. So I picked that example precisely because it easily represented the worst value for money in all the places I can shop; small groceries will sell vast bunches of herbs for around the same price, along with much cheaper produce. This to be found throughout London.

If the blog is less useful to you than budget bytes I'd imagine it's more down to US and UK differences, given the location of both blogs. I'm not sure there's any need to be this snippy.
posted by ominous_paws at 4:42 PM on February 21 [9 favorites]


Actually, I'm across the street from a food store I frequent here in NYC - let's see some sample pricing.

* a punnet of strawberries - $4.99 US.
* cucumbers - 2 for one dollar.
* oranges - 4 for one dollar.
* lemons - 4 for one dollar.
* green bell pepper - $2.99 per pound.
* red bell pepper - $4.99 per pound.
* handful of oregano - $3.99.
* handful of rosemary - $3.99.
* handful of mint - not available.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:43 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


And food is insanely expensive here in Canada; I'd wager much more so than in the US. When I moved here, the prices for basics like milk and butter are nearly double than that of the US. At least in Quebec, and where I am, we're so close to the US border, that it's common for folks to dip down into Vermont to buy staples because they're cheaper.
posted by Kitteh at 4:48 PM on February 21


You know what's awesome? When you actually are cooking on a budget in a crappy apartment, and people who shop at posh upscale supermarkets chime in to imply that you don't know what you're talking about.

The other huge difference between the US and the UK is that the UK has been lucky enough that the big 4 national chains have their tentacles basically everywhere, with more or less uniform pricing (albeit with some markup at Local/Express stores), and the discounters (only Aldi, Lidl and Iceland remaining, off the top of my head) generally take up the ready market and cheap property in what would be, in some other countries, food deserts. So there isn't such a big problem with food price inequality. Waitrose (the initially mentioned store) and M&S aren't covered in those overviews, but are price competitive on staples with the big 4. There are people who are stuck going to convenience stores (Spar, Londis, Premier, etc), but they tend to be the very immobile. So in the context of whether Jack Monroe's recipes, it is fair enough to expect people to be able to shop at supermarkets.

In other news, she spent today busking with Billy Bragg.
posted by ambrosen at 4:55 PM on February 21 [5 favorites]


And food is insanely expensive here in Canada; I'd wager much more so than in the US. When I moved here, the prices for basics like milk and butter are nearly double than that of the US.

But the discussion isn't about "food" in general -- it's about fresh produce. Dairy, meat, and processed foods are more expensive in Canada. But fresh produce is 20-30% cheaper in Canada. Which means it's harder to buy healthy foods (fresh fruits and vegetables) and easier to buy unhealthy ones (meat, dairy, processed food) -- if you even have access to fresh produce at all; supermarkets in poorer areas tend to have very small selections of low-quality produce. The independent corner grocer that's common in Canadian cities is virtually nonexistant in most parts of the US.
posted by junco at 4:57 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


My initial point was: not a posh shopper. Bizarrely, I used to be more of a posh shopper when I was single, living in an apartment with black mold, and making $8/hr as a barista.
posted by Kitteh at 4:58 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure why the discussion about a UK blogger really has to be about US food prices at all, but maybe that's just my parochialism. Food prices differ from place to place. I'm not sure exactly what we're going to learn here.
posted by howfar at 5:01 PM on February 21 [29 favorites]


Fair play. Let's end the derail. The discussion should about Jack Monroe and the good work she does, anyway!
posted by Kitteh at 5:03 PM on February 21 [3 favorites]


I like the use of canned beans. I try to cook cheap, but I'm also REALLY lazy, and tinned beans are a godsend.

My recipe for pasta & sauce:

olive oil
several cloves of garlic
some cayenne
some soy sauce
a can of diced/crushed tomatoes
a can of chick peas/kidney beans/black beans/lentils
maybe other spices

fry the garlic & spices, then add rest and simmer for 20 min while you go skyve off on the Internet (aka metafilter).*

serve over pasta.

For an exciting variation, add sliced onions instead/in addition to garlic.

*The skyving off is part of it, it won't taste as good otherwise.
posted by jb at 8:57 PM on February 21 [6 favorites]


Also: note the lack of chopping, except for the garlic. I'm a really lazy cook.
posted by jb at 8:59 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


Is there a list of recipes sorted into categories somewhere on her site? If so, I can't find it, and that would be helpful.

They're tagged.

(I don't know what to say about the rest of your post. Well, I do, but you know, mods.)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:16 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


Is there a way to find a list of tags, or is the only way to look at all the posts tagged "beans" to scroll down to the first bean recipe and then click on the tag there? If I cooked a recipe last month and now want to find it again, is there a way to do it that doesn't involve scrolling through the entire blog? If so, I haven't been able to find it, and I've tried.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:25 AM on February 22


If you use the URL obiwanwasabi provided and change the last term, you can get all recipes tagged with that term. Here's mint. Here's lentils. So if you can remember one or more ingredients, that can give you a better search.

But yes, a nice linked list of tags to browse would be better. She's using the Columnist WordPress template, so she may or may not be able to generate this.
posted by maudlin at 8:39 AM on February 22


OK, it looks as if her 404 page includes a search box, but none of the other pages. Use that for searches until she updates her blog design, I guess.
posted by maudlin at 8:45 AM on February 22


This might be a bit late, but: until fairly recently I didn't know what kale is (a very popular and healthy leafy green vegetable of some sort?) and am still not quite sure what it looks or tastes like. So to be fair, I kinda get what Littlejohn was getting at, re: underprivileged folks not recognizing certain foods.

But yeah, he was definitely blowing it out of proportion and trying to earn "ooo look at those fancy pants liberals" points.

(Also: wow. Way to insult the intelligence / worldliness of impoverished people. I mean. "Most of them will have never heard of kale, let alone eaten it. And if they are vaguely aware of pesto, they probably think it’s some kind of fancy foreign gravy mix," really? Christ.)

I think this speaks to Monroe's interest in food education (see interview here). Ideally, people wouldn't feel intimidated by new ingredients. If they have access to her recipes, then they probably have access to the internet or the library (or more knowledgeable friends, or something). They could use those resources to learn more about new foods and try to incorporate them into their diet (if possible, if they like them, if they want to).

Although I don't fault people for hesitating to try unfamiliar foods, I feel like a little adventurousness is usually a good thing.

(Note: just want to be clear that I absolutely am *not* trying to condemn others for failing to try new things. There are all kinds of reasons that might not be feasible. Food education is only part of a potential solution.)
posted by junques at 2:54 PM on February 22


Her rebuttal to the Daily Mail was a thing of beauty. Particularly the last paragraph: Oh, and if you really wanted your readers to foam at the mouth about me, I can't understand why you omitted the detail that I'm a lesbian.

One reason why Jack's system (if I can call it that) might not scale too successfully to the States is simple geography: In England, in any urban centre, you don't have to walk far to get to a Sainsbury's (or equivalent). Town layouts were often established in the days when most people walked and the lucky few rode; you can fit all of England (with its 53 million people) into Oregon. The American phenomenon of food desserts doesn't really apply.

At any rate, I love her. And her recipes are just fine: I'm making the Chocolate, Chili and Black Bean Soup tonight, assuming I can bring myself to leave Saturday Afternoon at the Opera and the sleeping cat on my lap and venture out to the Buy-Low in what is starting to look like quite a nice snowfall....
posted by jokeefe at 4:40 PM on February 22 [1 favorite]


Kale seems to be one of those things that has become an it food in more recent times.
I wonder if home cooking shows are the cause?

Presumably, the lovely Cait Reilly wasn’t available, on account of the fact that she was in the High Court complaining that being made to work in Poundland in exchange for claiming benefits was ‘slave labour’

Oh, FFS, what a dick. I'd dive into the Daily Mail archives to find the bit where a large-ish (?) chain of UK stores deserves to have its paid-for staff replaced by unpaid staff members, but I am afraid my bile is already rising.
posted by Mezentian at 5:02 PM on February 22


Semi-tongue in cheek and semi-sincere, why? It's weird, isn't this the very definition of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps? A phrase with an almost erotic purr when uttered by right-wingers?

Because they don't really think the poor need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. They're afraid that if the poor actually start a little bit better and their lie is uncovered, they (the writers/readers) will lose their privilege and maybe get what's been coming to them.

Hence austerity, and hence vitriol toward intelligent young broke people like Jack, who prove their cover story to be wrong. If they could, they would call for poor people to be enslaved or killed.
posted by anemone of the state at 1:10 AM on February 24 [1 favorite]


Given that kale is a staple across much of rural Sub Saharan Africa, I find its gentrification highly amusing.
posted by infini at 4:40 AM on February 24 [3 favorites]


Kale used to be (and still is) a staple across much of Europe, including the UK, and Asia. I was thinking about kale in the shower this morning (as one does) and it's unfortunate fall into an anti-liberal buzzword came when American vegetarians started highlighting it as a super-nutritious alternative to cabbage and spinach (it looks like kale was brought over to the Americas in the 17th century but it didn't really take off here for some reason). Of course if hoity-toity elitist vegetarians like it then it must be something for average joes folks to oppose.
posted by muddgirl at 7:27 AM on February 24 [2 favorites]


I was thinking about kale in the shower this morning (as one does) and it's unfortunate fall into an anti-liberal buzzword came when American vegetarians started highlighting it as a super-nutritious alternative to cabbage and spinach (it looks like kale was brought over to the Americas in the 17th century but it didn't really take off here for some reason).

Hmm. Maybe because of its association with different immigrant groups? I know kale's always been kinda big in Italian cooking, and there's a stew you can get in New England that uses a lot of kale; it was brought into the region by the Portuguese workers in the textile mills in the late 19th/early 20th Centuries. So I wonder if it maybe didn't have some kind of "yeah, that's what poor immigrants eat" connotations for a long time. Kale is also closely related to collard greens, which also in the past have had their own "food for poor people" connotations.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:38 AM on February 24 [2 favorites]


Thanks EmpressCallipygos for the US food prices. As a Canadian, I had no idea how crazy they were for fresh produce.

@junco: Why is the independent corner grocer we're used to in Canada absent in most parts of the United States?

Food prices in major Canadian cities are great, but prices in northern Canada can be brutal though. I hear that a gallon of milk would cost at least 7 dollars.

The prices of fresh and processed foods alike are huge factors in alleviating food poverty. I hope we have a similar visible champion for North America at some point.
posted by Hawk V at 9:39 AM on February 25


Part of it, I think, is just that a lot of the recipes appeal to British tastes that are different from mine. Part of it is that I find her blog really hard to navigate.

Yeah, it is kind of a bear to find things, especially in comparison to other food blogs. Though, as an American, I still kind of like reading it for its anthropological value in part because the tastes are so different. I probably would never make or eat Bubbles and Squeaks, but now I know such a thing exists and is cheap to cook (in the UK, anyway). It makes me curious about budget recipe blogs for other countries as well. What ingredients are cheaper in Spain? What is considered cheap and tasty in Croatia?

I also find budget recipe blogs wonderful because they focus on home food as opposed to restaurant-quality food. Part of what is a bit difficult with foodie blogs is the push for home cooks to make gourmet dinners. There is a kind of simple, healthy food that requires a good home cook's skill, but would never appear on a restaurant menu. And I like the rise of food bloggers that are championing those kinds of recipes.
posted by bluefly at 12:42 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


Fresh fruit and vegetables are also quite expensive in the UK -- in fact, they were more expensive where I was in the UK than where I lived in the US. An apple would cost a £1, which was more expensive than a couple of cans of beans or 8 sausage rolls.

One of the cheaper vegetables I could get were "greens". They weren't any green in particular - just a weird mix of turnip greens, etc, marketed under "greens". When I got back to the US, the closest thing I could find were collard greens and kale, so I started eating those. They were also relatively cheap.
posted by jb at 3:41 PM on February 25


okay, maybe £1 would be a big apple (they were sold by weight). I just remember going to buy one for lunch one day and finding it more expensive than a chocolate bar (by a factor of 2-3).
posted by jb at 3:44 PM on February 25


"This might be a bit late, but: until fairly recently I didn't know what kale is (a very popular and healthy leafy green vegetable of some sort?) and am still not quite sure what it looks or tastes like. So to be fair, I kinda get what Littlejohn was getting at, re: underprivileged folks not recognizing certain foods."

Huh. I grew up poor and hippy, and knew what kale is because it's pretty cheap, and leafy greens are something you can grow through a midwest winter if you've got a greenhouse. But plenty of my neighbors would have had no idea. And my girlfriend's uncles were just talking about this, not knowing what kale was, and they grew up upper middle class, but are both Republicans. Class, place and culture, I guess.
posted by klangklangston at 5:24 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]


Given that kale is a staple across much of rural Sub Saharan Africa, I find its gentrification highly amusing.

Me too, because a) if pronounced the Dutch way it means baldy and b) it's just boerenkool, staple ingredient of many a stodgy winter stamppot and about as untrendy and middle class a vegetable you can get, something that, as the name indicates, is eaten by farmers in the depths of winter.

The traditional way to eat it is to cook it, cook some potatoes, fry some speck or bacon to sprinkle through it, mix and match it all together, done. Add some gravy and perhaps a rookworst or speklap according to taste and you got a cheap, filling meal, something that you can and would cook on a budget.

To see it derided as an indicator of a hopelessly middle class and therefore inauthentic tastes is, well, hilarious if it wasn't so sad.

It's the same thing rightwingers always do whenever somebody speaks out for the poor and downtrodden: if they're actually poor/working class themselves obviously they don't need to be listened to because obviously it's a moral failing to be poor, while if they're not or no longer, they're hypocrites.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:03 AM on March 2 [1 favorite]


I grew up poor and hippy, and knew what kale i

Kale, along with tofu and herbal tea, is pretty much one the defining pieces of "poor and hippy." I think it was Laurel's Kitchen or Diet for a Small Planet that claimed kale was a miracle food.

But of course, once it gets that class marker attached to it, then it's going to be used as a bludgeon to attack someone who suggests it for the poor. As has been said, you can't win either way with this.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:06 PM on March 2


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