Saved by the naked chef

Do you remember the world before Starbucks? That’s the one I landed in. Late 80’s, from the South of France, took food for granted and could not hold a glass of wine outside of meal times. Nowhere to go to sip a decent café (au lait).

The 90’s came along. Expensive coffees invaded the world whilst many of us were already hooked with fast-nasty-food for a pittance, plastic toy thrown in. I got caught by both. London, busy, convenient… Weekly shoppings at my local supermarket because I had no time to go and find butchers or greengrocers and… you try and park in London, it’s a nightmare. So, every little helps.

Yes I know the naked chef is the other supermarket. All the same, my salvation started with my friend Louise, some white fish on a bed of raw green beans and some vanilla. Delicious, simple and different. Inspired, I went off and bought ‘Jamie’s kitchen’.

Looking back, I think I lost the plot  because the raw ingredients I kept buying were insipid. My food was all about tomatoes or courgettes. Here they were more water than taste, aubergines or fennel cost almost more than gold. I dreamt of peaches in Summer, nectar oozing out and juice dribbling onto my plate.

If somewhere along the line you are a foodie then you want to pass this love to your children. When my son was about seven, I asked him which celebrity he would like to meet. ‘Jamie Oliver’ he answered. No singer, presenter or a character in a film, he chose a chef. Result. Food and its image was beginning to change in the UK. Lovely jobbly.

Mid naughties and J’s ‘School dinners’ programme came along. Why did schools ever stop providing a canteen to pupils? My French brain still thinks this an aberration. This is the first year that both my children are having a cooked meal for lunch. 2010. My youngest is even lucky enough to be fed by Local Food Links in Dorset. They won a Catering Gold Mark for using local, organic  and sustainable when possible. I know this is not the case all over the UK and many schools import all their meat from abroad and still cook unappetising fast food. There’s always room for improvement.

Nevertheless, despite criticising Jamie for ‘being in bed with a supermarket’ -quoting a chef friend of mine- or for his excessive presence on our screens followed by his array of books he, and Hugh, Rick, Lesley not forgetting Keith who started it all; they are all contributing to this country getting the balance between eating to live and living to eat back where it should be. It’s been fascinating to watch. And taste.


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