Cook with Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook by Jamie Oliver (Michael Joseph, 2006)

You know what .... if you're going to eat three times a day for the rest of your life, you might as well learn to cook properly and enjoy it! So roll up your sleeves and let me help you. -- Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver is a TV celebrity chef, a cheeky chappy with a Cockney accent who cooks, but can he really cook?

What comes across in Cook with Jamie is not just a passion about cooking, but also a great love of food.

The British seem to have lost their relationship with food. As Jamie Oliver admits, fifty-odd years ago there would not have been a need for a book like this, people knew how to cook, but now people have all but lost the knack to cook, and soon there will be no-one left who knows how to cook.

Cooking should be as normal to you and me as it was to our mums and nans, and the only way it is going to happen is if becomes compulsory to teach kids how to cook at school again. It is important to learn about the integrity of homemade food before this knowledge is lost for ever.

Cooking is not taught in schools anymore. We seem not to care what we stick in our mouths.

Go in a pub, and people know what to ask for to drink, the kids know what they want to put on their feet, sadly more to do with advertising than taste, but no-one cares what they put in their mouth anymore. If it is not a trip to some disgusting fast food takeaway, it is a trip to the supermarket for something to pop in the microwave.

Operation of a microwave is about the limit of our cooking ability.

It was to try and reverse this trend that Jamie Oliver wrote Cook with Jamie. The idea came out of Fifteen.

Fifteen is a restaurant Jamie Oliver established to try an teach fifteen disadvantaged kids how to cook. There is one in London, Cornwall, Amsterdam and Melbourne. The kids needed basic techniques, basic cooking skills, basic menus. All this experience has been distilled into Cook with Jamie.

Jamie Oliver became a national hero, if not a school hero, when he campaigned against the disgusting fare that was being served as school dinners. 35p was the miserly amount the government allocated per child per meal, now upped to 50p by an ever-so generous government.

Contrast this with politicians promoting McDonald's, as did Gerald Howarth MP, something no French, Italian, Spanish, indeed any European politician would be seen doing. [see MP promotes junk food and MP yet again pictured promoting McDonald's]

When Jamie Oliver visited one of the poorest townships in Johannesburg, he found the kids had a much better quality school dinner than they would get in England. He watched as a group of women created a school lunch out of the freshest ingredients they could get – a mutton stew with fresh, locally grown carrots and cabbage, with fruit for dessert.

It completely astounded me that in a place of unbelievable poverty, the love and care put into children's’ meals was greater than in Inner London – and resulted in a more nutritionally balanced lunch. If they can do it, there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t. Our friends across the world are amazed that a proud country such as ours can have such little regard for the health and wellbeing of its children.

Something is very, very wrong in our relationship with food.

Put across with passion, Cook with Jamie is one small step to counter our dysfunctional relationship with food.

Throughout, Jamie Oliver emphasises the importance of fresh, quality ingredients. Wherever possible, locally sourced, wherever possible, organic.

An excellent companion to Sophie Grigson's The First-time Cook.

All profits from Cook with Jamie go to the Fifteen Foundation.

Also recommended:

Joanna Blythman, Bad Food Britain, Fourth Estate, 2006

Sophie Grigson, The First-time Cook, Collins, 2004

Jamie Oliver, Jamie's Kitchen, Michael Joseph, 2002

Jamie Oliver, Jamie's Dinners, Michael Joseph, 2004

Nora Sands, Nora's Dinners, Collins, 2006

Books Worth Reading ~ Bad Food Britain
(c) Keith Parkins 2007 -- January 2007 rev 0