How a Girl Called Jack Made Me Cry

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It’s not everyday a recipe book makes me cry. Usually they make me hungry, or long for a fully-stocked larder or a luxury kitchen. But by the time I’d finished reading Jack Monroe’s introduction to A Girl Called Jack I was blubbing.

Monroe is no celebrity chef, but an accidental food hero. Demonstrating the power of the blog she’s gone from explaining the realities of life on benefits (not fecklessness and monstrous flat-screen TVs paid for by the tax-payer as it turns out, but real hardship and hunger and stark choices) to being a representative of Austerity Britain. She’s given a human face to the statistics behind the economic recession and need for food banks, highlighted the inequality in terms of wealth in the seventh richest country in the world and shown that even though people shouldn’t have to live beneath the breadline it can be done healthily. Despite no longer living hand to mouth, thanks to her voice being heard and people wanting to hear more, she still has the integrity to keep fighting for those in poverty.

…while Hunger Hurts is still true for just ONE family, let alone half a million people…I must carry on raging against the machine…repeating again and again and again and again until they get it.

The innately entitled fat cats who make up too large a share of a government should look at Jack Monroe and feel humbled.

People in 21st-century Britain shouldn’t have to make a choice between heating and food or rent and food or food for themselves and food for their children. People anywhere shouldn’t, to be honest. There’s much debate about the welfare system in Britain, about it fostering laziness and catching people in a poverty trap where it’s worth more to stay at home than it is to have a low-paid, short-contract job. The government has reacted by making the benefits system harsher to dissuade shirkers, but it fails to take into account the actual experience of living with nothing; the impact of rising living costs or of a problem hitting the family when there’s no safety net, be it illness, the need for a new washing machine or a mistake in the system. Reducing people to subsistence living doesn’t encourage them back into work; it takes away their pride and disempowers them. It reduces living to existence and devalues them.

So, thank heavens for Monroe. For being a headstrong, independent menace. For speaking up for those left with little voice of their own and disproving the lazy stereotypes that government is so willing to paint of benefits claimants and those at the bottom of the pile.

Love soup and chickpea, carrot and coriander falafels are the top of my ‘recipes to try’ list. Plenty more pages are turned down at the corner, waiting to be given a go. It looks like I’m going to get value for money from the cookbook itself.

Jack Monroe, thank you for inspiring me, for making me cry and for making me think about the food that goes into my basket (and that I really should contribute to others’ baskets as well).

www.agirlcalledjack.com

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