Is Jack Monroe a saint or a martyr? A bit of both probably, but there is no denying the impact she has made in a relatively short time.
It is just two years since she began writing her blog, agirlcalledjack.com, which started out as local political commentary about her home town of Southend and, thankfully, blossomed into something much more widely readable, practical and relevant: how an unemployed, single mother was able to feed herself and young son satisfyingly on £10 a week.
Her recipes, created from a combination budget ingredients, innovation and necessity, found a sympathetic and receptive audience, impressed by the fact that they came from someone who knows what it’s like to rely on food banks.
The upshot is that Jack is now a bit of a celebrity. She has a job as a food journalist, campaigns for Oxfam and the Child Poverty Action Group, has been the face of a Sainsbury’s ad campaign, won a couple of high-profile awards for her blog, and has just published this book of her recipes. While most would surely applaud her achievements, her success has also attracted suspicion and spite, rather inevitably in the era social media trolls.
Her food is varied, resourceful and unpretentious, embracing tinned fruit, frozen vegetables and bottled lemon juice. And though the book was born out of austerity, it doesn’t mean the approach is similarly spartan. On the contrary, it is upbeat and enthusiastic. She cheerfully acknowledges adapting ideas from the likes of Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsay, and includes recipes with breezy names such as Moroccan not-a-tagine and sort-of paella.
But Jack Monroe is someone who deserves to be celebrated for more than just her food. For those of us who don’t have to worry about where the next meal is coming from, the real value of her book is that it makes you appreciate what you have and forces you to reflect on how to make the most of it.
A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe is published by Penguin/Michael Joseph, price £12.99
By John Koski, MailOnline, March 2014. For the original review, click here.