A few weeks ago I received an invitation in the post to the 25th birthday party of BBC Good Food – and squeaked with excitement. I credit the BBC Good Food website as being one of the main ways I taught myself to cook, by looking up and poring over recipes online, studiously copying them into notebooks that I still have…in fact it’s got me into trouble on occasion, when I needed an ‘alternative’ Christmas cake recipe late last year for a feature, I remembered I had a really good plum one written down in one of my early notebooks. I typed it up and saved it to send on, but something wasn’t quite right. I’d cooked this about ten times, it was a firm favourite, but it just didn’t feel like ‘my’ loose, informal style. A quick internet search later, and there it was, gram for gram, sitting on the BBC Good Food website. Needless to say, I didn’t submit it. Quite a few of the recipes in A Girl Called Jack have been credited back to the site too, I’ve been tapping ingredients into their search bar ever since I packed my first bags and flew the nest almost a decade ago.
Having such an easy to access resource (even on a mobile phone!) with thoroughly tested recipes and photos that looked a little like my attempt at the end result, gave me the confidence to experiment and explore in my first kitchen… and the next one… and the next one. I had a little jolt, holding that invitation in my hand, that I was about to meet a LOT of people who unknowingly and unwittingly had been my long distance cookery teachers, food stylists and mentors, for many years. Yikes.
And so, in a rare fit of ‘oh my goodness this is seriously special’, I, er, put a dress on. In my defence, I’d been to another cookery ‘do’ two nights before and spilled some sort of canape on my only waistcoat, so I couldn’t wear that. The Dress was bought in a fit of madness when I got my first book deal, a ‘just in case’ garment, that hung on the back of a door ever since. I got it down. I cut the labels out. I put it on. It looked like this:
And then, on the way there, I had an email from the BBC Good Food team to say I’d won a thingy. I’d been named one of their BBC Good Food Game Changers for 2015, for ‘influencing and shaping the food revolution, raising awareness about budget cooking and championing universal access to affordable home-cooked food.’ I didn’t really know what to say to that, except a very surprised thankyou!
The other Game Changers include:
James Martin, for hosting the longest running Saturday morning programme in UK history, and providing a platform for so many up and coming chefs.
Anna Beattie, creator and executive director of The Great British Bake Off, for galvanising a new generation of bakers, with a global TV sensation that has homemade food at its heart.
Angela Hartnett, one of our highest profile female chefs, who has inspired a generation of women to follow in her footsteps in professional kitchens.
Fiona Hamilton-Fairley, for changing the lives of families for over 20 years by teaching children to cook.
FoodCycle, for tackling food waste from supermarkets and connecting the community with local food and cooking services.
Michael Mosley, for changing the way we think about our food and health by keeping the subject in the headlines.
Thomasina Miers, for changing the perception of the chain restaurant scene and Mexican cuisine with the hugely successful Wahaca – and continuing to innovate.
I think all that remains for me to say is a great big happy birthday to BBC Good Food, and long may it continue. I said on the night through a mess of overwhelmed sobs that I hope my blog is as useful to a few people as the BBC website was to me, in finding my feet, learning the basics, experimenting, exploring, and best of all discovering a little community of like-minded people ‘below the line’ in the comments underneath the recipes, who share their tweaks, ideas, and suggestions to encourage people to stray from the recipes into a whole new world of exploration and innovation. So thankyou BBC Good Food, thankyou to the commenters who share their ideas, thankyou to all of my readers, and all of you who make my blog and Facebook and Twitter and Instagram a friendly, supportive community to be part of. I am always very humbled by awards and accolades – because this has been such a shared journey, as Professor Green titled his most recent album, a definite ‘Growing Up In Public’, and you’re still here three years to the day from my first blog post (WordPress sent me a birthday reminder today!), still supporting, still encouraging, still sending me photos of your cats when I’m having a bluesy day. Nobody could ever have predicted this, least of all me, and I’m really very thankful for it. (And a little titbit of random knowledge; I read somewhere last weekend that Caroline Lucas keeps all her awards in the fireplace – I thought I was cool nonchalantly using them as doorstops and bookends, but hey, she’s just cooler than me!)
Jack Monroe. I’m on Twitter and Instagram @MsJackMonroe