There are some folks on this planet who give out so much to help other people, expend so much of their energy to make the world a better place, with little expectation of something in return. Jack Monroe is one of these people.
I wanted to write about Jack, because she has been such a huge inspiration to me, both as a cook and a writer, and generally as an amazing human being.
Her story is fascinating. When she found herself an unemployed single mum after losing her job with the fire service, she took to writing- firstly about politics. She started going to local council meetings and blogging about it, then began writing budget recipes – how to eke out food bank parcels, how to minimize waste, how to make Mac and Cheese in a mug in a microwave when you can’t afford the gas for the oven.
Her writing is searing. Her piece from July 2012, ‘Hunger Hurts’, still available to read on her website, www.cookingonabootrap.com, is honestly heart-breaking. She narrates her small son, roughly the same age then as my son is now, asking for more breakfast - he asks for bread and jam and she has nothing to give him. My son asked for more toast the other day and it made me cry. Not because I didn’t have any to give him – we are fortunate to have never been in that position – but because there are so many people living in the UK today who are facing this awful situation. Jack’s work campaigning against austerity and poverty should set an example for all of us. Her mission is to teach people to cook and eat well even on a low income and she works with many charities, including Oxfam and the Trussell Trust.
And the food, my goodness! I cook from one of her books several times a week. The ideas are simple, nutritious, delicious. And cheap. I believe we’ve cut our food budget in half since I started cooking her recipes. We were lucky that we didn’t *need* to, but this saving has meant more money to spend on other things and to put aside for the boy’s future. Plus, we are eating less meat and even having some vegan days, which I believe is an important shift we should all be making for environmental reasons.
Jack’s journey from an unemployed single mum to an award-winning food writer is inspirational to me as a writer myself. Her authentic writing and her candid presence on social media are refreshing. I find it hard to understand why she has been the victim of so much trolling online – I suspect because she refuses to conform and is determined to speak her mind, about politics, mental health, disability, sexuality, all the controversial things that scare people.
But I wanted to write about her because I think she is astonishing, inspiring, radical. And her cabbage pasta honestly has changed my life.
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