Thursday, March 30, 2006

Linda Herrick: Jamie needs to grow up

Jamie Oliver never spoke a truer word in the first episode of Jamie's Great Italian Escape, which started this week on TV One, when he said, "Going to Italy is selfish".

He is selfish, towards his wife. There were hints in his earlier series about starting up a new restaurant for teenage wasters that Jamie Oliver had a nasty attitude towards Jules. Then, he was close to neglectful as she stayed at home, alone and pregnant. Now, they have two children.

In Monday night's show, as paparazzi snapped the sobbing Jules when she bade farewell to hubby, all he could snap at her was, "You've helped them make 15,000 quid for that".

Good riddance, she should be thinking, as Oliver drove off to Sicily in his silly 1956 Kombi. He said he liked the Kombi because of nostalgia and "a little boy who had a dream".

Oliver's TV celebrity has been built on his ruthless exploitation of the "little boy who had a dream" persona but what about the adult? He needs to take a good look at himself, although one suspects that when he does take a good look at himself, it's to apply more hair straightener.

Compared with other TV chefs, like Rick Stein - whose French series has been rudely pulled by TV One - even Oliver's vocab is childish. He describes British families as eating "scrote" and food as "wicked".

However, it was quite amusing to watch him turning up at a Palermo countess' palazzo and reversing the Kombi into one of her rubbish bins. Her expression was withering. And it was funny to see him trying to muscle in and cook at a Palermo fish stall where the men were having none of it. They were real tough guys who, he admitted, scared him.

Poor Jules. Behind the smiling happy-chappy facade, Jamie Oliver increasingly reveals himself as a misogynist plonker who mocks his wife's cooking and even ridicules her in the way he says the words: my wife.

Perhaps he will learn something about respect towards women as he drives around Italy - but then again, maybe not.

One lady who did earn a huge amount of respect late in life as an unexpected TV cook-celebrity was Jennifer Paterson, one of the Two Fat Ladies.

There is a first-class documentary about her life knocking about on the Food Channel called One Fat Lady, One Large Life. In it, an impressively long string of friends and relatives pay tribute to a woman who left school with no qualifications except in religious studies.

Paterson believed in God, having fun and the power of butter and double cream. She was never interested in material possessions and her only luxuries were cigs and booze, tucked away in the pockets of her voluminous smocks.

When she cooked for the Spectator, she performed outrageous acts such as running her fingers across Enoch Powell's head while blaring "coochy-coochy-coo" at him.

The BBC had a stroke of genius when they decided to pair Paterson with Clarissa Dickson-Wright for the Fat Ladies series. Paterson died of lung cancer in 1999, but the documentary is a reminder of what a splendid and unusual person she was. What you saw in her on screen was the genuine article, entertaining, eccentric, without ego.

A cockney greengrocer appears in the programme recalling how she had told him about the pilot, screaming with laughter about how it would never take off. Her international success - because she had loved to show off all her life - thrilled her. But it didn't change her. Jamie Oliver, little boy, take heed.


Post a Comment

<< Home