Jamie Oliver’s American Roadtrip
September 5, 2009 4 Comments
Jamie Oliver. There’s a complex case for you. For me, anyway, for as much as I know, Reader, your views on Saint Jamie of Essex may be as polarised as mine are on.. avocado. I just don’t know anymore whether I love him or complely loathe him. For every animal welfare campaign (good) there is a nauseating Sainsburies ad (bad). For every working parent he teaches basic, healthy cooking to (good) there is a ‘flavour shaker’ (bad). For every brilliant, tasty recipe he has ever presented to us in a book, there is a recipe for a bacon sandwich, or pages and pages of photographs of Jamie. Usually, standing with his arms crossed against a wall. With graffiti on it. Cos he is down with the kids, a’ight?
The American Roadtrip show is problematic for me. It is definitely a lifestyle show as opposed to a cooking show. Don’t get me wrong – there was food – someone briefly cooking gorditas, a ‘homegirl’ making a salad (with fairly non specific salad ingredients), I saw someone making enchildas ( possibly for me, the most appealing meal of the programme. Have I been able to find the recipe anywhere, including the accompanying book? No. No and hell, no). I saw Jamie getting stoned on Mezcal in an indoor market and filling a pinata donkey with sweets. I saw him making a stew that had cactus in it – do they sell cactus in Sainsburies Jamie? And 50 minutes in, I saw a recipe. For a chocolate tart. And very delicious it looked to0 – only trouble by this point I had started to doze off, so I can’t say exactly.
Maybe its my error – my error on a mismatch of expectation versus reality – but in a show such as this I find these snatched food images quite frustrating. Although its obviously supposed to be great fun to watch Jamie eat something and guess how it’s made, in reality, it just feels like the sales pitch for the book that hit the stores the very same day. I also don’t watch to find out Jamie’s views on drugs, gangs, Pamela Anderson, christenings, memorials or crime. I don’t much care what he thinks about crystal-meth addicts turning their life around. When we buy Jamie’s books I don’t think we buy them for social commentary, surely, we buy them for recipes. And the reason we don’t buy them for Jamie’s social commentary is because its not very interesting. Poignant to Jamie perhaps that he had a guy who worked for him, supposedly go back to his gang after there was a ‘hit’ and never be seen again, but really. That’s the story? You don’t know he’s not working the summer season in Benidorm flipping burgers? I think Jamie is fairly naive about the social causes of these problems and if I might venture, in his mateyness, a touch patronising. There are people that do that sort of thing very well, Louis Theroux a case in point. Louis Theroux on the other hand, doesn’t stick a cookery book onto his shows though, because he doesn’t pretend he has anything interesting to say about food.
Although its interesting to see Jamie go to parties (loved the guy with the Bluetooth dancing btw, I loved that) and christenings – I’m fascinated he was invited to go up, no doubt with a director along with the camera crew, to the font to witness the christening of a child of a family he had known for all of five minutes. Although I’m fascinated he would be desired company at a memorial to a gang member and had his poor nephew crying his eyes out on telly, I start to wonder about this intimacy. I really do. Why are random strangers inviting this man to some of the most intimate moments in their life for filming? Up to them, I guess, what they do. But I’m not sure what it has to do with how to making enchiladas.
So, now you know. If you like Jamie, if you’re interested in finding a picture of what food is like in another culture and you’re not all that worried about how to make it, you’ll probably love this. If you know anything about Mexican food ( I suspect I know more about Mexican food than Jamie does, still) or you don’t want to know about what Jamie thinks about street gangs.. you maybe better off doing something more constructive with your time. Like cleaning the bath.