Well isn't little Jamie Oliver doing well with his crusade to change the nation's school dinners? I checked my journal for my time at prep school and saw that my own school dinner at the time looks, with the benefit of hindsight, quite delicious.
One Jammy Dodger - 'amuse bouche'
Bowl of vegetable soup (Heinz)
Mutton stew with extra fat, potatoes boiled with optional black bits and lumps
Stewed cabbage tops and thin gravy
One spotted dick with Birds custard
Followed by a good beating to make it settle (cross country running in Summer)
All very nourishing I feel. Everyone knows that what the growing child needs is plenty of starch, fatty meat and vitamins. Attempts to force a growing active body to eat hummus is bound to stunt the child's growth and give him (or her) a lifelong hatred of the Lebanese.
Quite clearly things have gone awry in school kitchens and one can easily track the problem to its source. Choice. One must never give small children a choice because they will invariably choose the wrong thing. Choice can only be effective if all the items on offer are on an equal level of repugnance. Ask a child to choose between chips or steamed potatoes and one doesn't have to be our remarkably self-important and condescending Education Minister to guess which way the decision will go.
Of course we must blame the parents. One must always do that. Or perhaps the parent, as all too often bad food is given to children by a single parent trying to buy some time in a hectic day. How much easier to microwave the children some Monster Munch and sit down to watch East Enders than it is to peel a potato or two. But one must not be judgemental of course. All parenting methods are valid and it would be fascist to insist there was a 'right way' to feed children. Such proscriptive behaviour belongs to the bad old days when underfed, malnourished children roamed housing estates bringing fear to old people and stealing cars that, with their stunted growth, they could barely reach the pedals of.
And we cannot blame dear Jamie, although I admit the general public seem equally split between those who would like to see him receive a knighthood and those who would like to see him securely locked up in prison for offences that include sanctimony and cheeking his betters. 'Jamie's Prison Dinners' would be a ratings success on all networks and we could all learn such important tips as how to spot ground glass in one's mash or the rat poison in the pie. Another plus for the prison option is that we would not have to see him doing any more of those repulsive TV commercials. I hear that dear Nigella is already off the subs bench warming up and raring to get stuck in as soon as Jamie is given the red card. Much of the food Jamie detests makes the supermarkets a great deal of money indeed and they are growing impatient of his posturing.
By the way, it's all tosh about Jamie's working class roots. His father is the Duke of Tower Hamlets and could often be seen leading his pack of pit bulls on a fox hunt around the family estate in Walworth. Jamie stands to inherit the family pub as well as the title hanging over the door when he succeeds on his father's demise. Check in Debrett's if you don't believe me.
But we should thank Jamie for stating what every middle class parent knows. Food affects mood. We have all seen what happens when little Sebastian or darling Charlotte has a sugary drink and many of us are still paying for the damage caused to the playgroup's bouncy castle as a result. That is why we send our children to fee paying schools where we can insist, through the power of money, on what the children eat.
Yet can we be sure that if working class children were once more given wholesome food they would, when older, once more offer us our due deference, throw away their repulsive track suits and cheerfully die for us in our delightful world wars? If we could be sure of that, I too might support the current clamour for Jamie's beatification when Pope John Paul's II successor ascends to the papacy. Jamie, with his exaggerated facial features, might also make an excellent gargoyle on the Vatican roof - spouting water for a change.
Illustration by: Al Stuart firstname.lastname@example.org