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Jack Monroe

Jack Monroe the journalist, author and food poverty campaigner appeared at Edinburgh Wellbeing Festival at The Assembly Rooms last month Mrs Bite and contributor Tracy Griffen put some questions to Jack. Thanks, Jack for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer our sometimes tricky, sometimes plain nosey questions. 

If you could wave a magic food wand, is there one policy or law you would implement to eradicate or help alleviate food poverty? 
Abolish the Tory Government and put in a coalition of Greens, Lib Dems, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Labour. Minus Kate Hoey. That’d be a start. 

What is your favourite or most useful kitchen utensil?
My hands. 

What do you think is the tastiest way to cook a turnip?
Pickle it! Finely slice it very thinly and blanch it in boiling water for two minutes. Drain half the water away and replace with white vinegar - [pickling vinegar is cheap] - and a tablespoon of sugar, a few pinches of salt and some spices of choice. Mustard and garlic are excellent choices! Pop in a clean jar, making sure the pickling liquid covers the turnips all the way to the neck of the jar to knock any excess air out. Leave for a week before enjoying.

What do you think the long term implications of food poverty are for our children?
Social isolation, illness, fewer life choices, etc. Social mobility in this country is an absolute joke; our politicians pay lip service to it while slashing the very support systems that help children from disadvantaged backgrounds to thrive.

You have Cypriot heritage – what are your favourite Cypriot foods and/or dishes?
Moussaka, avgolemono, koupepia, kokkinisto are the foods of my childhood.

What is your favourite snack for kids?
My boy likes apple crisps, which is lucky I guess, and crackers with spready cheese. When we are out and about, I get him baby food snacks like Ellas Kitchen pouches or similar, as at least they aren't pumped full of nonsense.

Name a few tasty dishes you can cook based on a tin of tomatoes.
Soup, curry, chilli, gazpacho, pasta sauce, lasagne, bolognese, puttanesca, panzanella…

What will be our national post-Brexit dish?
Rat soup, probably. 

What is your go-to/must-have booze for cooking and how do you mostly use it?
None, I’m sober.

Do you think every citizen should have ‘a right to food and if yes why?
Yes, because food is a fundamental human right and it’s an abomination that people in the sixth richest economy in the world are starving.

Your recipes are great – where did you learn to cook?
I taught myself, starting with the backs of pasta sauce jars and writing the ingredients down, then through experimentation and research. I used the BBC Good Food website a lot, Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals, and an old second-hand Gordon Ramsey book, so I learned from the best!

I believe you have recently become vegetarian, what are your reasons and what do you miss (if anything)?
I still cook with meat and fish for work so I can't reasonably describe myself as vegan, it pisses ‘real' vegans off. But I am writing a veggie and vegan cookbook and think that if we all reduced our meat and dairy consumption a little, it would make a significant difference to our personal health and the health of our environment. We don't all have to do everything, but we can all do a little.

Which TV Chef do you most admire and why?
Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, Sabrina Ghayour, all for doing their own thing in their own way and not conforming to the bullyboy nature of the kitchen; three strong, smart and completely different women who I am proud to call friends.

What is your idea of a romantic meal? 
Something I haven’t had to cook myself!

What is your favourite breakfast?
Pancakes. At the weekend I make dozens of them for my family, and we all take them back to my bed for a picnic, cuddles, and the newspapers. It's a blissful family routine and one I hope we continue for many years to come.

What did you focus on at The Well-Being Festival?
The place that food has in our emotional wellbeing as well as physical and mental.

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