Jamie Oliver has bothered me for most of the time that I’ve been aware of him, but I was never able to put a finger on what exactly I found untoward about him. All I knew was that he seemed rather obnoxious, even though, looking objectively at his demeanor and career, he should have seemed perfectly pleasant. Mind you, my feelings about him were never ones of oh my God I’ma fucking choke that smug cunt. They were more like, uh, maybe that guy should talk less and cook more, a vague sense that since the kitchen has historically been regarded as a place of subjugation and submission for womankind, surely it can function likewise for that overly glib Englishman. These were just inchoate thoughts, though.
I started figuring out what I don’t like about Jamie Oliver through a process of elimination: I don’t resent him for being thin and trim (I’ve had skinny friends and bosses without feeling any resentment for them, and besides, Oliver has nothing on famous stout shorty Sam Dotson for unforced joie de vivre), or for being healthy (I generally feel healthy and vigorous enough), or for being wealthier and more famous than me per se (many flush celebrities look absolutely miserable to me, and many are credibly described thus by their associates), or for being a cook (I don’t resent restaurant cooks for their line of work; to the contrary, I personally know several accomplished restaurant chefs whom I consider excellent company).
I realized that my objections to Oliver had to be over something narrower than any of this. What I came to realize is that there’s something very subtly scolding and smug about the guy. It’s dressed up in the personable shtick of the pub chef from your local back in Canterbury-upon-Wanking or whatever the fuck, but it’s there, and the veneer really isn’t all that thick. It shouldn’t have taken me so long to start figuring Jamie Oliver out, since health food activism, one of his big thangs, is a lodestone for insufferably obnoxious holier-than-thou shitheads. Hizzoner Michael Bloomberg, cafeteria matron-in-chief of New York City, thinks that you drink too much soda, so maybe he’ll have Daniel Pantaleo choke you dead on the sidewalk for selling Pathmark Cola singles. That kind of thing.
Oliver’s version of health food activism isn’t vicious like Hizzoner’s. For the most part, it looks to be genuinely based on a love for the virtues of healthy eating. Even so, there’s a certain bothersome superiority to him, and an appearance that he’s somehow catfishing us. It’s like, sure, he’s the owner-chef from your local back in Dover-on-Buggermearse, a Home Counties everyman, but we shouldn’t forget that he’s on TV all the damn time, so surely he’s more Cathedral than Cockney. We aren’t supposed to examine guys like Jamie Oliver too closely. There’s shit going down just behind the curtain, and if we pay too much attention, we might see the curtain moving suspiciously. The artistry is only as subtle as it has to be. Sometimes–say, when the masters assume that we’re a bunch of total and intractable idiots–it has no subtlety at all.
There’s something worth discussing in a bit more detail about Oliver’s upbringing as the son of pubkeepers in rural Assex–I mean, uh–hehheh, Butthead, I just said “ass” and “sex.” #Cornholio #Bunghole. Specifically, Oliver comes from a family that has actually made the Home Counties model of smallholding independence work, more or less. This model is much beloved in parts of England, especially Southern ones close to London, but preferably not too close. Lady Thatcher so loved it that she made it compulsory for all of Britain. Can you tell me how to get, how to get to–no, Oscar, I meant to say “Electric Avenue,” you filthy pile of rags. Constable Millington: you’ve rocked down to it before; perhaps you remember how to get there? No, my charge is just fine; no need for a topoff to get me where I’m going.
Not to get too amped up, my point is that this crypto-Jeffersonian model of rural English yeomanry, probably most successful in the Home Counties (and in any event, most politically popular there in recent decades) has from time to time been forced on other parts of Great Britain which have recently been ruined by the collapse of crypto-Hamiltonian industrial economies. The actual working model of Jeffersonian smallholding independence isn’t replicated, because a folkway so intricate and dependent on local economic circumstances can’t be airdropped into an alien locality structured around a completely different model, so instead the smugness of Wicked South Go Galt blowhards and their pigfucking Oxbridge Conservative MP’s is used as a social control in the hope of whipping the natives into shape. When that doesn’t work, maybe because the saucier Scousers threaten to weigh a public school Kentish bastard down in chains and put him on a ferry only halfway across the Mersey, the smug Southerners resort to namecalling, mainly for the benefit of their more obnoxious constituents back home, combined with attempts to starve noncompliant communities to points north and west of the righteous parts of the country by denying them central government welfare funds.
They’ll rebuild Coventry if the damned Huns bomb it, but if their own fuck-your-lot industrial policy predictably fails, the Northwest-of-Eden losers are on their own, with their uselessly backwards accents. A large part of the Conservative Party is a version of Doc Martin who tells his patients to go starve and freeze to death in that gutter because they should have stayed in school instead of becoming a bunch of bloody chavs. They’re often successful at getting useful yeoman idiots in their ridings to believe that the widespread socioeconomic failure of people in other ridings farther from Westminster is the result of an underlying moral failure on the part of the natives and in no way the result of vicious central planning on behalf of, say, international elites in the City who shit on rent girls.
Yeoman virtue is practically impossible in places where yeoman living is impossible. Pick any number of postindustrial cities in the North of England, failing mining towns in Wales, or hardscrabble urban parts of Scotland where there’s a growing political consensus to take the oil fields and leave the fucking limeys with the gas out of their own arseholes, plus whatever they can tap from the mouth of that wanker Charles III. Firing several thousand miners or shipbuilders and giving them lectures instead of new jobs won’t turn the lot of them into Jamie Oliver’s parents or some shit. Their cities will go to hell in a hurry because the government is dominated by officials who feel contempt for them. The results include welfare chavs, Trainspotting, afternoon outings in pajamas, The Full Monty (featuring audio by Gary “Nguyen Phung” Glitter, aka Rock and Roll, Part Eww), unplanned pregnancies by the unemployed, and a dismayingly large number of very fat people who eat too many helpings of fish and chips without permission from their betters. Sam Dotson would be the skinny one around some of these people, but if he heard about the tikka masala, he’d probably ask where he could get some. Billy Nungesser, a more publicly taciturn fatty, wouldn’t possibly object to intersectional obesity with any Briton who will even entertain the possibility that an Andouille po’ boy and a bowl of jambalaya is good eatin’. Jamie Oliver is the one who always sounds like maybe he objects to his fat (and poor) countrymen for not spending enough time holed up in their council estates cooking veg.
The real trouble, though, isn’t with Oliver himself, but with all the other hip skinnies he gives cover in their battle against Large & Son. Anything to do with the health food movement inevitably brings a horde of insufferable assholes to the yard. Oliver gives great respectability to a movement that is in large part (heh) frankly quite disreputable. Much of the noise comes from status whores who appear less interested in eating correctly per se than in scoring points for eating correctly. This is why there are these obnoxious faux-retro fridge magnets in circulation saying things like, “Try organic food. Or, as our grandparents called it, ‘food.'” Joe Dirtbag and the Family Shrew have one of these (why am I not surprised?) showing a couple of young people dressed in a fashion that was still current in the fifties (and probably into the sixties in backwards areas), i.e., a time when processed foods were becoming ubiquitous and popular. “Our” grandfathers, for that matter, ate lots of crappy processed foods during the war, too. Field chow has rarely not sucked ass. These magnets are great for people who aren’t preening right this second about their mellow-ass love of dogs by driving around with one of the god-awful, and appalling prolific, “Wag More, Bark Less” bumper stickers. Yeah, if you’re so fucking mellow, maybe you could show it by ending your four-year profession of butthurt and giving me a decent place to stay while I’m working as your farm bitch. It’s just a suggestion. Does anyone have a “Nursing: The Caring Profession” sticker that I can drop off at the visitors’ gate for Charles Cullen the next time I’m passing through on the RiverLine?
What’s amazingly fucked up about Joe Dirtbag and the Family Shrew keeping obnoxious Crunchy Nation swag in their kitchen is that their combination of health food grandstanding (almost a solid week of it by the Shrew before JD’s big meltdown), disinhibited belligerence, high-frequency indoor shouting matches, and butthurt refusal to let me give this dysfunctional room and board arrangement another try because I’d offended them by walking out on them is the reason why I haven’t had regular access to full kitchen facilities for most of the past four years. That’s some real dedication to home cooking right there.
Some months after I had fallen from their grace, Joe Dirtbag offered to bring me food from their place so that I wasn’t just eating canned Indian food, but he was such a condescending asshole about it that I didn’t take him up on the offer. His tone was so over-the-top offensive that he might as well have told me that I needn’t confine my diet to dog kibble and Fancy Feast. In point of fact, I was not JUST eating canned Indian food; I was taking quite a few meals at Burger King or Arby’s, too, and snacking at 7-Eleven, but I had places to put the trash from these joints other than out on some counter (I burned quite a bit of it). This asshole wanted to lord it over me by suggesting that I was incapable of properly feeding myself and being my kitchen social worker. Fuck him. If I’d gotten totally sick of canned Indian food, I’d have stopped buying and eating the canned Indian food. I might have baked some dinners for myself at the farm, but the leftovers of rodents’ nests had been contaminating the oven for years, and I hardly even felt like using the stove top much because the entire stove was surrounded by an aura of non-point-source filth. It still is. Once again, it takes some real dedication to the virtue of cooking from scratch to provide a doubly indoor rat’s nest surrounded by piles of dusty, contaminated-looking junk as cooking facilities for one’s tenants and employees.
To be blunt, that fucker and his wife enjoy the unimpeded sole use of full kitchen facilities that aren’t flagrantly squalid, and I don’t. Kitchen privilege is a real privilege. It’s a rarer and rarer one these days, as more and more Americans get evicted or foreclosed into transient hell. The expression of this socioeconomic nightmare in my own life is that bitch I don’t have a kitchen, and for this reason bitch I can’ t cook. Sure, go ahead and lecture me about how I should be more resourceful in my quest to cook from scratch by alternate means. Lecture me from your $10,000 kitchen. Lecture us all. Someone gave Joe Dirtbag and the Family Shrew a new oven a few years ago, in this case not my parents. The universe does them a solid from time to time, just as they always expected of it. The universe still hasn’t put me in line for any sort of stable housing, let alone a place that I own and that has room for a new free stove.
Not too coincidentally, Joe Dirtbag decided to lord it over me the other day with some leisurely concern-trolling about the condition of my car’s front hood. He said he was afraid that the duct tape would come loose and send the hood flying towards the windshield. Yes, all six strips of tape, three on each side, will simultaneously come loose with catastrophic results, and no, I do not keep an eye on the hood while I’m on the road to make sure that the tape is holding.
God, what a dipshit. He seemed to be concern-trolling me by way of small talk, because yuck. At my environmental consulting firm, we had a colleague in my service line, basically the office dork, who once went around in a state of some concern asking a number of us whether a forty-pound granulated activated carbon unit (a sort of light industrial Brita filter) would bottom out the Taurus that he had rented. I was gullible enough to initially think that maybe he had a point well taken. This bullshit about the tape keeping my hood closed was even worse. Joe Dirtbag wasn’t even worried about his own safety. He claimed to be worried about mine. Funny thing that he never shows any concern about my welfare when he has an opportunity to house me or not endanger my life by filling up a 225-liter barrel on a piece of shit table made out of old fence pickets and a few two-by-fours.
Even worse, he asked me if I open up the tape and check the oil from time to time. Cracka you clownin’? It wasn’t like I’d come crying to him in the event of car trouble; I know that his current car depleted my dad’s Gobias Some Wheels fund. What a fucking asshole. No, I haven’t been checking the oil, but it isn’t any of his goddamn business. He isn’t financially supporting me; I’m financially supporting him by not demanding my investment money back, and I’m working his land. In any event, my car is still working, even though it’s a lot older and more used than his, since my dad bought him that car seven or eight years after buying me mine.
There are so many diverse White Whines around here, some pleaded on the plaintiff’s behalf, some pleaded by proxy, just to be a meddlesome shithead, but every one of them pairs beautifully with a Manchego fuck yourself. It’s a glorious mystery of la dolce vita.
Preceding content sponsored by The Krush 92.5: still not the Central Coast’s favorite listen-in-prison station.