Why Jamie Oliver, foodies and London’s Borough Market make my blood boil

By on January 9, 2014
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Borough Market is located near London Bridge station

PEOPLE get pissed off when London-based journalists write a load of stuff about London. I know how they feel.

I grew up in Cork and read a lot about Dublin in the national newspapers and Dublin might as well have been Dunedin for all I knew or cared about it. The implication behind all of this coverage was that life in Dublin was fuller and more vital and than life elsewhere. From a young age I suspected that was b******s.

I imagine the Post readers from outside London have a similar antipathy towards the city by the Thames. And they’re right too. The idea that there is so much to do and see every day in London compared to other places is flawed. There is a little part of this city that, every weekend, proves that there isn’t all that much going on here; if people keep flocking to this spot then there can’t be a surplus of other options. That place is Borough Market.

If you haven’t been, Borough Market is a food market near London Bridge station. If you want to pay 16 quid for a lump of cheese or £11.50 for an organic bison-rib hotdog in pear and cinnamon chutney between a steamed, gluten-free bun then you’re in the right place.

And there are a lot of people in this place on a Saturday or Sunday.

In the warren of narrow allies between the stalls, about 78,000 swollen young professionals that usually nudge and elbow each other out of the way in pursuit of career advancement do the same in pursuit of grub. At least in work they don’t have to pretend to be enjoying it all of the time.

I was there once with the better half. We were new in town and it was recommended in one of the guide books. I never returned and I never opened that book again.

Lots of places get referred to as being Dante’s Seventh Circle of Hell. I think that’s over the top. This isn’t hell, just a particularly unappealing neighbourhood of purgatory.

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Anyone for an organic bioson-rib hot-dog?

One where you are destined to wander a frustrating path, around and around, while hundreds heave against you and block your road. In this purgatory you’re starving and all you want is a munch but you have to stay hungry because no matter how much you want to eat something, anything, a voice in your head – the non-London part – says, “a tenner for an ostrich and halloumi pepper burger … are you on drugs!?”

So round and round you go, your hunger and insanity rising with every slowly-completed lap.

Perhaps I’m being unfair to old Borough Market. Clearly a lot of people like it. For me it just the right mix of ingredients to make my blood pressure climb. In this stew pot we have pretentious metro-dwelling yuppies, rip-off prices, over-crowding, over-hyping and the key flavour that gives this dish its signature – the foodie.

I really can’t stand foodie people.

I want to marinate them in a chopped-squid sauce and then shallow fry them in a bed of live condor eels. The fact that any adult would call themselves a foodie is crime enough. The word sounds infantile and sappy. But there’s another dimension to this – that being that they are some kind of connoisseur.

In truth all they are doing is going from artisan market stall to pop up restaurant to their own gadget-laden kitchen AND STUFFING THEIR FACES.

Look, if you want to shove crap down your gullet, if you’re addicted to sugar and salt and carbohydrate and fat and protein and sweet and sour and everything in between then fair enough. I have no cote de boeuf with you. But if you’re going to try and pass it off as some kind of hobby, well, that’s where the problem begins.

We all like the stuff we shouldn’t. I’ve chowed down my share of rich, calorific junk. But I don’t see this as a good thing. It’s not. This stuff is bad for you – much as drinking loads of lager or smoking Johnny Blue is bad for you too. But you wouldn’t see a couple of lads down the pub talk to each other like this.

Jamie Oliver does little to help the foodie cause

Jamie Oliver: if his food is so healthy then shouldn’t he be slimmer?

“I’m a drinkie person”.

“Oh yeah? Me too, although sometimes I wonder if I’m more of a smokie person? I smoke every day, 40 cigs, never less than that.”

“Wow, you must really know your fags.”

“Yeah, been smoking since I was 11. Tried all the brands before settling on Rothmans.”

That would be a ridiculous conversation. To me, all of this foodie culture and TV chef stuff is just as mad. I see them all on the telly lumping in butter and salt and sugar and giving it a good old shake and bake and “there you go darling, have a nibble on that”.

Maybe people think if your double-chocolate cupcakes are made in a beautifully appointed kitchen with flattering lighting then it’s fine. You can take your vice and turn it into your passion!

The same people walk past McDonalds and scoff. At least the folk in McDonalds know that they’re not doing a great thing by wolfing down a large chicken sandwich meal followed by a strawberry sundae.

But you have your Jamie Oliver characters on the telly educating us to the dangers of processed fast food and then selling books about how we should be making our own stuff instead. His natural ingredients are no doubt more healthy than the E numbers and trans fats – but they can’t be that healthy.

Every time I see that mockney geezer chef on telly I’m thinking the same thing: “Jamie, if all this stuff is so good, then why are you so fat? If the camera adds 10 pounds then you must have four cameras pointed at you.

“You need to take that serving spoon out of the old north and south. You need to get out of the kitchen, buy a bike or a pair of runners. You need to cut down on your porklife, mate, GET SOME EXERCISE.”

This foodie nonsense ain’t just a London thing – it has spread, a layer of flab around the belly of popular culture that needs a serious work out.

Ronan Early

About Ronan Early

Ronan Early is Sports Editor and columnist with The Irish Post. Follow him on Twitter @RonanEarly

10 Comments

  1. Michael Burke

    January 9, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Totally agree. Having lived in Birmingham all my life I moved to London a few years ago to do some work there for 3 months. There was nothing more on offer there than there is in Birmingham, except it cost more money to do it in London.

    And God forbid you tell anyone that London isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

  2. Derp

    January 10, 2014 at 11:01 am

    Non Londoners bitching about London! STOP THE PRESS.

  3. James

    January 10, 2014 at 11:41 am

    You don’t like Borough Market. We get it.

    However…

    “This stuff is bad for you – much as drinking loads of lager or smoking Johnny Blue is bad for you too. But you wouldn’t see a couple of lads down the pub talk to each other like this.”

    Hmm. There are plenty of people who are into trying interesting beers (try asking CAMRA) or smoking and comparing cigars for their hobbies. While I’m not a fan of the term ‘foodie’, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for some people to want to spend their spare time finding and trying interesting and new foods.

  4. Russell

    January 10, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    I agree with James and Derp.
    Okay, so, you don’t like it. Um, so what? Why should we, the readers, care?
    Don’t be such a stubborn stick in the mud determined to ruin other people’s fun. Take some joy out of life for a change! Granted all those yuppies and foodies might be detestable, but it’s better than listening to you moan and droan on here like a moron with nothing positive or interesting to say.
    Don’t like it? Go to the supermarket like everyone else and then use all that time and effort you saved by NOT going to Borough Market to think of something more interesting to write about.

  5. Jon Myles

    January 10, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    My God.
    That’s some rant for no purpose whatsoever.
    Borough Market exists. It has some good stalls and outlets and I eat there fairly often.
    So what’s the problem?
    Price? Taste? Variety?
    Just go shop elsewhere.
    But please don’t right a column about bits of London you hate. It’s tired and very old.

  6. Alex

    January 10, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    Silly article of the new year alert… struggling for things to write about already? Doesn’t bode well does it…?

    There are some silly, faddy and overpriced foods on sale at Borough, but there are also some of the most exquisite foods going there. Cheeses, cured meats, ingredients that are out of this world.

    Just because you don’t/ can’t/ refuse to appreciate them don’t bore the rest of us with it.

  7. T R Dallas

    January 10, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    Some of the posters are taking this a little too seriously. The article was a light hearted side swipe at the pretentious tests who infest our media with vacuous food-related nonsense. Be honest, at one time or another, you must have wanted to place your size tens through the screen when Oliver comes out with his mockney “nice bit of rocket,geezer” rubbish. As for the Borough Market, alas it has gone seriously downhill in the past 3 years or so. A lot of other good food markets have sprung up and left Borough looking like a shabby tourist attraction.

  8. Chris

    January 14, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    what an awful article this is, I understand it’s not to everyone’s ‘taste’ but for someone to go once and then write an article ridiculing everything about it is shocking!
    I hated Dublin first time I went, full of pissed up red faced tourists trying to copy the locals jig their way home. I have returned twice since and now love the place.
    Also I understand that the market is a one trick pony but that’s why it’s there! the market is one of the last remaining old London tourist attractions that are surrounded by quality pubs (which sell food by the way, u mentioned u were starving?). Borough has had to reduce it’s opening days to weekends because of shit lazy articles like this putting people off. It’s also down to middle class yuppy types opening up smaller ‘foodie’ places that under cut the market and also attract the chinless wonders away from the market. The market has huge character and history and needs as much support as possible.

    As for your comments about Jamie Oliver, I hope he doesn’t read them! The guys done amazing things for kids eating more healthily and trying to help this country eat better. The fact you’ve had to insult his weight shows how lazy you are as a journalist but shows that his first attention is not for his own health but for our children.

    Next time maybe you should try shopping at the tescos express across the road? A lot cheaper and less crowded

  9. Avril O'reilly

    January 14, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Thanks Irish Post for this fine ranting article…I love Borough Market…but I also love opinionated journalism. Ronan, I found the trick to it was arrive early and sample mead, prosecco and cider as you go. Leave early before the kids arrive, especially if the word ‘yummy’ drives you nuts.

  10. Johnny W

    January 16, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    As someone has worked in the market and who leads gourmet tours around Brixton & Borough market this article has made me laugh. A lot. Out loud. On my own. Taken with a pinch of salt it should be in Private Eye mag or elsewhere. Yes, Borough has lost its “authentic” wholesale market origins, and the stalwart characters have melted away. Visiting on a Saturday may wish you to stab your own eyes out with a blunt chip fork, but go at the right times and cherry-pick your choices and there are great tastes & great value to be had. Chowing down on the iconic Brindisa chorizo roll (£3.75) washed down with a fab ale at The Rake is one of London’s more simple pleasures. There is much to celebrate, from at least 1000 years of history to genuinely world beating food suppliers. Everyone has a genuine passion for the food they purvey, and when it all gets too much just slip into the beautiful Southwark Cathedral or cross the road for a pint at the George Inn (aka Shakespeare’s Local). If nothing else then just celebrate the fact that the market was not sold-off in the late 1990′s and turned into a generic mixed-use retailing scheme. Look at Covent Garden now ( a true Dante’s Hell) and you get the idea. Bon appetit!

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