Life & Culture

TV review: Jamie's Great Britain


Jamie Oliver divides people into two camps - those who find him admirable and inspiring, if a bit irritating, and those who find him just irritating.

I fall into the former group, but whatever your opinion of the man, you cannot argue with the scope of his work. The kitchen's likeliest lad has evolved into a campaigner for healthy food, a charity patron, an entrepreneur, and now in his latest guise, a food historian.

Jamie's Great Britain is not exactly gimmick free - it does, after all, see Oliver trundling around the country in a mobile pub called The Cock in Cider (oo'er missus). However, under the cheeky exterior lies a deeply serious, if increasingly portly man. And this is his quest to get to grips with our nation's food - not just stuff cooked by the natives, mind, but the contribution of more or less everyone who has settled here, including the Jews.

Oliver stopped in Leeds to sample chicken soup and kneidls prepared by three Leeds ladies, Dorrie, Sarah and Marcia.

We might be a little down on our own food traditions sometimes, but Jamie looked touchingly enthused by the whole thing. Not only was chicken soup "an all-time Jewish classic", but he was quick to remind everyone about the dishes we had introduced. "Salt beef sandwiches - Jewish; smoked salmon and cream cheese - Jewish; fish and chips - Jewish.

He even supplied, in typical manner, a telling analysis of why Jewish dishes tend to involve a lot of preserved meat, fish and pickles. "Everything the Jews produced could travel well, which is just as well because you guys did a lot of travelling," he explained.

Then for his pièce de résistance, Oliver became possibly the first person in history to attempt a fusion dish of Yorkshire and Jewish cuisine. His take was a Yorkshire pudding stuffed with a haimishe-inspired smoked trout dish, which used "Jewish" ingredients, including smoked fish, cream cheese and horseradish, spooned into Yorkshire puddings (the recipe for which was supplied by a man in a pub who claimed they rose so high you had to scrape them off the top of the oven - they had all had a few beers by then).

"It's the story of classic Yorkshire life and the Jewish community brought together by some raving idiot in the middle of a field," said Jamie.

An entertaining, thought provoking show - and not a "luvvly jubbly" in sight.

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