I started writing my blog, A Girl Called Jack, in February 2012, in response to a local councillor who claimed that ‘druggies, drunks and single mums are ruining the High Street.’ What started as a local politics blog developed into budget food and recipes, which were picked up with interest by the national press as I detailed living with my son on a food budget of just £10 a week due to delays in unemployment benefits, and sometimes they weren’t paid at all. Housing Benefit seems to be exceptionally messy, especially if you lose your job or move house, or both.
I ended up writing a cookbook for Penguin based on my blog, that was published in February 2014. My second cookbook was more of a food diary through the rollercoaster year that took me from sleeping on a mattress on the floor of a bedroom in a house share, to having a food column in the Guardian and a book that sat at the top of the paperback charts – a thing that still humbles and amazes me.
I am an active campaigner, fronting a petition with Unite, The Trussell Trust and The Mirror demanding politicians debate the causes of foodbank use and hunger in Britain. Within 4 days the petition had secured 100,000 signatures, and the debate was held in the House Of Commons three weeks later. I am a patron of The Food Chain, and support The Trussell Trust, Child Poverty Action Group, and Oxfam.
And I’m a totally out gay woman. So if that kind of thing offends you, well, you’re not going to like my blog. I’ve been in the Independent’s Pink List for the last 2 years (it’s a Rainbow List now!) and on the front cover of Diva magazine twice – I never really saw myself as cover girl material, but it’s been a pretty strange few years.
I write a weekly recipe column for The Guardian, and regularly contribute political bits to The Mirror, The Independent and The Guardian. I was once a regular on the Sky News sofa before school runs put paid to all of that, Channel 4 and BBC radio, commenting on food, politics, and current affairs.
I’ve won some stuff over the past few years, notably a large bronze eagle from the Women Of The Year award, a very sharp Blok knife cast in resin given to me by Jay Rayner with a kiss at the OFM awards, a tiny silver hamper from the Fortnum And Mason Food And Drink Awards, and some other bits and pieces that are used as door stops around the house because, well, what are you meant to do with them?!
Some people I like lots said some nice stuff too:
“Sassy, political, and cooking amazing food on GBP10 a week. We need more like her”. (Xanthe Clay, The Telegraph).
“She is a breath of fresh air in the cooking world” – Nigel Slater.
“Every now and then a food writer with a fresh and authentic voice comes along, and Jack Monroe is that rare find. Her recipes are founded on the ideal of eating well on a budget, but there is nothing drab about her food: it’s as vibrant as her voice; and A Girl Called Jack is full of food with bold flavour, recipes that beg to become part of your daily repertoire. This is a book with charm and brio, and a true helpmeet in the kitchen.” – Nigella Lawson.
“Compelling, if sobering reading.” – Lisa Markwell, The Independent on Sunday.
…and some people I don’t like so much said some things that I take wildly out of context to read as more flattering than they were intended:
“A cross between Yvette Cooper and Delia Smith, with tattoos.” – Richard Littlejohn, The Daily Mail.