The Daily Telegraph
He’s not the Messiah, he’s (still) a very cheeky boy
Back in the days when Jamie Oliver was trying to improve schoolchildren’s eating habits by declaring war on the Turkey Twizzler, he was dubbed “the Messiah”. This came to mind when watching his new series, Jamie Oliver: Together (Channel 4). The menu was slow-roasted lamb, not loaves and fishes, but just how did he make one average-sized tray of roast potatoes and a single gravy boat stretch to a party of 15 people? It’s either divine intervention, or the magic of television.
The theme of this show is cooking for family and friends now that lockdown is over. Oliver cooks in his home, with his children given supporting roles on camera as they dip in and out of the kitchen and run free in the garden. Everything is bathed in golden light. It looks pretty idyllic, although the show makes a point of including moments that are reassuringly normal. As when Oliver’s wife, Jools, enlists the kids to lay the table, and one of them complains: “Mum, I’m bored.”
Some people find Jamie Oliver annoying. But he seems to me to be a force for good. He enthuses about ingredients and about the communal aspect of eating. And his recipes are
straightforward; since his Naked Chef days, he has done a brilliant job of demystifying the process of cooking.
His approach hasn’t really changed in all that time – still sloshing on the olive oil like he’s got shares in Filippo Berio, and serving us EPIC roast lamb with THE MOST INCREDIBLE stuffing, a starter of AMAZING tomatoes and a pudding of GORGEOUS strawberries with panna cotta and some broken shortbread biscuits (“bash the hell out of them, boom boom boom”). Take a swig of his CHEEKY mango cocktail every time he describes something in this episode as “beautiful” and you won’t make it to the closing credits.
But it all looked tasty, and Oliver threw in useful little tips along the way that you can apply to your everyday cooking: grating tomatoes to make a sauce, dousing strawberries in elderflower cordial for a bit of extra zing, or adding a spoonful of blackcurrant jam to the roasting tin when making lamb gravy.
Oliver seemed to be finding the whole thing a pleasure, and who can blame him? The poor man filmed his last series in lockdown without a crew, some of it on an iphone, while homeschooling five kids. At times he looked as if he hadn’t slept in weeks. No wonder he’s looking happy now. T he title of Look Away (Sky Documentaries) is taken from a song of the same name by Iggy Pop. It begins: “I slept with Sable when she was 13/Her parents were too rich to do anything/she rocked her way around LA/’TIL a New York Doll carried her away.” It appeared on the 1996 album Naughty Little Doggie, and none of the reviews remarked upon the lyrics. Sable Starr was a real person, a notorious “groupie” in the 1970s.
The word “groupie” has a lot to answer for. It brings to mind sexually confident young women who know what they’re doing. But those who featured in this sobering documentary weren’t women when they met rock stars. They were children. Yet those rock stars continue to be feted.
It made ugly listening, as these women looked back on their youth. To see Julia Holcomb, now a devout Catholic mother living in the suburbs, you would never guess at her past. But, aged 16, Julia met Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler; he asked whether she was still a virgin and took her back to his room.
In a detail to make your skin crawl, Tyler applied to be Holcomb’s legal guardian, so that he could take her on tour. Her mother agreed. He asked her to have his baby, and then an abortion when he began seeing someone else.
The tour managers and record execs turned a blind eye. Holcomb recalled just one, unnamed celebrity who was concerned enough to ask her age and the whereabouts of her parents.
These girls didn’t think they were being taken advantage of because doesn’t every teenager consider themselves to be grown-up? Jackie Fuchs was in The Runaways, but being on the way to rock stardom herself provided no protection: the story she told of being drugged and raped by her (now dead) band manager was horrific.
The film was not a detailed investigation, relying only on these testimonies; Tyler and Axl Rose (also named here) declined to comment. Other famous names, including David Bowie, were casually tossed in. But does anyone care enough to make this the music industry’s #Metoo moment? Or will it continue to be written off as rock star excess from a different era?