ID: Jack Monroe, 26
The story: “Druggies, drunks and single mums are driving upmarket shops out of Southend,” screamed a headline in Jack Monroe’s local paper, and the newly single mom got so angry she started attending Southend council meetings, in England’s Essex county, and reporting about local politics. She was particularly curious about people arguing in favour of closing down the libraries, cutting funding to community centres and decrying social assistance recipients. She had lost her job in the local fire department and was accumulating an impressive record of unsuccessful job applications — she was facing the reality that she might have to apply for benefits herself. After rent and bills, there was about £10 left for food, and her blog became a make-do-cook blog, documenting her strategies to feed her son and herself on a minuscule budget. The food blogosphere and Twitter started paying attention, and so did the mainstream media and politicians.
Fast forward to today: Monroe writes a column in The Guardian, her first cookbook came out this year with Penguin (the second one is in the works), and her blog gets two million weekly visitors. She still cooks low-cost meals. She lives with her new partner and her son in Southend.
In her own words: On why she gave away a considerable fee for appearing in a Sainsbury’s commercial: “My principle, and it’s the one that I stuck to right from the start — because I get approached by the brands all the time — is to ask myself, would I do this for free. Because if I would do it for free, I know it’s something that I believe in. I was approached by the supermarkets before . . . and I said, No, because I don’t shop there and it’s not honest. So when Sainsbury’s turned up, I thought, Well, it’s only to be doing for 45 seconds on the telly what I’ve been doing on my blog for the past two years, which is, ‘Hi, I’m Jack, I shop at Sainsbury’s and this is what I do.’ So I said yes. As soon as I detached myself from the financial side of it and realized that I was willing to do it for nothing, I realized I didn’t want the money. I took the living wage and gave the rest away [to Oxfam]. I didn’t want to be doing it for the money.” BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, Feb 26, 2014.
Other claims to fame: Those arm tattoos. Cats named Miliband and Harriet, after the Labour Party politicians. Busking with Billy Bragg.
Check this out: Curry with bananas and black tea. Peanut-butter frozen yogurt. Sausage and beer casserole. Cabbage griddle scones. (Last three in the book.)
Also check out Dykes in the kitchen, Part 1, featuring drunken chef Hannah Hart.