Jamie Oliver: ‘About 3/10 of our family meals are idyllic – that’s normal’

Jamie Oliver: ‘About 3/10 of our family meals are idyllic – that’s normal’

You might imagine meals in Jamie Oliver’s household to be blissful, well-mannered scenes of his picture-perfect family digging into his cookbook classics, so it’s nice to know the TV chef and child health campaigner experiences the same problems as most parents when it comes to kids and food.

“What was my last count? A million children?” he laughs. Five actually, in case you’ve lost count too, Poppy Honey, 17, Daisy Boo, 16, Petal Blossom, 10, Buddy Bear, 9, and River Rocket, 3, with wife Jools, 44.

“They’re pretty good, we’re pretty lucky, but how do we get the good stuff in the kids? It’s a normal life and normal relationship with food and kids – it’s constant antagonisation and stress. They do, they don’t, they love, they don’t, they’re happy, they’re sad.

“How many of your family meals are beautiful and idyllic? Mine? About three out of 10. So the fact is, it’s normal,” he says.

For his latest cookbook, Veg, and accompanying show Jamie’s Meat-Free Meals, the 44-year-old focused on, you guessed it, all things plant-based. So does he have any tips for getting kids to eat more of the green stuff?

“Anything that’s handheld, they think is really fun. Anything with pasta works, even my little baby River eats the sunshine pasta [a new recipe in Veg]. Use any pasta you like for it, it’s really about the peppers – caponata is basically peppers cooked in a beautiful way to give you sweetness and sourness. It turns into a homely, child-friendly sort of pasta.”

Being a parent of kids with such differences in age does present additional issues though, Oliver says.

“It’s a challenge in my house, because I’ve got teenagers, very different to [having] an eight and 10-year-old from a palate point of view – and then I’ve got a three-year-old. The teenagers are getting into the sort of food that adults would want now.

“We try and cook the same food for all of them, but we might serve it in slightly different ways,” he explains. “When you’re a parent, you keep it quite modular, not everything mixed together – they might scream at you for mixing things up! The younger ones do.”

He says it’s been an interesting challenge seeing his children’s tastes develop as they’ve grown.

“Generally, when they’re quite young, it’s more of a painter’s palette, and then as the years go on, we start mixing things, and then you give the 10-year-old whatever and they crack on. Then actually, the teenagers became fussier again, because they want more contemporary stuff –  they want a foam all of a sudden, or they’re well into sushi!

“My mum and dad still haven’t eaten sushi and my kids think it’s normal. And I don’t think it’s just my kids in London.”

(Paul Stuart/PA)
(Paul Stuart/PA)

Veg by Jamie Oliver, photography by David Loftus and Paul Stuart, is published by Penguin Random House © Jamie Oliver Enterprises Ltd (2019 Veg), Available now, priced £26.

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