Well hello my wonderful readers. It’s been a year since my last cookbook came out, and I am inundated with messages every day, asking when my next book is coming out.
The good news is, it is nearly written. A hundred budget recipes, in the same style as that surprisingly runaway bestseller A Girl Called Jack, with Breads And Breakfasts, Super Soups, Beans Pulses And Lentils, etc, with extra chapters ‘Eat Your Greens’ and ‘Don’t Throw That Away’ for nifty tips on using leftovers. (Stale cake truffles, anyone? Or bread crust soup?) It has been an absolute joy to write; irreverent, cheeky, nifty, thrifty, and delightful. I’ve stripped it back from the gorgeous gloss that was Book Two, as beautiful as it was, the glass slipper didn’t quite fit my budget foot, so I’m going back to basics.
My first book came about by accident. Some of you may know this story, or most of it. I started writing a politics blog after a local councillor declared that ‘druggies, drunks and single mums are ruining our town’ in early 2012. I started going to the council meetings, as an unemployed single mother, and writing about what I saw. The blog expanded to a diary of my day to day life, the impact of housing benefit paid 11 weeks late, of cuts and suspensions to benefits and the real impact that had on a young mum and a two year old boy. Of turning the fridge off because it’s empty anyway. Walking everywhere in the pouring rain in your only coat, dragging a child behind you, into every pub and every shop in walking distance to ask them if they have any job vacancies. Of trying hard not to go red when the person behind the counter assesses your ripped jeans and scruffy jumper and the crying child behind you and says no. You add the ‘not for you’ in your head, unsurprised. You drag that toddler home and pour the last of the tin of tomatoes over some basic pasta and you try not to hurl it at the wall when your three year old says “I want something else, Mummy.” Because there isn’t anything else.
I made a decision, then, to try to feed myself and my son as well as possible on the scraps of change I had left at the end of the week. My first recipe, a carrot and kidney bean soup, had 100x as many hits as my previous blog post on local election results, and so I carried on, documenting my food shop, poring through famous recipe books and adapting their recipes to the contents of my local supermarket basics range, forensically costing it, and uploading it onto my blog.
The recipe blog turned into a publishing deal, and in February 2014, A Girl Called Jack was a runaway success. The letters and emails pour in daily from readers who have learned to feed themselves and their families on low incomes, well, and simply. I never set out to create a movement, I just wanted to share what I was doing with others. Yet still the letters come, from desperate people trying to make meagre incomes stretch to meet rising living costs, growing children, and demanding working hours. Students trying to supplement their loans with part time jobs balanced between their studies. People who have just left the military, having joined in their teens, unable to cook a meal for themselves. People from all walks of life, who want to learn to cook but haven’t the money for fancy gadgets or premium ingredients. People asking me, when are you going to write another book? We need another book.
So here we are. I’m not looking to make a fortune or have a number one bestseller (although the first one was nice!); simply to write and deliver a book to anyone who wants it, and to be able to pay my bills. I’ve decided to do it like this, myself, because I’m a bit of a maverick, and so I can deliver something affordable, authentic, from my heart to your kitchen counter – the best book I can write, to the people who want and need it, as quickly and directly as possible.
I might not succeed – Kickstarters are only successful if they reach their full funding amount, and I have crunched the numbers to try to keep my costs low to deliver an affordable cookbook, without compromising on the quality. I’m going to try – for every one of you who has asked me for a third book, I’m going to try my damndest to give you one. Will you help?