Theresa May: ‘I have over 150 cookbooks’

Theresa May: ‘I have over 150 cookbooks’

by Ollie Lloyd 23 July 2018

The Prime Minister announced at a Q&A with factory workers at the Reece Group in Newcastle that she owns more than 150 cookbooks, relying on them as a source of relaxation. Ollie Lloyd takes a look at how this comment may not have helped her connect with her audience.

Ollie is the founder of Great British Chefs.

Ollie is the founder of Great British Chefs. He has been experimenting in the kitchen since he was five years old. Never known for shying away from a challenge, he has taken on some of the most obscure cuts of meat and ingredients that he can lay his hands on. As a marketeer, he's worked in the US, South and Southeast Asia, always taking the scenic route that might involve food trucks, hawkers and elusive soup dumplings.

How does our esteemed Prime Minister find the time to do it all? In between calling snap general elections, attempting to sail the ship that is Brexit into a safe port and quelling rebellious MPs every week, she’s also harbouring a sizeable cookbook obsession, with ‘over 150’ on her shelves. Leafing through recipe books (along with going on walks and watching American TV police drama NCIS) is how she unwinds after a day of shouting matches with other politicians. But where does this place her against the rest of the UK, and was this a good throwaway line that would make her audience empathise with her?

In one of our recent surveys, we asked a nationally representative sample of 3,000 people about the number of cookbooks they own. It seems Theresa May is putting them all to shame, with her 150+ library placing her in the very top percentile of cookbook owners. Only 2% of the people we asked had more than fifty, so if the Prime Minister is hoping to go down the ‘we’re not so different, you and I’ route and prove she has the common touch, she may have missed the mark. Especially when you consider nearly a fifth (19%) of the UK don’t have a single cookbook in their household.

The Prime Minister’s announcement is yet another sign of the cookbook imbalance plaguing our nation. According to our data, 7% of Brits own an incredible 40% of all the country’s cookbooks. And with today’s startling revelation, it seems the Prime Minister is certainly in the top 1%, hoarding every Nigella, Jamie and Hairy Biker she can get her hands on. We’d love to see what sorts of books she tends to go for.


But where did this obsession come from? Was it her time as an off-the-rails youth, running through fields of wheat to the chagrin of the local farmer (the ‘naughtiest’ thing she’s ever done)? Perhaps, once she realised this crop could be turned into food rather than just being run through, she got hooked on the idea of turning raw ingredients into plates of food so delicious, they’d make Michael Gove break down in tears and Boris Johnson speechless. Or perhaps she gets lost in the images of perfectly styled dishes; a form of escapism from the dreary interiors of Parliament and pink-faced Brexiteers making her life a misery.

She certainly doesn’t just buy cookbooks, leaf through them once or twice and then leave them to gather dust; Theresa May said herself that ‘I enjoy cooking, which has a benefit – you get to eat it as well as make it’. Maybe, she was trying to draw our attention to the idea that for her the pleasure of cooking is being in charge and getting to enjoy the results. Maybe we can all look forward to her launching a cookbook to explain her side of the story when this is all over, rather than the usual political autobiography. Eton Mess: My Way by Theresa May anyone?

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