• Thursday, Aug 05, 2021
  • Last Update : 02:15 pm

The cooking show conundrum

  • Published at 09:01 pm April 24th, 2021
Max Delsid

Good food doesn’t need all the bells and whistles to be entertaining

Most people like and appreciate all sorts of good food; but there is something criminally boring about TV programs which begin by saying things like ” Food is an important part of Mexican/Slavic/ Italian etc culture”, or something equally mundane before taking us round markets selling vegetables and meat, exactly like those at home.

Just show us some pretty pictures, give us the recipes and go away, please.

And while you are at it, please do not deafen us with repetitious, shrill commercials. We won’t buy that stuff anyway.

I shall have made many enemies when I say that I am bored by food preparation competitions where the participants, trying desperately to prepare several dishes at once, or trying to decorate a wobbly construction of millefeuille pudding with raspberries, are hounded every few minutes by big, hulking critics towering over them shouting “Five minutes left to go!! Five seconds left to go!!!”

The raspberries are sure to fall off, somebody else’s precious Crème Brule will burn, and the meat will turn tough all by itself, mainly from panic. The hapless participants will then be subjected to a boring but politically correct lecture before being told that they have not made the grade. 

Then there are the Desi food programs. Here the elaborate recipes of curries and pulaos are demonstrated to us by sturdy ladies standing next to a hot stove, wearing fancy saris with long sleeved blouses, necklaces, gold bangles, and heavy sari pallus immobilizing their left arms down to the elbow.

I must try, one day, to chop, stir and cook with only one arm, wearing a dinner sari.

Food is a delightful and sacred part of life, as essential to our stomachs as to our hearts. There is nothing as comforting and therapeutic as, for example, hot rice and lentils, with a bit of good pickle, or as exciting as a dish of  chatpatti and puchkas, enjoyed and shared with beloved girlfriends or family.

I love TV as do most other people, but not when confronted with cookery programs, when all I want  to see is a good gory thriller, or a Turkish serial full of fearsome yells and numerous swordfights.

There are however delightful films about food. I shall never forget the film with Penelope Cruz where she starred as a food program chef. Viewers adored her because she was young, pretty and cheerful and her motto was”Cooking with Love.”

Nigella Lawson epitomizes the joy of cooking on her TV programs. She makes you want to try everything she creates in her sunny kitchen.

One TV program in particular that was worth watching starred the incomparable, immensely tall Julia Child, with her unique voice, and comfortable ways in the kitchen.  On one Food program she dropped her chicken, and I think on another her soufflé failed to rise.  Julia, unfazed, simply said “oops”, and carried on.

That is real life cooking. We make mistakes, we cut our fingers, we mop up, and we begin again while humming a cheerful tune. 

In fact our lives in the kitchen are a sort of metaphor for our lives:  frustration and acceptance, joy and comfort, and sometimes, dizzying success. 

We make mistakes, we fall, and we dust ourselves off, get up again, and soldier on. 

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