Words

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Later, Tater

Well, my new friend Iris was once again correct in identifying the Name This Food! item, which was of course


Tater Tots!

Yes, I'm sure all my American friends knew this, but Iris just got in there first. Here in the UK we can't get tater tots, which is a bit sad, really. Waitrose make some nice frozen Rosti which are similar in texture but rounder and flatter in shape. I guess the closest thing to Tater Tots here in the GB are the hash brown patties you get at Mickey D's for brekky. But I just thought it was time to make it easier for the Yanks for once.

Tater Tots is actually a registered trademark for a commercial form of hash browns made by Ore-Ida (betcha didn't know that). They are a side-dish made from deep-fried, grated potatoes. Tater Tots are widely recognized by their crispiness, cylindrical shape and small size.
Tater Tots are commonly found in the U.S. in cafeterias and school lunch-counters, as well as the supermarket frozen food aisle and some fast food restaurants. Safeway Inc. has a generic brand called "Tater Treats". The Sonic Drive-In franchise also features "Tater Tots" as a regular menu item, with the option of cheese, chili, or both as toppings; tots with cheese are branded "Cheesy Tots". Cheesy Tots are coin-shaped and, as implied by the name, contain melted cheese as well as potatoes. Several restaurants in the Pacific Northwest offer a nacho version of tots ("totchos"), covered in nacho cheese sauce and toppings.
Some Mexican-style fast-food restaurants offer seasoned tater tots: Taco Time and Señor Frog's call them "Mexi-Fries", while Taco Bell used to sell them as "Mexi-Nuggets". Taco Mayo in the southwest offers round disc-shaped tater tots called "Potato Locos." Taco John's also has coin shaped tots called “Potato Olés”. In some areas of the Northeast USA, however, they are often called "juliennes" or "potato puffs."
In Australia, they are known as "potato gems" or "potato pom-poms" (also used in New Zealand). In the UK, Ross Frozen Foods once produced "oven crunchies" which are no longer available. In Canada McCain Foods Limited calls their line of tater tots Tasti Taters. Cascadian Farm calls their line of tater tots Spud Puppies.
Tater is slang for potato; Tots may have been derived from their diminutive size, or because they are often served to children. In some regions, the term Tater is informally dropped, and the snack is simply called "Tots". Whatever. All I know is they are just scrumptious. Perfect one-bite satisfaction. Mm mm mm.

One of the greatest things ever invented is the sublime Tater Tot casserole. For this all you need is a bag of tater tots, a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup (I've also used cream of celery before with great success), a bag of frozen mixed veg (or veg of your choice - hell, why not use asparagus tips?), a bunch of shredded cheese (the tangier the better), a dab of milk or sour cream and usually some browned ground beef, but since I'm now vegetarian I'd either omit the beef altogether, or substitute veggie mince (Quorn or Linda McCartney do a fine substitute), a splosh of soy sauce to give it a kick, and a casserole dish. Some people like to mix everything up together except the tater tots, put it in the casserole dish and layer the tots on top. Me - I like to just mix the whole shebang together. Hey, it all goes down the same way, right?

Bung it in the casserole dish, chuck it in the oven at 200C/375F for as long as it takes for the mixture to get hot and bubbly, and serve. Yum. Total comfort food.

Alright then. Another puzzle for you...

Name This Food!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Talk To The Palm

I've been feeling in a right old mood today. There are several things that have been on my mind, some on a personal level, some not so much.

One of the things that affects me on several levels is the issue of palm oil. I had only been vaguely aware of its existence up until a few days ago when something I read prompted me to do some research about it. And what I discovered shocked me.

Firstly, you may be wondering much as I myself was a few short days ago, what is palm oil? Well, who better to ask than the Malaysian Palm Oil Council who have an entire website all about it. According to the website at TheOilPalm.org "The oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is an important agricultural crop, which yields three important sources of food and animal feed, namely palm oil, palm kernel oil and palm kernel cake. An average of 3.7 tonnes of palm oil, 0.4 tonnes of palm kernel oil and 0.6 tonnes of palm kernel cake is obtainable from one hectare of land. While the first two products can be used for human consumption, such as cooking oil, margarines, shortenings, bakery fats, vanaspati, ice creams and Vitamin E, and other products, palm kernel cake is used as an animal feed. Palm oil is also a source for biofuels and biodiesel used for power plants and other renewable energy purposes throughout the world.


Palm oil is derived from the flesh of the fruit of the oil palm species. In its virgin form, the oil is bright orange-red due to the high content of carotene. Palm oil is nature’s gift to Malaysia, and Malaysia’s to the world."

Palm oil and its various uses are a huge source of controversy. This is where I come in, because I read a report the other day about the loss of a significant amount of the Orangutan's natural habitat because of the palm oil industry. There are issues surrounding the natural habitat of the Sumatran tiger being lost because of palm oil production also.
Not only that but because many rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia lie atop peat bogs that store great quantities of carbon that are released when the forests are cut down and the bogs drained to make way for plantations, there has been a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
According to Greenpeace, the deforestation caused by making way for oil palm plantations is far more damaging for the climate than the benefits gained by switching to biofuel.


Many of the major companies in the vegetable oil economy participate in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which is trying to address this problem, though their efforts so far have done almost nothing to change or slow the escalating situation and have been likened to green-washing (the deceptive use of green PR or green marketing in order to promote a misleading perception that a company's policies or products (such as goods or services) are environmentally friendly). Even so, in 2008 Unilever, a member of the RSPO group, committed to use only palm oil which is certified as sustainable, by ensuring that the large companies and smallholders that supply it convert to sustainable production by 2015.

Meanwhile, much of the recent investment in new palm plantations for biofuel has been part-funded through carbon credit projects through the Clean Development Mechanism (for a detailed explanation of what this actually is, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clean_Development_Mechanism); however the reputational risk associated with unsustainable palm plantations in Indonesia has now made many funds wary of investing there.

You would think that the problems ended there, but no. There is indeed more.

Palm oil producers have been accused of various human-rights violations, from low pay and poor working conditions to theft of land and even murder. However, some social initiatives use palm oil profits to finance poverty alleviation strategies. Examples include the financing of Magbenteh hospital in Makeni, Sierra Leone through profits made from palm oil grown by small local farmers, the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance's Food Security Program, which draws on a women-run cooperative to grow palm oil, the profits of which are reinvested in food security, or the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's hybrid oil palm project in Western Kenya, which improves incomes and diets of local populations.


The RSPO was established in 2001 as a market-led initiative to reform the way palm oil is produced, processed and used, with clear standards on the production of sustainable palm oil. Members include companies all along the supply chain, from big name companies such as Unilever, Cadbury's, Nestle and Tesco, to suppliers such as Cargill, ADM and Indonesian-based Duta Palma.

Trouble is, the existing standards developed by the RSPO will not prevent forest and peatland destruction, and a number of RSPO members are taking no steps to avoid the worst practices of the palm oil industry. Some like palm oil processor Duta Palma, an RSPO member, are directly involved in deforestation. Worse still, at present the RSPO itself is creating the illusion of sustainable palm oil, justifying the expansion of the industry.

As in many other forest areas around the world, local communities often get a raw deal. Many are totally dependent on the forest for everything they need to survive and although in theory indigenous people have the right to control development on their customary lands, their rights are frequently violated by the government and companies. They are often cheated out of their land, and farmers who sell their forest areas can become trapped in a cycle of debt, effectively becoming slaves on their own land. It's also worth remembering that most players in the palm oil industry are major international companies, so the profits and associated benefits don't filter down to the majority of Indonesians.

In what products will one likely find palm oil used? Probably in bread, margarine, potato crisps, chocolate,  laundry detergent, cakes, breakfast cereal, ramen noodles, frozen pizza, chewing gum and frozen fish products. The reason it's used is because it is the cheapest cooking oil in the world, which is fine. I don't have a problem with that. But I DO have a major problem with companies using palm oil purchased from companies involved with deforestation. Many companies have recently gotten on board with the whole 'sustainable palm oil' thing, including Unilever and Nestle.

So what to do? Well, you could try not buying products from companies that do not use sustainable palm oil. But there is no way of knowing that just by looking at the packaging. You'd have to hop online and shoot the company an email, and probably never get an answer. Or a misleading one.
Or you could just quit buying products that use palm oil, but the trouble is, palm oil is not always listed as such, merely as 'vegetable oil'.


In the meantime all an armchair activist such as myself can do is try to spread the word and assist in my own small way the efforts of Greenpeace, PETA and others who are trying to ensure that the rainforests of Indonesia and other affected areas of the world are not decimated by the demand for a cooking oil that may or may not be the next wonderfuel.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rhubarb Crumble

OK chaps, my sister scored a double whammy by correctly answering not only the Musical Puzzler over on The World Of... but the Name This Food! as well. Twice in one week, Sis. You're on a roll. Sis correctly identified the lovely 
Rhubarb Crumble.

It occurs to me that some of you might have questions about this item. Like "what's a crumble?" and "what is rhubarb?", "what's my name?", "where do I live? Who am I?" etc. Well, let me just deal with the first two. The rest, you are on your own.

Rhubarb is a group of plants that belong to the genus Rheum in the family Polygonaceae.
They are herbaceous perennial plants growing from short, thick rhizomes. They have large leaves that are somewhat triangular-shaped with long fleshy petioles. They have small flowers grouped in large compound leafy greenish-white to rose-red inflorescences.
Although the leaves are toxic, various parts of the plants have culinary and medicinal uses. Fresh raw stalks are crisp (similar to celery) with a strong tart taste; most commonly the plant's stalks are cooked and used in pies and other foods for their tart flavour. A number of varieties have been domesticated for human consumption, most of which are recognised as Rheum x hybridum.

Rhubarb is usually considered to be a vegetable; however, in the United States, a New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used in the United States as a fruit it was to be counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties. A side effect was a reduction in taxes paid. That's a little odd. 

Rhubarb is now grown in many areas and thanks to greenhouse production is available throughout much of the year. Rhubarb grown in hothouses (heated greenhouses) is called hothouse rhubarb (well, duh!) and is typically made available at consumer markets in early spring, before outdoor cultivated rhubarb is available. Hothouse rhubarb is usually brighter red, more tender and sweeter-tasting than cultivated rhubarb.

In temperate climates, rhubarb is one of the first food plants to be ready for harvest, usually in mid- to late spring (April/May in the northern hemisphere, October/November in the southern hemisphere), and the season for field-grown plants lasts until September. In the northwestern US states of Oregon and Washington, there are typically two harvests: one from late April to May and another from late June into July. Rhubarb is ready to be consumed as soon as it is harvested, and freshly cut stalks will be firm and glossy.

Apparently, there is a Rhubarb Triangle. The Rhubarb Triangle is a 9-square-mile (23 km2) triangle in West Yorkshire, England located between Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell famous for producing early forced rhubarb. It includes Kirkhamgate, East Ardsley, Stanley, Lofthouse and Carlton. The Rhubarb Triangle was originally much bigger covering an area between Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield. From the first decade of the 20th century to 1939 the rhubarb industry expanded and at its peak covered an area of about 30-square-mile (78 km2). Forcing rhubarb is a method of producing sweeter growth by keeping the plants in darkness so that the plant's stored carbohydrates are converted into glucose, resulting in that famous bittersweet flavour.

A crumble is a fruit pie which has a crumbed topping made from flour, butter and sugar rather than a pastry crust.

Recipe, you say?

Ingredients

500g rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into 3cm pieces
50ml water
100g caster sugar
200g plain flour
100g cold butter, cubed
125g demerara sugar


Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4.
Put the rhubarb in a 1.2 litre ovenproof dish. Sprinkle over the water and caster sugar.
Sift the flour into a bowl, add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Alternatively, pulse in a food processor. Stir in the demerara sugar.
Spread the crumble mixture over the rhubarb - don't pat it down too much. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the rhubarb bubbling through at the edges. Serve hot with custard, cream or ice cream.


OK, what's the next one?

Here's one for my home boys and girls in the States.

Name it!

By George!

The other day I went out for a drink with my old buddy Andy to The Vine, a place I have mentioned on a few occasions on this here bloggity blog. While we were there having a quiet drink the landlord Steve said hi to me and asked if we were coming to the Beer festival on the 23rd. At this my ears perked up. "What's that ya say?" quoth I. "Beer? Festival? Two of my favourite words together as one? This can only mean good things!".

So, long story short, Laura and I ended up toddling along to the Beer Fest on St. George's Day.

*sound of needle skittering across vinyl*

"Hold up, Jeff! St. George's Day? Was ist das, mein Herr? etc."

Well, to tell you the truth, I always thought St. George's Day was in May, so I need to do a little research.



Saint George is the patron saint of England and as such is celebrated on his death each 23 April. This is also celebrated as the day of birth and death of William Shakespeare.

Apparently, in 1222 The Synod of Oxford declared St. George's Day a feast day in the kingdom of England. Edward III (1327–1377) put his Order of the Garter (founded c. 1348) under the banner of St. George. This order is still the foremost order of knighthood in England and St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle was built by Edward IV and Henry VII in honour of the order. The badge of the Order shows Saint George on horseback slaying the dragon. Froissart observed the English invoking St. George as a battle cry on several occasions during the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453).Certain English soldiers displayed the pennant of St George.  In his play Henry V, William Shakespeare famously invokes the Saint at Harfleur prior to the battle of Agincourt (1415): "Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'" At Agincourt many believed they saw him fighting on the English side.

St George's Day was a major feast and national holiday in England on a par with Christmas from the early 15th century.The Cross of St George was flown in 1497 by John Cabot on his voyage to discover Newfoundland and later by Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. In 1552 The Bishop of London tried to suppress the celebration of St George's Day: "wher as it hathe bene of ane olde costome that sent Gorge shulde be kepte holy day thorrow alle Englond, the byshoppe of London commandyd that it shulde not be kepte, and no more it was not" (from the 'Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London'). In 1620 it was the flag that was flown by the Mayflower when the Pilgrim Fathers arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Popularity of the holiday waned during the 18th and 19th centuries but recently it has enjoyed increasing popularity.

So there you have it.

Anyway - where was I?

Ah yes - The Vine.


As we entered I looked down towards the beer garden where the band were playing. I knew they'd be interesting because of their name - "Madame Molotov". I could see that the bassist had a mohawk and the guy standing next to him was playing an accordion. I wasn't wrong. As I watched them later in the beer garden the accordionist switched to sax and there was also a guitarist who also played various percussion instruments and a drummer who had percussion instruments around him too. Their music was sort of indefinable, with elements of rock, jazz, polka, klezmer, African rhythms... very cool and listenable.



Then we saw the small blackboards on the bar displaying the names of the guest beers.

Royal Wedding Ale, a limited edition cask beer, specially brewed by Shepherd Neame to mark the occasion of the Royal Nuptials. At 4.7% it's got quite a bit of poke to it, and it's an incredibly hoppy yet smooth drink and I had downed my first pint before I knew it.




Dragonfire,  which was the next one I tried. Special St.George's Day brew.
Very nice beer, a bit stronger taste although only 4.6% ABV.









Canterbury Jack, which at 3.1% was the weakest on offer but nice all the same.








Bishop's Finger, which I have had on several occasions before so I gave it a miss.
Although after what happened later I probably should have stuck with beer.










Because there was a cider called Bushels, made by those sneaky buggers at Biddenden Vineyard. A very pale green, clear cider with a crisp apple aroma. Flavour is sweet and fruity on the finish with a dry edge. Very drinkable. And it's 6.0%. It kicked my arse.


Oh my God did it kick my arse. Laura had had half a pint of it to begin with. She's more of a cider fan than I am and she let me taste a little bit of it and I thought it was lovely. So after my first two pints of beer she suggested I have a cider and I thought, hey, why the heck not? I should have known something was up when she had a latte instead of another alcoholic drink.

I went to Tesco afterwards and cannot remember a thing about it. I know I went in, and I know I came out, and according to Laura I was hurling abuse at pieces of meat on display. Whew. Thank you Biddenden, for proving me to be a lightweight of the highest order.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Grazin'

I am a snacker. Born to nibble. If it's available, I'll munch on it. And this is my downfall, folks. It does not help my waistline to eat this way. So I thought "If the stuff I munch on is good for me, that would be a step in the right direction, right?" Makes sense.

A while back I discovered graze. They're a company that makes little snack-sized 'punnets' of various blends of nuts and dried fruits etc. and puts them in little recyclable boxes shaped just right to fit through your letterbox and delivers them to your door twice a week (you pick the days). There are four punnets to a box, and you don't always know exactly what you're gonna get, but they base what they send to you on your preferences that you've already told them about. It's £3.49 a box, which includes delivery. If you sign up today at graze.com your first one is half price.And the great thing is, you can cancel at anytime. As soon as you tell them to stop, they'll stop.

So you want an idea of what is in the box? Here's some pics of the ones I took to work with me today.

'Cherish' - apricots, macadamias and cranberries.

'Chanachur panch phoron' - lemon chilli flavored chickpea noodles, with cashews, green raisins and goji berries. Wonderful sweet-sour-spicy combo.


This one is pretty self-explanatory.
They were all delicious, and kept me going till dinner.

If you live outside of the UK then unfortunately you cannot get graze as they currently only ship within the British Isles. If you live within the UK then hooray for you, because I am going to give you a special code which will allow you to get your first box free! Not only that but your second box will be half price! Here's the code which you would enter during the signup process at the appropriate moment.

CXGDC3L

Just go to graze.com and start snacking like a pro!

A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood

We here in the U of K, good ole GB, Henglan' wid a Haitch, have been recently subjected to a series of summer-like days with scorching temps in the upper 70s, endless blue skies, sunsets to die for, flowers ahoy and wittle baby wambkins gambolling in the fields while their thickly woollen mamas look on disdainfully. Young ladies in inappropriately revealing outfits picnicking on the grass while their shirtless beaus play football in a vain attempt to appear manly. Young children saying 'want DAT one' while their harried parents hurriedly try to shovel ice cream into their snot-nosed faces. And of course, old geezers and geezettes waddling around saying 'phew what a scorcher' and other such phrases. And me stuck inside, working, watching it all and thanking the inventor of air-conditioning for, well... air-conditioning.

Of course as the end of the day approaches I view it all with slightly more enthusiasm as the temperature drops to a more manageable level and the sun hangs lower in the late April sky. And when my Laura shows up and asks if I fancy a drink after work, I reply "Mine's a large one!"

Such was the case today. As the White Lion looked to be heaving with merry punters all happy to have a three-day weekend, we chose The Vine as this evening's venue. When we got there we decided to have a bite to eat as we were both a little peckish. The beer garden beckoned.

We chose a table and settled down. The beer garden was actually quite busy, but quiet enough to be enjoyable. Armed with our drinks, a pint of Spitfire and a DiSaronno and lemonade, we awaited the arrival of our nibbles.




Laura had ordered a salad and a side order of chips, and I ordered a Brie and avocado ciabatta sandwich and a side of onion rings.

The Brie slices were pretty huge, and there was a lot of avocado in this tiny sammich. Not complaining at all. Yes, the roll was small, but I was more than satisfied with the amount of filling! 

The tomatoes kind of obscured all the onion that was underneath, but this was a pretty decent-sized salad.
All in all, a good way to end the workday. However, we did have to carry three bags of shopping home...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sippin'

When it comes to summer I don't do well. I'm a big guy and when the temperatures start hitting the roof I feel like a grizzly that's just been shot by a tranquillizer dart. However, summer does bring one consolation. Summer cocktails.
So with the weather nerds, if they are to be believed, predicting a long hot summer, may I present to you the first in my Summer Series...

SUMMER COCKTAILS

Yeah, whaddya want?
with your barkeep, Jeff









So let's get started shall we?
OK all you thirsty people, when it's hot you want a drink that will not only cool you down but you want VFM, that's Value For Money, right? You don't want a drink that's going to be gone in two or three mouthfuls, you want something that will last a while, preferably in a pitcher, like a Sangria or Margarita or Mojito. Of course here in the UK we have the classic Pimm's which always works a treat, but how about a little adventure? Start by putting a large jug in the freezer, as this will help keep your cocktails chillin'. And let's explore some of the more unusual Pitcher Cocktails.

Have You Got Any Irish In You?

Here's a variation on the classic Moscow Mule that will have you kicking up your heels Michael Flatley-style in no time. It's called the Irish Mule.
Put two shots of lime juice in the jug, add four shots of Jameson Irish Whiskey and three dashes of Angostura bitters. Add three cans of ginger beer, a few lime wedges, top up with ice and stir. Faith and begorrah.

Una Paloma Roja

The Paloma is the true national cocktail of Mexico. It is a refreshing, tequila-based alternative to boring old vodka and cranberry juice. Put eight shots of Patron Silver or other good-qualtiy tequila, one shot of sugar syrup, 400ml of ruby red grapefruit juice (less than half a carton) and the juice of one lime in your ice-filled pitcher, stir well and top with soda water. Serve in a salt-rimmed highball glass. Ay caramba!

And Finally, you need your veggies...

Crush three sticks of celery (yes, celery!) at the bottom of a jug with a wooden spoon, add 12 shots of 6 O'Clock Gin, three shots of Cointreau, two shots of sugar syrup, four shots of passion-fruit purée and 750ml of cloudy apple juice, top up with ice and use more celery to stir. The perfect celery-tini. By the way, you can buy 6 O' Clock Gin (you owe it to yourself, believe me) here in Tenterden where your local purveyor is of course Liquid Pleasure.

Alright, folks. Closing time. Go home now. More next time. 




Monday, April 18, 2011

Mushrooms!

These...


are breaded mushrooms.
Congrats once again to Iris for correctly identifying the Name This Food! food. I can see I'm gonna have to start supplying actual prizes for this contest. Tell ya what - if you correctly identify the next one, I'll send you something. Don't know what yet, but if you're game, I'm game. Jeff's Mystery Prize! This could be fun. Like eBay without the payments.

Anyway, here's the new one...

Name it!


Nibbles & Fruity Beer

Went on Sunday for a quick nibble at Café Rouge. We weren't super hungry so we chose from the  Petit Plats  menu, or at least I did. Laura had the Soupe Du Jour  which was Sweet Potato and Parsnip, and was fabulous.

It came with some focaccia bread that was impregnated with some rosemary. Yum.
I had two delicious items from the Petit Plats,  first was the Feta et Poivron...


Feta cheese, marinated red peppers and some crusty bread.
and Houmous. 
Is it houmous or hummus? Why is there no hard and fast rule of how to spell it? It's like Gaddafi. No-one seems to be able to decide whether it's spelt with a G, a K or a Q. Make a decision, people.
Laura had a Coke to drink, but I plumped for a bottle of Fruli, which is a wheat beer that is flavoured by strawberry juice, giving it a sweet flavour and gorgeous colour.



The trouble with Fruli is that because it is such a delicious drink it is very easy to drink, and therefore it could be quite dangerous if one had a case of it. You could easily plough through a few bottles and be drunk as a skunk before you knew where you were. It's very very nice. Hic!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Overkill

I despair. I truly do.

Is it me or are there too many damn cooking shows on the telly?


"Well, maybe..."

A few years ago when I lived in jolly old Americky, I could not get enough of the Food Network. I loved it. Rachael Ray...

Yes, I like her, okay? Get off me.

Giada of the toothy grin and the overpronounced Italian words...


 Paula with her butter and her hey y'all and her sons and her Michael and her more butter...


 Nigella with her plummy accent and her... well, her boobs, let's face it. That and the little secret fantasy that we all have that if we could bed this English rose, we'd be doin' it with the daughter of the former Chancellor of the Exchequer under Maggie Thatcher. Yeah, Nigel! You screw with us... we screw your daughter! Heh heh! Okay... just me again, I see.


 The Barefoot Contessa with her dinner on the beach and famous guests dropping in and lots of cream and butter and Jeffrey.


 Alton Brown, science geek, comic genius, great cook.


 Tyler Florence, with his Food 911.


Jamie, Bobby, Emeril with his BAM and his 'like such' and his Doc Gibbs...


 I ate it up. Then they started to have competitive cooking shows. Iron Chef was the one that started it all. Then Iron Chef America. Then The Next Food Network Star. Pretty soon everyone was getting in on the act with Ramsay and his Hell's Kitchen,

Yummy. You donkey!


  Chopped, Top Chef and all the rest. Food shows were getting to be big business.

Now I am seriously tired of food shows, because they have become ubiquitous. Here on this side of the pond, there are more celebrity chefs than you can shake a stick at. You have your Nigella of course, and your Jamie, but you also have your James Martin, your Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall,












your Nigel Slater, and your Hairy Bikers.




 But it's food contests that truly piss me off royally.

You've got your MasterShout, with that bald piggy-eyed nob Gregg Wallace and that Oz wanker John Torode.

I wanna taste the pea!
 How far up his ass is that stick exactly?

Then there's the Great British Menu with Richard Corrigan, a fat-faced ruddy-complected Irish wiener who looks like he should be lying on a platter somewhere with an apple in his gob.

Baste me in my own juices. A delicious meal for three hundred.

Then you have Come Dine With Me, a show that is inexplicably in its 22nd series since 2005 (huh? They must be seriously cranking these things out) where four or five amateur people who shouldn't be let loose in a kitchen host dinner parties for the same guests and get rated on their lack of ability in the kitchen. Call me hateful but if I was aware that a person had been on this show I would not let them boil me so much as an egg.

Do you remember back in the day, when you got one, maybe two cooking shows a week? I remember over here there was good old Fanny Cradock, with Johnny at her side handing her spatulas and knives.

"Here ya go, Johnny. Now quit rubbing my arse."

There was Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet, who reinvented himself in the late 80s after some heart trouble and lived near me on Camano Island, WA? How I would have loved to have bumped into him while shopping and reminisced about Tenterden and The Woolpack.



Then we had Farmhouse Kitchen with Dorothy Slimetoad, I mean Sleightholme. God, that was the most boring cooking show ever. Pottering about in her kitchen and talking slowly... ugh.



The only other cooking demos we got were on Houseparty or perhaps Blue Peter.

That woman with the black hair always irritated me.


In the States you had Julia Child

"I'm either drunk or high, but at least I'm not a dead chicken."


and maybe Justin Wilson.
I guar-on-tee.


 Then in the 90s there were a few more with the Italian guy Nick Stellino on Cucina Amore and that's really about it till Food Network came along and changed everything. And now we have cooking 24/7. Nobody, trust me, nobody, not even Anthony Bourdain, is THAT interested in cooking.

I am not against cooking shows, believe me. I will happily sit and watch an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives till the cows come home.














But the competitive thing has got to stop. There has to come a point where people say "Ya know what - I don't care who wins this contest. They are all assholes." And I am at that point. Whatever happened to just cooking for the sheer joy of it?

Couldn't have said it better myself, actually. Thanks Tone.

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