Sunday, 1 April 2007

"Food" published April 1

The tragic thing about trying to eat less is that you develop an unhealthy obsession with the Food Channel. There’s something about watching people fry stuff and stir things with a wooden spoon that gives a fake fullness to the stomach area without needing to actually eat anything. I may have hit on a new diet trend and could soon write a book which will be featured on Oprah entitled “Don’t Eat It, Watch It – how I lost 10 pounds sitting on the couch.” It’ll be a huge hit.
But food porn, just like real porn, has the unfortunate side effect of encouraging you to get up off the couch and attempt to do what you’ve been watching the television. Porn is a stimulant, so one day you find yourself in the kitchen throwing things into a pot with a newfound confidence.
Which again, like porn, is fine in theory but in the end it comes down to detail. And with food programmes these days none of the cooks use measurements. The old fashioned one cup is now a “healthy glug” for liquids and a “good handful” for dry goods. The tablespoon is a “sprinkling” and a teaspoon a “pinch.”
At first you feel quite complimented that Ramsey, Stein and Oliver think so much of your abilities as a cook that they no longer need to give you specific instructions. When you get to you’re their level it’s all about flavour, a dash of wine, a handful of fresh herbs and a flourish of grated of lemon peel. You can do it. You’re a good cook. You watch Ramsey, Stein and Oliver.
Well sort of. The problem is that when you spend $30 on a bit of organic pork, and throw things about in a decidedly creative and knowing manner you can end up with a very nice looking dish of pork which is tragically too salty, too runny or bland as pig swill because your hands are smaller and your glugs are bigger and it’s just not fair.
So you try to find the recipe. And that’s where you realise that you are being taken on one big food porn industry scam. You can’t find the recipes on the shows. You might be lucky to find one on the BBC website but if you really, really want to cook that Lancashire Hotpot you will have to cough up $70 for Rick Stein’s book which accompanies the Food Heroes series.
So it’s back to the TV and filling your entire My Sky planner with every episode of Rick Stein’s Food Heroes so that you can sit and replay it pausing often to gauge visually whether one of Rick’s hands is a cup or a cup and a half. The whole process takes two weeks by the time you finally record the episode you were looking for and your family is quite rightly wondering if you have too much time on your hands before realising that once again you are on deadline and avoiding.
Or you could spend a small fortune buying the books, necessitating a whole new shelf in your already cluttered kitchen. So far Jamie Oliver has eight books in print, of which I have five which means when a friend gives you some duck breasts he recently obtained with his gun out come all the Jamies. Half an hour later you find a duck recipe and wonder where the day went. Cunningly I recently paid the nine-year-old $15 to photocopy all the indexes and put them in a blue clear file so now I just have to flit through the “Jamie Oliver Index” which she has also illustrated with drawings of a bowl, a bunch of grapes and a bottle with the world “oil” on it. She has quite rightly picked up on Jamie’s’ Italian influence.
But now the wives are getting in on the act. I will not buy “Jools” Oliver’s book about the “sheer hard work” it is being a mum to Poppy and Daisy plus recipes. She’s obviously not heard about those women giving birth in the rice fields, thousands of them, every day and just getting on with it. Or those other women over in Africa who find it “sheer hard work” finding enough food to feed their starving children. Nor will I be buying Gordon Ramsay’s “hands on mother of four” wife Tana’s book which tells time pressed parents how easy it is to cook healthy meals. Ditto the rice fields and the not enough food in Africa thing for you too Tana. The only other book I ever want to read by any of these people is Poppy and Daisy’s upcoming scandalous tell-all “Jamie Dearest”.


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