Sunday, 22 January 2012

Cooking up more crap for TV.

One of the reasons for spending time away on the boat is to get away from the media madness that has befallen television and the country. This is nothing new, its been around and growing for a good few years.

Let me give you an example, take television cookery programs. Every now and then someone comes up with a format for a new “style” of program. The reality is that the program is nothing new. Its the same-old – same-old stuff from before. Just repackaged and some third rate presenter fronts the program. But then the imitators jump onto the band wagon and soon its regurgitated ad nausea. 

Take, cookery programs and the euphemistic “celebrity chef”. In reality at best a kitchen cook who has become well known by presenting cookery advice and demonstrations via the mass media, of television.

You can go back to the earliest days of television and there were the old stalwarts in the shape of Philip Harben, instantly recognisable by his educated accent, expansive manner, ample girth, neatly trimmed beard and in his trademark black and white striped apron.
At the same time there was Marguerite Patten, who delivered in the style of a home economics lesson. With her approach to cookery that included teaching essential knowledge and skills needed in the kitchen. All done with knowledge and character. Just like your Granny and with the same sort of appeal.

A time of good wholesome no nonsense television, now seemingly lost forever.

The first of the usurpers were Johnnie and Fanny Craddock who performed their unique brand of comedy cookery with a monocle and tails and she in an evening gown, dangling earrings, pearls and bouffant hair. John Walsh of the Independent said about Fanny “She had mad glittering eyes, the face of a supercilious horse, the maquillage of a French clown and demeanour of a woman in constant search of an argument. Fanny Craddock appealed to British audiences: her certainty, perhaps, her bossiness, her air of innate superiority, as if she were a grande dame condescending to offer cookery tips to the great unwashed. She was a howling snob, a scold and a terrible mother but, for 20 years from the mid-1950s to 1976, she was the queen of British cuisine.”

I trained my dog not to beg at the table. How did I do that. I let her taste my cooking.

Graham Kerr's "The Galloping Gourmet" The origin of his 'Galloping Gourmet' nickname was the result of a worldwide trek to the finest restaurants around the globe. The title was echoed in the opening of each episode of his original series, filmed in front of a live audience, where Kerr entered the stage area by running in and leaping over a chair in the dining room set.

No longer did we dads have to sit with our kids watching Rainbow just to drool over Jane Tucker, as we sat through the pain of  Bungle, Geoffrey and George. I have never liked Justin Lee Collins, but he is one lucky son of a bitch. Justin meets Jane Did you know that Jane married Rod, but now she lives with Freddy. You could not concoct a better dish!

But I digress.

Cookery programs progressed to following the usual trend by adding a bit of eye candy in the form of the thinking man’s cook Delia Smith. Who in fulfilling the dream ticket for the modern man, was also football focused. A cook who loved football and maybe loved the football a bit more. Her choice of team left a bit to be desired, but she was a woman!

Keith Floyd became well known for cooking with a glass of wine in one hand, often in unusual locations. Keith was the unthinking woman's cup of tea. Floyd was regarded as a pioneer of taking cooking programmes out of the studio. Floyd went on to present his shows from around the world, including France, Spain, Italy, India, Australia and the US, cooking on location in his unique and very chaotic style. Driven by his exuberant passion for good food, good wine and a good time. It was Floyd's wine-fuelled flamboyance that viewers loved.

But now the cooking plot like a bad soup thickens to a paste. The concept of cooking had been boiled, fried and char grilled to death by the lack lustre producers. So the new format would have to be the old sex angle.

No one is ever going to complain about having one of these in their lunchbox, and they're pretty handy to have around in a kitchen as well. Renowned for her flirtatious manner of presenting, Nigella Lawson has been called the "queen of food porn".

Nigella is neither a trained chef nor cook, but who would notice! Nigella has assumed a distinctly relaxed approach to her cooking. She emphasises that she cooks for her own pleasure and enjoyment, she finds cooking therapeutic. It works for me!  The Guardian said "Men love her because they want to be with her. Women love her because they want to be her" Nigella has said that she often partakes in watching football and is an avid supporter of Chelsea. No one is perfect not even Nigella - but its a close run contest.

So the next angle was the cheeky kiddies of the cookery classes, in the shape of  Jamie Oliver. Oliver married former model Juliette Norton and they now have four children. Poppy Honey Rosie Oliver, Daisy Boo Pamela Oliver, Petal Blossom Rainbow Oliver and Buddy Bear Maurice Oliver. Yes, I was right its the cheeky kiddies of the cookery classes.

In keeping to the kiddies theme, Oliver began a campaign to ban unhealthy food in our schools and to get children eating nutritious food instead. Oliver's efforts to bring radical change into the school meals system, was chronicled in the series "Jamie's School Dinners." This challenged the junk-food culture by showing schools they could serve healthy, cost-efficient meals that kids enjoyed eating. Jamie's efforts brought the subject of school dinners to the political forefront and changed the types of food served in schools.

So sex and kiddies has now been done by both priests and producers. So what's left for television to flog to death. The TV cooks have already mastered the four food groups: Fast, Frozen, Instant, and Chocolate. So this time its bad behaviour.

Gordon Ramsey was an American television voice actor based in New York. Some of his notable performances included a children's television show as "Bozo the Clown". Gordon Ramsey the cook is living up to his namesake in The F-Word (named after his favourite expletive) he named the turkeys he raised as Antony, Ainsley, Jamie, Delia, Gary and Nigella in reference to other celebrity cooks. My moment of triumph came when I spotted Ramsey filming in Sheffield. As I passed I gave him a cheery wave and said "Hello Jamie" he was not impressed.

So we are reaching the bottom of the list of themes - Twonks is next on the list.

What about Heston Blumenthal who is a proponent of low temperature, ultra–slow cooking, whereby a joint of meat is cooked for up to 24 hours so as to keep the fat content within the meat. Ultra-slow cooking does not melt the fat or release many juices, making the creation of gravy impossible. Blumenthal says that gravy is unnecessary as the meat itself is sufficiently moist. He has also experimented with sound amplification to enhance the sounds, such as the crunch, created while eating various foods. Blumenthal's signature dishes include snail porridge and parsnip cereal. Blumenthal has been credited for the bacon dessert sweet, a savoury bacon-and-egg ice cream.

We are running very low on producers themes now... But today, I got a text message about  Anthony Worral Thompson. 

Welcome to celebrity ready steady cook. So Anthony you had £5 to spend on ingredients, what's in your bag? "Organic chicken, langoustines, rice, stock, wine, scallops, onion, garlic, Stilton, brie, goats-cheese, three bottles of Cava, one bottle of Blue Nun and I have £4.94 left over."

With a great deal of additional talent to go at, I could be here all night...

Ainsley Harriott.
Rick Stein.
Marco Pierre White.
Gary Rhodes.
Jane Asher.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
James Martin.
Brian Turner.
Phil Vickery.
Lesley Waters.

Then just to prove what goes around comes around, there were the television producers plonkers :- The Hairy Bikers. The show features a number of the elements of the Two Fat Ladies format, including regular banter between the two hairy hosts, unusual cooking locations and the use of motorbikes.

Who were the Two Fat Ladies? TFL was a television cooking programme starring Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Patterson. It originally ran for four years. The show included regular banter between the two hairy hosts, was filmed in unusual cooking locations, the use of a motorbike and sidecar and with the hosts sporting tattoos and beards, or was that The Hairy Bikers!

Chaos, panic, mayhem and disorder, the producers work here is almost done.

But now in meltdown to come up with yet another theme, in total desperation the producers have plumbed the depths of culinary despair and come up with.... Master Chef, which reminds me of a cross between a cooking game show and a chip shop on fire. With the catch phrase "Cooking Doesn’t Get Tougher Than This" I could not agree more.


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