Sunday, 21 October 2012
It's that time of year when the letters n,i,g,e & l. take over our screens. I am referring, of course, to Nigella Lawson and Nigel Slater. Both TV cooks, both with their shows oozing temptingly all over our screens. Both cosily entrapping us, Monday and Friday respectively, within a world of aspirational culinary delights, tasteful kilner jars and bursting larders ( or lar-di-da-ers, perhaps? Wait, I take that back. I am only mocking to mask my own deep, dark desire for something to fill that gaping larder-shaped hole in my life).
I say it's that time of year, when in fact such a period doesn't really exist. 'That time of year when cooking programmes are on is EVERY SINGLE DAY. Not that I am against this- I enjoy cookery programmes very much. I, in fact, pray that we will discover the middle name of Heston 'Blumen'eck, not more liquid nitrogen' to be secretly Nigellina one day, or for Rick Stein to become Rick SteinGL, just to get those 5 letters involved and complete our foody squadron.
The ever increasing number of cookery shows reveals that we are all lapping them up, drinking it all in, chewing over endless recipes involving goats cheese. We may scoff (any more food puns, please write in) at much of it, but this is done lovingly in the main. Most obviously I think about the contrived friend and family set ups we witness, coming around to enjoy this epic feast made in minutes - I look directly at you, Nigella. They're not your friends! Nigel, forgive me. I applaud you and your meals seemingly for one with accompanying purring cat. The seductive house interiors, complete with mood lighting, which surely make it impossible to ever read the oven dial, too, astound me. We are even being shown how to shop now. I thought I knew how to do this, and reasonably effectively too- shopping trolley steering accidents aside- but apparently not. Countless scenes of local markets, linen shopping bags and cheery exchanges with shop keepers seem to be the only way to do it these days. Well I never.
I fear I lost my way a bit there, apologies. What I intended to say, however, was that despite all these qualms we may have with aspirational cookery shows, we are still rapaciously consuming them. And, in many ways, it is this which is the most intriguing thing. I deliberately use the word 'consuming' because surely the very essence of a programme about food, should be the food itself, and its consumption. Yet, this is the one thing we absolutely cannot do as viewers. There can be no tasting the food, not even a whiff of its homely smell. That is, unless Skyplus has some new snazzy feature I don't know about it.
It seems to be one enormous paradox. They are meant to fill our appetite, yet do the opposite. Only dangling our greatest desires before our very eyes, and on shiny white plates, too. What, then, are we wanting from these shows? And what, ultimately, are we taking from them? It can't be that much to do with the food. Or at least, not at that very moment of viewing. Is it more about the visual? We can satisfy our pallets by staring at tasty goods, thinking about what someone else might eat. Are we learning to cook? Some, perhaps, but I'm not sure that too many of us follow these recipes later. I, for one, have never found a lump of gorgonzola at the back of the fridge I might just 'want to use up.' I refuse to even look in that dark, alarmingly chilly, corner of the kitchen.
Is it about transferring our desires and cravings on to an unreachable platform?* Are we simply seeking comfort and nourishment in times of crisis? Do we enjoy watching a lifestyle that is aspirational, but unlikely (and simultaneously relish mocking it too?). Perhaps all of these things. Perhaps none. Food for thought, anyway.
*Oh, I forgot to say that for at least half of the population, the chance to ogle Nigella probably plays a large part. *Important point.*