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Too Many Cooks?
by Phil Thornton
Never have the wise words of that camp bloke from the Adelphi reality series, Hotel rang so true...
'Just cook will yer'
Look, I'm a sucker for these celebrity chef and cooking programmes myself. Saturday Morning Kitchen with that fellar who used to wear a doo rag and was very handsome til he put a bit of beef on (gratuitous culinary metaphor no 1) and that annoying Itie with the Frankie Detori accent, Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares, Rick Stein, even Ready Steady Fucking Cook. I'm hooked on this shit, as are millions of other Britons and you know why' Because we've only just begun to learn how to eat, that's why.
All across the land nouvelle gastronomes are buying celebrity recipe books and planning dinner parties for their friends with monkfish and scallop mousse en croute with juniper and cuttlefish ink jus. The big supermarkets are stocking ever more exotic ingredients to meet a demand for the new generation of would-be kitchen Hitlers who ape Goonface Ramsey , Jean-Christophe Nobeddi, Marco Pierre Shite and their histrionic ilk. On one programme where Ramsey helped some ponce cook his poncey mates some scran (a dinner party no less) the prick kept referring to his piece of mullet as moo-lay. It's mullet you nugget (or should that be noo-gay'). Of all these programmes Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares is by far the most entertaining as the insulting Hun twat provides exactly the same recipe for success (gratuitous culinary metaphor no 2) for each and every restaurant; basically cook some of my grub and you won't go wrong. The episode where he attempted to turn around the fortunes of Morgans in Woolton was hilarious as the clueless scouse 'chef' stood up to the patronising bullying cunt. Although he WAS an absolute shite chef and was later nicked for kiting in Warrington.
For some reason women find Ramsey attractive, all that alpha male 'I'm in charge' attitude and general shouting and bawling he does must be a turn on for the type of woman who say they go for 'real men' when what they really mean is they want to dominated by a brute. Ramsey's obsession with his own and other people's cojones makes me suspect that underneath all the bluster is a frightened little kid desperately hiding his insecurities behind macho posturing. This sub-Freudian analysis may help us understand why in his F-Word programme, he reared some pigs at his home and treated them as pets for his kids before taking them off to be slaughtered and served up at the family dinner table. See, his balls are THAT BIG. Look, we all know that meat is derived from animals and that if we all saw the process of getting the pork chop, the lamb cutlet and the beef steak from the farmyard to our plate, we'd probably all become vegans within a week. I don't need to see a pig get it's throat cut to realise my bacon butty is served with a death warrant. As someone once put it; Meat Is Murder.
Hugh-Fearnley Witlesstwat and Ramsey though, they get all uppity about it; they even drag in their tedious wives and kids into the programmes, just to prove that they are being unsentimental and honest and ahem, BRAVE about how they promote carnivorous eating. You have to FEEL THE PAIN of the beast slaughtered on your behalf or else you're just a cop out pussy ass girly bitch. With all these competing cookery cocks on display , it's sometimes hard to understand just how we got here.
It wasn't so very long ago that the garlic bulb was entirely alien to the British larder. I grew up, as did most of us in the 70s, on a diet of traditional meals such as shepherd's pie, scouse, steak and kidney pud, belly pork and scallops (potato fucking scallops were the only scallops we'd heard of), mince and chips, fry ups, Sunday roasts and the occasional special occasion 'steak dinner.' Steak was just steak, there was no such thing as fillet and my dad's overarching rule was, and still is; 'the bigger the better.' There's no fucking way in the world my aul fellar would tip up 15 quid for a fillet steak that measured five inches in length, even if it was five inches thick and twice as filling and ten times as tasty as a plate filling flattened piece of tatty, fatty rump.
When Peter Kaye described his dad's reaction to 'garlic bread' - not in my lifetime - it perfectly summed up our parent's generation's attitude towards 'foreign muck.' Vesta currys were one of my dad's little treats, as were the odd chop suey from the chippy. Italian, French, Spanish, Greek cooking just didn't exist. Granted there was spaghetti about and frozen pizzas had just started to creep under grills but'.Paella' Stifado' Cassoulet' Were they members of the 78 Argentina World Cup Squad' This food was entirely alien to their palettes and even when they travelled abroad to Spain or Greece, many preferred the monotonous predictability of Traditional British Fare. No fuss, nowt fancy, food that filled you up but tasted of fuck all.
To be fair to my dad he was the cook in our house and always managed to scramble together some tasty repast for our tea. With my ma it was strictly beans and egg on toast, fish fingers and chips. When I started seeing my missus, I'd go into their fridge and stand amazed at these delicious, yet strange foodstuffs; olives' Proscuitto' Stilton' Olives' Their party spreads were something to behold and although they were by no means posh, it still amazed me that someone from a semi-detached house could have come into contact with such cosmopolitan fare.
When we got married my diet changed from one of meat and two veg conformity to continental pick n' mix fusion. And whereas a surfeit of tasty but unhealthy grease had induced in me abdominal cramps that was later diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome at home, my new dietary regime flushed all that animal fat through my system and replaced it with olive oil comfort. We've never had a chip pan in almost 20 years of marriage and I've never missed one either. Granted, when the kids go to me mam and dads, they beg him for some of his 'real chips' not the sweet potato and parsnip chips that their mother conjures up to go with the beef, shallot and prune casserole she's just knocked together in 20 minutes flat.
And, where I was once queezy about fat or grease or blood, now I won't eat meat unless it's got a healthy ridge of fat and the meat is pink and dripping with plasma. To put it simply; I have learned how to eat. In this respect, I am with countless other men and women who have opened up their taste buds and their imaginations to a myriad of international and homegrown ingredients, tastes and textures. Put simply, because we've been denied this ability to experiment and indulge our stomachs, we've become almost obsessed with cooking and this is where the so-called 'Celebrity Chefs' have moved in.
Once upon a time the only chefs on telly were Fanny fucking Craddock and The Galloping fucking Gourmet. They were both camp and ludicrous and produced food that was unnecessarily frilly and pretentious. They were 70s cooks serving up 70s approximations of fancy French haute cuisine, as if cooking for the Belgian ambassador and his charming wife was something Betty at No 56 was ever likely to do. This struck me last night as I watched Rick Stein preparing a ridiculously convoluted banquet for The Japanese Ambassador. In order to do this, he naturally had to travel to Nippon in order to fully get to grips with thousands of years of traditional Nippon sushi and sashimi techniques.
Sushi' That's so 90s! Lebanese is this year's fad. Next year it could be Korean-Portuguese or Algerian-Inuit fusion. Whatever, there will be some chef with their own programme showing us how to do it. Because there are so many TV chefs these days, there is a demand for gimmicks; hence Ramsey becomes the rudest, most aggressive, insulting, demanding chef in the world. And it works; he's now famous across the world and rich beyond reason. Jamie; he's the cheeky young pretender who makes it look easy, Nigella; she's the vampy, prick tease who'd eat you alive, Delia's the school ma'am home economics teacher, Gary's the punk perfectionist, Rick's the fey fishy proselytiser. Heston has perhaps the best gimmick of all; he's the egghead chef. Not content with simply cooking food in flavoursome combinations, old Blumers approaches his vocation in the same way as a structural engineer approaches a skyscraper. He doesn't want just to put the thing on a plate, but wants to understand its molecular properties and experiment with form and fucntion. Nobhead.
They only need one name and whereas Keith Floyd engineered his rep as a loveable pissed-up bon viveur and became simply 'Floyd' these chefs have little of the older man's charm or humanity. They have become brands and ciphers for modern Britain; Jamie Oliver truly believes he is on some kind of messianic mission to save the children and ourselves. He reminds me of Kevin Keegan in the 70s, a little man with a gift who becomes so wrapped up in his ego cult, that he believes he has been sent down from on high in order to make our lives better. These Kitchen Caliphs can sell pots and pans, they can sell home insurance and consolidation loans, they can sell political parties and business strategies.
The celebrity chefs (like all modern 'celebrities they're not actually 'celebrated' for anything but are merely famous ) have the world at their feet because they tap into our inexhaustible desire to feel attached to the world around us, not in any meaningful way, not by accepting other cultures and engaging with them but by dipping into their recipe books and writing down the ingredients for Mediterranean fish stew. So the next time one of these jumped up pricks starts lecturing us on how we should all by our food as locally as possible ( I do, from the local Asda) and ensure our kids eat only organically grown apples and consume oily fish three times a day and we should all re-cycle our plastic and cycle to work and apply for zero interest balance transfer credit cards and vote for David Cameron just remember the lad at the Adelphi
'Just fucking cook will yer'
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