Oh what wise platitudes emanate from the mouths of our much celebrated TV chefs. I suppose this is a way of gaining our confidence and trust. I think a lot of people express a desire to be more adventurous in the kitchen. Such desires are great book sellers. Let us look into these epic little phrases. Are they the path to the promised land?
“I’m not a chef, I’m a cook.”
Yeah yeah whatever. What’s in a name. You’re out there prostituting your kitchen prowess for money. You want to sell your latest book.
What brilliant timing to prey on the crescendo of panic felt by those who have to put together a Christmas feast. But how about those who are cool with it all? Oh you can give them yet another “special” way with sprouts or bread sauce.
Lets up the smug value. Picture all those self-satisfied steam drenched heads wiggling in delight when young Algy actually digs into the “sprouts a la chataigne”. What you don’t know is his mum’s promise of an extra game for his console if he eats at least half of them.
“Oh well done Algy,” she’ll say despite the rather intense debate as to what constitutes a half. “He’s starting to appreciate real food.” She’d paid £49.99 plus VAT for the right to make that declaration. “Oh I have over filled the plate a little,” comes your smiling response unaware of Mum’s promise and the two bars of chocolate he’d snaffled from Aunt Daphne’s selection box. Oh, and this cunning little sausage has also managed to clear your Christmas tree of those chocolate smiling Santas you thought gave such sweet charm to the ambience of your £60.00 organic spruce.
You were seduced by the exquisite packaging on the shelf end in Waitrose. You try not to dwell on what you’re niece Chardonnay (the one with the MacDonald’s logo tattooed to her thigh) said about getting the same things at the food warehouse for sixteen pence each or one-fifty for ten. All you really crave for is for someone to ask you if you cook for a living.
“I don’t follow recipes, I go with instinct.”
If you want to play the piano, if you want to knit or if you just want to write, there are certain skills you need to develop. If, for example someone doesn’t really know the principles of pastry or the properties of an egg, then they will struggle with basic recipes.
It’s like learning note names, creating a basic stitch and spelling patterns.
So when you look at this bloke poncing about in his well stocked rustic kitchen randomly picking the fruits of the garden creating this mouth-watering steaming caramelised symphony on a plate, are you going to believe he’s just thrown it all together? He has a comprehensive grounding of technique and knowledge.
If you want to by-pass the pain of failed experiments some appropriate tuition is advisable.
The secret internet printout is always close to my side. I’m not an expert so I need prompters. Don’t be ashamed of it. This way you can have all your delightfully immaculate recipe books sitting proudly on the shelf. Who’s to know if you have scanned the relevant page? This brings us to the next statement:
“Just have fun and experiment.”
I have a small kitchen, a small bin and a recycling plan which must be closely observed. I am not going to fill up my bin with the sad remnants of a failed experiment.
Nor Am I going to sit there stoically chewing on cardboard pasta and banana fritters with a hint of harissa just because I’ve spent three hours cooking it. These flibbertigibbets might gaily suggest you go wild in your little nest of creative gastronomy but food costs money and therefore disasters cost money.
Do some research. If you are going somewhere new you might use a sat nav or even a map. Get a guide. Whether it’s a general idea or step by step, it’s necessary.
Author has vision of young up and coming trendy chef skipping across the screen throwing fronds of fennel at anything that moves.
“This is so simple.”
Let me explain this in pictures.
“Never use the tough outer leaves.”
Who on earth is this Mr or Mrs Smug? Don’t tell me what to do you condescending over paid sanctimonious doom brain. I like a bit of roughage.
If I’ve been to Waitrose and spent a small fortune on a fennel bulb or artichoke, I’m not wasting half of it for the sake of my teeth. I will take those outer leaves and chew on one (unwashed) whilst I prepare the rest of it. Those tough outer leaves can be sliced finely and gently poached in cheap white wine or even white wine vinegar and a pinch of sugar before I add them to the main dish.
I can’t afford to spend over a hundred pounds a week on food with a modest teachers’ pension. Who the hell is going to buy my whisky?
(And the monthly Majestic wine order.)
“Give yourself time, I don’t believe in rushing about at the last minute.”
Excuse me? We live in the real world. My mum, dad, brothers and I finished work on Christmas Eve. It’s not the same now but so many parents are working up until the last possible minute.
Where does the time come from? Delia may espouse military like planning, Jamie could suggest you turn your kitchen into a hot bed of bish bash bosh with flailing limbs and scattered sesame seeds (what a mess) or Gordon passes on the virtues of nailing your family into a week long regime of tasks driven by outbursts of colourful language for him to take up the reins at the last minute and scatter his feast freely but elegantly over the dark oak kitchen table. (Long sentence; sorry but I’m ranting.) By this time anyone else who dared to call by to bring compliments of the season is cowering next to the dog basket wondering why they have been chained to the work top to peel sprouts for the last three days. Note, Gordon’s kitchen is the size of two tennis courts.
“You need to be ready for those unexpected moments.”
Immediately we are thinking about sudden visits when your best ever friends pop round and you burst into spontaneous genial action smiling broadly as you pour the ice-cold bubbles. You all get on so well. All that laughter and fine catering. Yes you adore seeing your soul mates tramping the crumbs from your home made canapes into your over-priced House of Fraser Persian rug. These are the canapes you had prepared in advance for these sort of moments. They were sitting poised in the fridge while you practised you surprised smile in the mirror.
But what are the unexpected moments? A power cut? The taps drying up? The oven breaking down?
Once more, these cheffy people infer that the unexpected is always going to be a pleasurable business. Even the most optimistic of us know that things can go wrong. If things do go belly up I don’t need anyone on the telly to smile blankly and insist I over-buy on all my provisions “just in case”.
I could go on. Now I have to admit to watching and enjoying a lot of these programmes. It’s gentle up beat entertainment. If anyone asks me where I learned to cook, I tell them I was a firm follower of Ready Steady Cook. And I do not lie. It was packed with useful tips and techniques. I don’t even mind their blue sky approach to everything. It’s comforting. It is only the minor points which I lampoon. They helped to give me and thousands more a greater level of knowledge and confidence in the kitchen. But there are so many of them now. And their programmes are repeated relentlessly on the food channels. I can get a bit fed up of such repetition but it’s the channel I turn to when confronted with a soap. Long may they reign.
Thank-you for reading.