Cooking with Jamie, Ainsley, et al.
To my surprise (and shame), in my old age I have become an aficionado of cookery programmes on television. Of course, I don’t go for just any old cookery programme, I have my standards, after all, and my particular penchant is for those hosted by cooks, or chefs, who originate from England (or Ireland, Scotland or Wales), i.e., who speak the English language in a way that brings back memories of my childhood and youth.
I refuse to have anything to do with cookery programmes presented by hirsute male chefs whose arms are tattoed so much that one cannot see any flesh underneath, or by women whose long, curly locks of indeterminate colour dominate the screen and doubtless contaminate the food they’re preparing. Nor will I waste my time watching cookery competitions, as the whole concept of cooking in order to meet a deadline or beat one’s competitors is alien to me.
Another programme that gets my goat (i.e., annoys me) involves a popular singer/actor accompanied by a well-known Israeli chef who is considered an expert on far-eastern cuisine, and certainly regards himself as such. The sense of smug superiority the latter exudes is a complete turn-off for me. And besides, I have no desire to spend my time watching other people eat, and especially when they talk with their mouth full. Yuk!
No, the programmes I like to watch involve an aesthetic production in which an individual of edifying appearance, e.g., Jamie Oliver or Mark Moriarty (Off-Duty Chef), demonstrates how to prepare and cook items of food that we viewers can reproduce and put on our own family table. I feel an emotion that is almost akin to affection for those young men who are prepared to put their heart and soul into showing us how to prepare a whole meal, whether it is in one pot (Jamie again) or reminds us of our youth (Ainsley). And of course, I have tremendous respect for Mary Berry, who speaks the Queen’s (now King’s) English with an impeccable accent, looks delightful despite her advanced years, and makes preparing tasty dishes look easy and elegant. How I enjoy watching Jamie charm his way across Italy, getting recipes from nonnas (grandmothers), speaking Italian and then relaying the information to us.
Since I tend to watch those programmes when I’m getting ready for bed, or taking my post-prandial afternoon nap, I’ve begun keeping a notepad and pen next to my bed in readiness to take down any recipe that looks simple enough for me to attempt for my next cookery excursion. Of course, it also depends on having the right ingredients, and in my kitchen those are usually missing. By now, however, I have gained a few staples that would have made my late mother raise her eyebrows (teriyaki sauce, red wine vinegar, to name but a few).
The personality of the presented certainly plays a part in getting me to watch. I enjoy Jamie’s youthful enthusiasm and knowledgeableness about health aspects of the various foods, Ainsley’s almost Cockney-like Caribbean cheekiness, Mary Berry’s graceful dignity, and Mark Moriarty’s red-haired Irish charm.
Furthermore, recently I’ve been able to enjoy the new HBO series about that pioneer of American TV cookery programmes, Julia Childe, with a wonderful portrayal by Sarah Lancashire of her unique character and charm. The programme also gives us insights into the process of producing that kind of programme as well as into the private life of Julia Childe herself. A true delight for the eye and ear, as well as (almost) for the taste-buds.