This week I have been

Reading

The 2011 Tour de France race guide.

Watching

An Idiot Abroad

Listening to

The xx

Discovering

(Or rediscovering) Hamlet - Nicki Greenberg's beautiful new version, thanks to the fabulous Snarkattack, who invited me along to see Nicki talk about the creative process behind the book.

Eating

  • An enormous serve of bangers'n'mash and a nourishing pint of Kilkenny at the Town Hall one dismal Tuesday evening.
  • A "Chachi" - chianina meatball sandwich - another brioche donut and some amazing chocolate tart at Beatrix, which Essjay has reviewed.
  • A lazy Sunday lunch at The Crimean. The Polish hunter's stew (bigos) was just the thing to revive me after a chilly bike ride.
  • Generous piles of fried food with oodles of chillies and sichuan peppercorns at Sichuan House
  • Succulent suckling pig at Liberteene.
  • An array of bright, zesty flavours at Chin Chin, where the only problem was having to choose only some of the items from what looks to be a menu that is all hits, no filler.

Links

Food TV – rethinking my commitment

Marco’s Kitchen Burnout is long finished,  yet the post on that has been my most recent here for over a month.  It’s not that I haven’t been watching any TV,  it’s just that I’ve been uninspired to write about it.  There are some recordings from weeks ago on the IQ that I saved there so I could write them up,  but… it just isn’t happening.  Here’s why.

Masterchef Australia

Unlike the previous two seasons,  I’m not watching this every night.  When the cast list was announced I was really looking forward to tuning in.  The presence of two (some people have suggested more, but Billy and Mat were the ones I had read) food bloggers and George in the same space promised a volatile mix.  The launch publicity indicated a return to the “basics”,  which I misinterpreted to mean “this lot have a really firm grasp on the basics of cooking so will be presenting a high standard of food”,  rather than “we’ve had to teach them how to separate eggs”.  My level of frustration is such that I only watch now when Reality Raver asks if I’ll recap1.  Otherwise,   I read her site to keep in touch with how things are going in the Masterchef kitchen.  It’s not about food,  it’s about drama and manipulation.  But it’s also about influencing how people talk about food,  and how new Food TV is framed. Which brings me to…

Everyday Gourmet

There are obviously people out there who get something out of this show –  it’s the number one post on this site and my blog stats take a leap at around 4.25 when her show finishes.  Justine is a direct product of Masterchef and her show picks up where that leaves off.  Every product is strategically placed,  every ingredient is described as “beautiful”  and recipes are presented in a vague manner that I can only assume is a deliberate tactic to drive people to the web to continue being bombarded by advertising.  I’ve watched it a few times,  mainly after seeing outraged tweets from athena_here,  and I haven’t been persuaded to alter my original assessment.  In a recent episode in which  Justine made chile con carne,  she dissed “prepared”  spice mixes,  but used pre-ground sponsor product to “mix”  her own.  I would have been far more convinced of the flavour improvement over pre-mix had she toasted whole spices and ground them –  it’s not that difficult.

Secret Meat Business

I was really looking forward to this one and I do need to sit down with a clear head to give it a proper go.  Adrian Richardson won my heart when I first saw him in Jamie’s Kitchen Australia –  he came across as a wonderful mentor to a young man who seemed to really thrive under his care.  I have watched a couple of episodes of the show but I haven’t sat down to watch it,  if you can understand the distinction.  I was disappointed that the “beautiful”  virus has spread to Richardson.  Seriously,  what does it even mean in relation to food?  There are dozens of adjectives to describe flavour,  texture,  quality… “Beautiful”  is meaningless,  particularly on television where we can see what is being described and can make our own judgements on superficial appearance.  So,  sorry Adrian,  but I’ll have to wait until my cliché meter has been recalibrated to ignore “beautiful”  before I can be objective about the show.

The Cook and The Chef

I have been watching reruns of this on Lifestyle Food and I wish TV executives would sit down to watch,  as Maggie and Simon serve two purposes simultaneously.  One is that they showcase a diverse range of ingredients,  use them in creative ways,  and share techniques and tips from a vantage point of being experts at what they do.  The second is that each episode is a masterclass in how a good food show should look.  I want more of this.  Perhaps Secret Meat Business fulfills the brief –  I promise I will try to overcome my aversion to meaningless adjectives in case I’m missing a gem here.

It does make me wonder what I look for in food television.  Like all things,  it’s a matter of preference. I prefer my food television to offer something new: a new cuisine, new techniques,  new recipes,  a new point of view.  Not all of those things in the one show,  necessarily,  but retreads just don’t cut it for me.  For people who are already armpit deep in sustainable living,  the River Cottage shows might be a bit ho-hum,  but I am captivated by Hugh F-W’s enthusiasm for his various projects.

Whilst we are not all perfectly satisfied with our lives,  becoming a chef is not a universal aspiration.  Perhaps it’s my age –  I learn from people whose experience I trust,  not a blow in from a casting call for ‘x-look-y-age-group, must love food’.  If it’s a competition to find good cooks,  I want it to be about the food they prepare,  not the hoops they jump through to get the sponsor’s product on a plate.  I’ll restrict my banging on about the superiority of “real”  Masterchef (UK,  natch) to this.  When I first fell in love with that show,  it was for people who were good cooks.  Perhaps you know people like them –  you’re invited to their place for dinner and you count the days down until the date because they always put on lovely food and you have a spectacularly good time.  Contestants knew the format of their challenge and were able to showcase their skill.  I can’t remember talk of food dreams and journeys and wanting to quit [insert job here] for a life in food.  That was the beauty of the show,  and –  even though it has evolved and recent contestants have been looking for a new career –  participating in the program does not require an employer who’ll grant an extended leave,  or unnecessary isolation from friends and family.  It’s about cooking.

= = = = = = = = = = =

1. So, yes, I’ve been writing… just doing it more there and on Les Vaches du Tour then here.

 




8 comments to Food TV – rethinking my commitment

  • I’m with you, I just can’t watch any cooking show anymore, except the classics, i.e.Iron Chef or Simon and Maggie. It’s all so damned contrived and boring. Also, George Calombaris should never have been put on tv.

  • Aww.. I’ve missed you! You can tweet about the bad programming of the masterflop then :)

  • noog

    Alive & Cooking can be entertaining,LOL

    The problem being chefy/celebs in this country are in a race to sell out.

    Like wow, all these chefs shop at coles, coool!

  • sourkraut

    Injera
    How dare you. Masterchef is the most significant issue in the entire world (more important than starvation, the GFC and nucelar meltdowns etc) and we should all be thoroughly grateful to ten for allowing us to waste our brain power by dissecting these monumental events every day after each episode.
    My god its getting boring. Everything is predictable or fixed or scripted. There are no villains, the standard of cooking appears pathetic for the best amacha chefs of oz and the enblatherments of the jedges is now intolerably grating. Also the stupid contestants “fill-in ” statements are a total waste of space and if my handy dandy destroyer mechanism had not run out of ammo, that clown dani (the short black haired one) would be long ago vaporised. Finally, even the comments on ravers blog sight are now all pretty much the same and dont have the bite or the interest of the last two seasons.
    Thus endeth the rave!

  • @Reemski – you’ve reminded me! I need to get Iron Chef back into my life. (The real one, of course, not the local imitation.)

    @msihua – Awwww, thanks! I’ve been busy over at the cows, though…

    @noog – I don’t think I’ve ever watched Alive and Cooking. *Reaches for the remote*

    @sourkraut – You’ve been missed! Almost as much as a decent episode of Masterchef! I think I’ve watched one episode this week, and one last week. At the moment, it’s still clogging up the IQ, but I have been deleting without watching. I am about to take the bold step of removing it from the schedule altogether, to free up much-needed Tour de France space.

  • sourkraut

    Injera
    Too kind
    I just cant get any enthusiasm for the show and am now too lazy to comment on it. MKR was far superior both in terms of the cooking and the personality types. The only trouble with it was the same as mu$terchoof, the winners were rigged.
    When I originally came to Raver’s blog it was in a spirit of high dudgeon due to some iniquity or other (probably about Chris B)and I googled up “Masterchef rigged” and up popped ravers site.
    But now its all so much the same old same old same old that I just cant be bothered doing much other than reading ravers recaps.
    Anyhoo speaking of rigged, re the tour de Farce, I too look forward to watching it for the scenery, the action/excitement etc but one has to take the result with a huge grain of salt as I would be surprised if there has been a “cleanskin” winner in the past 10 years … including Lancelot-baby. Still its a nice way to get off to sleep but someone please invent a switch that turns the tv off when I do reach the land of nod

  • im not too impressed with masterchef either :(
    im starting on season 3 of trueblood heheheh

  • I completely agree. Although I’ve not seen the AU shows, the state of Food TV in the US is Appalling, and for many of the same reasons. I get very frustrated when, for example, a “cooking head” says to saute onion, carrot and celery before adding x,y&z but then doesn’t bother to tell us that it’s called mirepoix and it’s the basis of many, many dishes. It’s a technique that can be applied to almost any soup/stew/saute you can come up with, not something unique to one Recipe. So annoying. They don’t want us to learn to cook, just to buy their merch. :/ Deep breaths…
    Jenni´s last post ..Guest Post: Healthy French Cuisine for Less Than $10 a Day

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