April 27, 2014, by Eve
I am not especially greedy but I do harbour a secret love for cooking programmes. I love the tension of will-they-get-it-out-on-time, the cliff-hanger editing, the dramatic music which makes watching someone scramble eggs makes the experience akin to the final chase sequence in ‘Agro’! The cookery show is slowly becoming the new crime thriller. I’m surprised they haven’t asked Robert De Niro to be on Celebrity Master Chief (but there’s still time).
There are a couple of aspects of the fancier restaurants which I have noted over the years. The first is the descriptions of food in the menu ‘Organic, Free-Range, Well-trained, honey roast chicken avec petti sprouts’. Or, sometimes, you just get the more straight-forwards approach: ‘Chicken and Sprouts’.
It is funny how people talk about food. I remember in one episode of Master Chief a critic saying ‘these beans have been violated!’ Without going into too much detail, it sounded like the cooks owe the beans an apology.
Alongside this, the treatment from the waiters is a major part of the event: the taking of the coats; the moving of the chair; the placing of the napkin. It’s all very ceremonial. I always try and make friends with my waiter – usually because they’re about my age, job-ing students, and I don’t want them to think I’m a stuck up bean who doesn’t register them as humans.
Another feature is presentation. My dad always said that ‘the fancier food looks on the plate, the more people have handled it’. Fair comment. Come to think of it, I don’t remember Gordon Ramsay ever wearing any kind of protective gloves when he cooks… but that would distract from the tactile pleasure of cooking. Still, it is a little disconcerting on a hygiene level.
For a £15 starter you never seem to get very much for your money. Three miniature pods of crab meat are accompanied by twirly carrot and avocado shavings, topped with a casual scattering of wild salad and a flick of red sauce. There’s more plate than portion. At Jamie’s Italian the food is laid out on slabs of wood – you’d think Jamie would be able to afford plates! But wood’s more edgy.
It is excessive, it is showy, but I love it. You have to be willing to play along with the whole performance to enjoy it and, as in any formal social event, performance and appearance are key to its very cultural existence. Yes, it’s a big bourgeois construction – it’s a big show! Waiters play the humble servers, the food is suitably dressed to fulfil their starring role and we, the audience, sit back and enjoy the splendour and excellence of the excursion. Just like being at the theatre – and the ice-cream costs as much.
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