Cooking in Fantasy Land
I can’t be the only jobbing cook who finds these weekday early evening cookery programmes increasingly irksome, surely? I have nothing against Fanny Craddock, Delia Smith, Nigella Lawson, Mary Berry and Nadiya Hussein. I admire them hugely. But I find the “it’s what sells” soft focus of early evening cooking as entertainment, and featuring a solitary female anchor, increasingly questionable. Cooking in fantasy land?
Two of the reasons I find the preparation and cooking of food so tiresome is that it takes up a lot of my time and, crucially, I do most of it alone. Traditionally preparing meals was a communal activity, and thus a chance to exchange news and have a laugh, all of which made enjoyment of a necessity. Now, that communal feature is, I feel, channelled by television production companies into “party/treat/summer/festive afterglow” themes, assisted with great mounds of whipped cream and slow mo scatterings of icing sugar so beloved of TV camera angles.
Almost all the boring stuff – the washing, rinsing, chopping and dicing is carried out by someone off-camera or conveniently fast-tracked using time-lapse photography. The fact so ably obscured behind a hundred colourful camera shots is that in the home, in our culture, cooking is not perceived as a sociable activity. Nadiya may be well paid for her talents, but, presumably because it’s what sells, she is almost falling over herself to make it look interesting, fun, exciting, sexy even – using lashings of cream, honey, nuts and fruit.
Despite cooking being a solitary activity, tv chefs are always portrayed as having so many happy, glowing handsome friends who are all so appreciative. By cooking, the fantasy invites us to believe, a chef keeps aloft the hopes and aspirations of the wider family, and all their friends, who flock to delicious parties, drawn by the irresistible aroma and upbeat effortlessness of it all. We are invited to share the fantasy, where the grass is always green and the kids are always smiling, attempting handstands on the lawn. But never helping in the kitchen? What a con trick. Why are we still being sold this staple as a family ideal?
(to be continued)
Thanks for listening.