Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Sometimes you just want to share

This is a very short and ultra-quick bloglet (month-end and very busy), but I was having an afternoon cuppa and punting around for something non-work related (been here 8 hours and still a couple more to go) and stumbled across a really beautiful piece of writing.

The article is Olive Oil Barons from the Guardian. Read and enjoy!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

A tale of two series

Some time since the last blog... all sorts of reasons. I keep thinking, I must mention that, I must mention that... and then various things crop up, like the recent daily car slaloms into and out of work, amidst carefully timed traffic road works that take an extra hour out of my day.

During the interregnum two new cooking shows have started up - the Hairy Biker's Mums know best series and the cooking biography of Delia Smith, Delia through the ages. Quite an appropriate pairing as Dave Myers has a much-advertised thing about the sainted Delia. Oddly enough, when I was younger I really rather fancied her - something I didn't tell any of my compatriots.

Let's deal with the HBs first. I love their stuff normally and think that they do a lot of good for both cooking and for local produce in this country. Their Food tour of Britain I'm hoping will encompass the rest of Britain soon. I really applaud the personal warmth they bring to their shows. However, I am not a fan of the latest series and I can't quite put my finger on why. It may be because they feel very, very bitty and they do not hang together very well. It may also be because, much as I loved my mother, apart from steak and kidney pudding, she was an absolutely awful cook. She would boil cabbage until it disintegrated...

A little aside, back in the 50s, the first Fray Bentos steak pie in a tin appeared; Mum didn't bother to read the instructions apart from the temperature and cooking time. She put it in the oven (which had a glass safety door). Some time later we heard a dull THUMP; a wail of despair; when we got to the kitchen the outer door had blown open and the ceiling, walls and floor and Mum were covered in bits of safety glass and Fray Bentos pie...

So Mums don't necessarily know best and sadly they don't produce the best television, either, in this format.

Watching Delia was fascinating, because the biog series has the advantage of putting her career in context (and that context is also the backdrop to my own life). Anyone old enough to remember Fanny Craddock will know just what a breath of fresh air Delia was. The reason why she was so good and continues to be a favourite through various generations, is that she tells you how to cook the ordinary food of everyday life. She is the equivalent of my Good Housekeeping: The Cook's Classic Companion book (get the older versions, not the updated version which loses some of the standard recipes in favour of more complex stuff which others do better). I do use Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but more often it's the Good Housekeeping book that I refer to.

Why should what Delia's biography be so much better than Mums know best? Well, I think it's because there's a story to hang the programme and series together on. Sadly, although The Mums on the HBs show are very good at what they do (and I did like the look of Gameelah's Samosas), there is no overall story, just an inaccurate theory and a ragbag of recipes. Sorry boys, I love your work, but not this one.