Television Review

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The Independent Culture
WELL, THANK the Lord for Delia Smith. She may have divided families with her eminently sensible/intolerably patronising insistence on showing us what a pan of boiling water looks like, and which end of an egg is up. But for those of us who have been paying attention, she has become a sort of culinary John the Baptist, preparing the way for sterner disciplines, where ignorance and backsliding are less gently treated.

Elizabeth David is probably the originator of the notion of canonical cooking. It is terrifying even to contemplate what she might have made of a telly cookery series. But Rose Grey and Ruthie Rogers, of the River Cafe, are fervent adherents of her main articles of faith. "Seasonal, seasonal, seasonal," was the mantra last night, in the first programme of their new series, Italian Kitchen Two (C4).

They are a daunting pair. With their shiny blonde hair, perfect teeth and dazzling white tunics, they look like dental hygienists, or avant- garde archangels, and they are awe-inspiring in the manner of such beings. Not, to be sure, that they are intolerant of human failing. On the contrary. "Flick the seeds out of the chilli with a teaspoon," said Rose, bisecting a small red sphere with a flashing blade. "Careful not to flick them in your eye..."

Not flick in eye, I scribbled furiously, but, by then, we were strolling across a Piedmontese forest, with a gnarled peasant and his faithful truffle hound in tow. "Rose," said Ruthie, "we gotta find a truffle." Whether or not he spoke English, the rustic certainly got her drift. Seconds later, a truffle appeared. "Oh - oh, look," said Ruthie, "How much is that in lira?"

In honour of the truffle, Rose decided to make her own pasta. "I never make my own pasta," she said, expertly corralling one whole egg and six yolks within a fortification of special flour ("tipo 00"). I got a bit muddled when she was putting it through a little shiny-steel mangle 10 times - or was it 16? - and was not sorry to be distracted by Ruthie, brandishing something green and floppy. "Cavolo Nero!" she cried. "When we first discovered it, we were so excited that we brought back seeds, so we could grow it ourselves. But now it is available everywhere - even in supermarkets." I must say, I long to know which supermarket they frequent. Wherever it is, they've got it well supervised. "Do make sure," advised Ruthie, "that you watch them as they cut the pancetta for you."

With food and wine, as with sex appeal, there is no accounting for taste. No one could deny the immaculate allure of Ruthie and Rose, or the perfectly arranged beauty of their food. But, somehow, I found myself rather more taken with the endearing vagueness of the subject of this week's Vintner's Tales (BBC2). Nigel Wilson is a fellow in classics at Lincoln College, Oxford, and steward of the college's cellar of more than 20,000 bottles. "How is a wine steward chosen?" asked Jancis Robinson, every inch the eager student. "Mmm, by the effluxion of time," murmured her interviewee, prodding ineffectually with various keys at the door of the men's lavatory, in which a portion of the college's fine clarets is stored. It opened, after a proper effluxion of time.