Bring on the Brotherhood of the Eccles Cake

I DON'T know quite what it is about Mireille Johnston, the presenter of A Cook's Tour of France II (BBC 2), but you get the feeling that it wouldn't be a very good idea to cross her. It may be her delivery, which is projected as though she is trying to maintain order in a class of unruly seven year olds, or it may be the glacial elegance of her appearance, but there's something slightly forbidding about her, a sense that you will be in trouble if you don't enjoy what's put in front of you.

This connection between food and discipline is familiar in England but it isn't usually associated with the idea of pleasure. You can sense that The Food Programme wants to think of eating as one of the elemental enrichments of life but it can't really shake off a vestigial sense of guilt, including worthy items on food politics and dressing up some of its cookery items as gameshows - this week one of its resident cooks had to pounce on a family in the local supermarket and produce an edible meal out of what they had in their trolley and store cupboards.

The very title of Channel Four's current food series, Eat Up, carries a peremptory sense of obligation (they had to drop There's Starving Children in Ethiopia Who'd Love That because it wouldn't fit in Radio Times). Eat Up is grim actually, one of those programmes that doesn't talk about what we eat but about 'our diet', as though the whole process of sticking things in your mouth is fraught with social and medical hazard.

So despite Johnston's stern demeanour A Cook's Tour is rather refreshing. There's no less obligation here but it is at least directed towards enjoyment; the first episode included a filmed report from a French primary school in which children were being given practical lessons in La culture du gout, a lesson intended to preserve the French culinary patrimoine against the assaults of le burger. Such exercises will, Johnston noted, 'hopefully transmit a rich collective memory'. Certainly rich, if the recipes here were anything to go by. Butter, eggs and cream were the staples, used with a prodigality that made the mouth water.

And, just in case the taste alone is not enough to preserve a dish, a local support group will probably emerge. Johnston was enrolled as a member of a confrerie founded to defend the honour of Tarte Tatin, a group of men who dress as Smurfs and sing songs about apple pie.

This surely has possibilities for The Food Programme. Perhaps it's time for them to encourage the foundation of the Brotherhood of the Eccles Cake or the Sodality of Holy Hotpot.

People First, a new documentary series on Channel Four, really does seem to mean what it says. In last night's film, about asthma sufferers, you kept expecting an investigative payoff - evidence of the government's lamentable record on urban pollution control, perhaps, or a detailed arraignment of the local plastics factory, but it never came. This was simply an attempt to convey what it is like to be an asthmatic to those who aren't. The people came first.

Asthma is one of those diseases, like diabetes, that is a career for life. It offers the sufferer a title as well as a set of debilitating symptoms and that, most of the witnesses suggested, was part of the problem. When people thought of you as an asthmatic a whole set of associations came along too, about fragility and weakness and panic. One man talked with effective sharpness of 'the infamous 'calm down' ' which is what most lay-people offer as a treatment. 'It's like saying to someone with a plastic bag over his head, that can't breath - 'Just relax'.'

But if you wanted a larger message you had to construct it yourself. 'Breathing is something (the public) take for granted,' said one woman, 'and asthmatics can never take take their next breath for granted.' As pollution increases it may be that none of the rest of us should either. As another sufferer said later: 'If you're an asthmatic, you're like a canary bird down a mine.'

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?