In recent weeks I have been observing the televised cerebral breakdown of Heston Blumenthal during Heston's Fantastical Food.
I say, breakdown, this is largely what I'd associate with a grown man honking, “look I've made a jam sandwich as big as a bed!” while his team of friends and supporters feign happiness for him, wearing the eyes of al-Qa'ida hostages. “And look, here's the world's biggest Kit Kat,” trills Heston. “I've been worrying all night that it may crack!” By this point, I'd have taken Heston to a quiet area, placed my hands on his shoulders and said: “Heston, lovey, this big-food thing has to stop now. Can you do this for me, sweetheart? It's weird and no-one is enjoying it. Shall we go back to a proper kitchen and make a nice beef Bourguignon? And eat it off plates, not out of a watering can emitting dry ice?”
As Heston's series winds up, teaching nobody anything, pushing the TV agenda nowhere, achieving nothing aside from filling airtime and wasting large amounts of food and money, we now move onto Jamie and Jimmy's Food Fight Club, which I looked forward to, anticipating it to be a cookery show, which it is not. It's one of those lads' adventure shows made where two ol' muckers (always male) go on a journey – roughly related to food – and have a chance to banter. TV production law is that any famous blokes you put together will have great “banter”. Not famous women, that would just be annoying. In reality Jamie and his friend Jimmy Doherty – who have known each other for years and are both successful businessmen – have nothing to say to each other, or, more likely, anything they actually banter about is either too libellous, adult-themed or too in-jokey to televise, so what we get are heavily staged clips of the boys singing to “I Owe You Nothing” by Bros, or stage-acting being terribly het up about the sage in a Cumberland sausage.
“We need to find out who has the best sausages, the British or the Germans,” I'm told by the voice-over, 10 or more times. In the preview copy I watch the voice-over is laid down by a female TV producer, not by Jamie, who has yet to pop into a sound-booth in Soho, London and add his trademark zing.
I love watching the unsigned-off preview copies when you can hear the sad futility of the whole project ringing in the rough voice-over.
But who makes the best sausage? Germany or Great Britain?' Well, anyone educated to a GCSE standard E or above would answer this with: “Well, I suppose it depends what you like. They're totally different things.” While an A-level-educated person might say: “Well why do we have to choose? We can have both.”
Meanwhile the demographic this show caters for would answer: “Ooh it'sh a snossidge competition! I love me some snossidges! I hope Jamie Oliver beats the Germans and meks us PROUD.” The thing is, I love Jamie Oliver. And I quite like his friend Jimmy even if he is the Jonathan Wilkes to Jamie's Robbie Williams. If anyone slags off Jamie Oliver in my vicinity I find saying, “that's so 1998,” and airily waving a hand at them quells the matter. Jamie Oliver is a great TV chef with, so it seems, a heart of gold. His 15-Minute Meals currently replaying on More 4 are a thing of great culinary joy. They teach people to feed themselves and feed their families and make the most of British produce and stretch family budgets and have a jollier life, and do this in a way a rich white man in lab specs making a giant custard cream in a bid to advertise his very very exclusive restaurant does not. It rankles me that big talents in cooking like Jamie and Heston are frittered. I mean wasted, not dipped in a light batter and deep fried, although that could be for Heston's next series.
I'm finding so much Yuletide glee right now over on Good Food Channel replaying a back-to-back feast of the Christmas specials by Nigella, Nigel, Delia, Jamie and of course Fanny Cradock. I have seen Fanny Cradock cook a vile Christmas mincemeat omelette three times, her wearing drawn-on eyebrows and a ruched pant-suit. It's fast becoming as much part of Christmas TV for me as The Good Life special where Margo cancels Christmas and is forced to wear a party-hat made of newspaper or The Vicar of Dibley having seven dinners.
Over on the Good Food Channel Nigella has been visiting authentic German Christmas markets for weeks, while Jamie has been making sprouts edible by coating them in cream, Parmesan and garlic, thus killing all sprout taste. Nigel is pretending he loves guests for Christmas. Delia is in her enormous house icing a Christmas cake she began tinkering with last June. Real cookery shows, with actual aims, recipes, tips and no sense of forced daftness. Actual delicious turkey, not total TV turkey. God bless us, every one.
Grace's Marmalade dropper
The BBC's Eastenders at Christmas trailers. The montage alone leaves me in need of a Valium and a good cry. Cheery.