Cooking with attitude: The burning question

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Indy Lifestyle Online
At a dinner party recently, we were astonished to find scented candles and joss-sticks burning in the dining room. As we all were about to tuck in to some serious nosh we resolved to deliberate on the smouldering debate. Is smoke an inconsiderate oversight, or, a retro statement and therefore seriously trendy?

It has to be said that the overpowering whiff was reminiscent of The Body Shop on a hot summer's day. And, as smell is key to the enjoyment of food it was more than a little off-putting.

As everyone knows, if you have a cold and have difficulty smelling, then your ability to enjoy food is way down. If you smoke, you smother other peoples' senses. Even a heavy smoker knows that it's possible to be "smoked out" and put off by the residue of atmosphere from other heavy smokers in a confined space - say, a taxi or an aircraft cabin.

The other culprit has to be scented and coloured candles. The explosion of lifestyle magazines and home-decoration guides are mostly to blame. Young marrieds in the suburbs used to be grateful if they had a sanded- wood floor of their own. Now they can't sit still unless they have verdigris- effect candelabra and untold tapers perfumed with more frankincense than a Papal "steamin' handbag".

Not content with welcoming guests into a steamy cloud of floral bouquet or churchy mist, they then commit the double faux pas of buying hi-tech nonsense from one of those "innovative gadget guides" that fall out of your Sunday papers in a most irritating way. Most notorious, of course, is the ioniser - having blown the monthly lottery budget on beeswax, madam then decides it's time to "look after your lungs".

Along with meters to tell you when your houseplants need watering (what's wrong with putting a finger onto the soil surface?) and shoe tidies, ionisers are a surefire way to part a fool from his (or her) money.

So don't be tempted to cloud the issue. Give all the scented candles and joss-sticks away to the industrial north to sweeten up their air - and keep our senses clear, so we can enjoy the full flavour of our food and wine, untainted.

The Nosh Brothers' `Winter Nosh' is transmitted on Carlton Food Network on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

The book of the series, `Winter Nosh' (pounds 7.99), is available from all good bookshops

This week's highlights on CFN:

Antony's Scotland (today 12.30pm) Antony Worrall Thompson embarks on a gastronomic tour of Scotland , meeting locals and finding out about traditional dishes, such as cullen skink tart.

A Taste of Africa (Tues 1.30pm) Dorinder Hafner visits Mali, and on a voyage up the River Niger, samples freshwater fish, cooked brochette-style and served with salad. Later, Malinese women reveal the secrets of traditional body decoration and hair styling.

Grow Your Greens (Fri 12.30pm) Sophie Grigson meets Joy Larkcom, who cultivates oriental vegetables in her Norfolk garden.