Sex and drugs and natural history

I was reading a piece by Belinda Archer in this paper the other day about TV cookery programmes - I don't really get much chance to see TV cookery programmes, but I like to read any piece about TV cookery programmes that I can lay my hands on - and it seems that there are now more TV cookery programmes a day than there are meals. Some people, it seems, actually eat their take-away meals while watching TV cookery programmes, which I suppose is a bit like watching sex films while ....

I suddenly remembered where I had come across all this before. In CS Lewis. Yes, in a book by the author of the Narnia stories. When I was a little lad, before my voice broke, I was made to read his book called The Screwtape Letters, which is a series of exchanges between a senior devil and a junior devil sent out to Earth for his first tempting expedition. (Heady stuff for a 12-year-old.)

At one point the devil shakes his head over the idea of people paying to see a strip-tease. "I can never quite understand why men hand over money to gather in a room and watch a woman's body being paraded," he says, or words to that effect. "After all, eating is just as powerful an impulse as sex, but do people sit down and watch piles of attractive cookery being carried round in front of them? Do audiences lick their lips and frenziedly applaud as a cook shows off his or her creations?"

At the time this was all a bit lost on me. I had not yet reached puberty and the idea of paying to see a woman's body struck me as a waste of pocket money. I didn't much fancy the idea of watching food being carried round either, though it seemed somewhat the better option of the two. But CS Lewis was being prescient by accident. Yes, CS Lewis would be depressed to learn, people would line up these days to watch cookery being done, or at least gather in their homes to do it. People buy videos of it. And the people who are featured in these videos become pin-ups. Step forward Gary Rhodes. Thank you, Gary. Step back now.

Or, as media man Mike Ainsworth says, in the aforementioned piece by Belinda Archer, "From being something we didn't really care about as a nation, food is now a major form of social currency. It is the new sex, the new rock 'n' roll, and even if you are not a cook, it is impossible now not to have a view about cooking because of the impact of TV chefs. We are no longer what we eat - we are what we watch."

Hot diggity! The new rock 'n' roll! Already in 1997 something new is being greeted as the new rock 'n' roll! So many journalists last year had sworn never again to greet anything as the new rock 'n' roll, and here we go already! In the last few years there have been so many things greeted as the new rock 'n' roll. There was comedy, of course, which was the new rock 'n' roll in the sense that young kids suddenly want to be stand-up stars instead of rock stars. There was football, which was like rock 'n' roll in that it was noisy and energetic and annoyed your parents, even though they had enjoyed it all along. There was fashion, and there was the Internet, and there was aerobics, and there was world music, and there was line dancing, and there was cartoon animation, and they have all been the new rock 'n' roll in their day, in the sense that journalists couldn't think what else to call them.

And now it's food. Food is the new rock 'n' roll. Well, this might be true if you sat quietly at home listening to rock 'n' roll with a take- away on your knee, but I think Mike Ainsworth was nearer the mark when he said that food was the new sex. Food and sex have a lot in common. They are both vital to our survival. They represent basic urges which man has tried to make sophisticated. They can both be great fun, and also extremely tiresome. And they can both be very dangerous. Safe sex was, for a time, the new safe rock 'n' roll, and safe eating (slimming, dieting, vegetarianism, etc) is the other side of the gourmet gospel.

But there is one thing that encompasses all this, and that is something which is on our TV sets the whole time and which I haven't mentioned yet: natural history. When we sit gaping at natural history programmes on our TV, we get the best of everything. We get all those other things which have been greeted as the new rock 'n' roll. We get nature performing oodles of sex, we get nature eating and drinking whenever possible, we get nature producing the most wonderful fashion ideas, we get nature doing blood sports, and we even get nature being very funny.

It's got everything.

Except rock 'n' roll.

Natural history is the last rock 'n' roll-free zone.

I think natural history may be the new world music.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application) - Agile

£215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before