Thursday, 31 January 2008

Get your lips around that

I've been strangely drawn to the latest series of Masterchef which is currently on most week nights on BBC2. When Loyd Grossman presented it in the 80s? 90s? 00s? I never bothered with it - after all this was the era of Jamie, Nigel and Hugh when cooking shows became exciting, and I had finally got my own little kitchen to experiment in.

Now, Jamie et al are ubiquitous on our screens - Jamie at Home is on as I type - and they have become the mainstream. I make no apology for being shamelessly middle class eco-hippy, organic veg box every week, only organic free range chicken on the menu, Ecover washing up liquid by the sink, jute bags for the shopping and compost bin in the garden. I know that we're lucky to be able to afford to salve our consciences this way and blithely ignore the European trips on budget airlines and other convenient modern day gadgets that make our lives easy. We're not going to stop trying to do our bit for the environment, but I think I have eco-fatigue when it comes to the ever-present Channel 4 JamiechickenGordonorganicgrowyourownHughrecycle shows. I know what stuff to get in the supermarket, I know not to buy battery farmed chicken (although I do now know that buying British veal is actually a good thing, due to the 'Kill It Cook It Eat It' programme on last night). I'm fed up with having it all shoved down my throat every week.

Which is partly why I'm enjoying Masterchef. It's not preachy, but instead is just about a load of amateurs who desperately want to cook, being judged by 2 blokes who I've never heard of. One of them looks like Dr. Fox, but apparently both are food critics, own restaurants, blah. There's a round in the quarter finals each week where the contestants have to identify different food items which is fascinating. Who doesn't know what couscous looks like? And who can possibly confuse Worcester Sauce with balsamic vinegar? The only round which seems faintly pointless is where 3 would-be chefs go to a random brasserie in London and help with the lunch service to see if they can cope under pressure - as this rarely seems to have any bearing on what the judges decide at the end of the day. The arrogant judges are engaging, in their way, and none of the contestants have become too obnoxious through overexposure on the screen yet. At the moment we're at quarter final stage so I assume the semi finals are next week. I haven't yet been inspired to cook any of the recipes that have been shown off, but overall it's been an entertaining piece of television. Either that or there's bugger all else on at 8pm from Monday to Thursday at the moment, which shows a certain savviness from the schedulers...

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