Saturday, July 02, 2005

Stick Your 'Taste Of Home' Right Up Your...

Cookery shows are about the only show in the reality-DIY genre that I can watch without wanting to pluck my brains out through my eye sockets with a rusty fork.

You see, I’m not actually a bad cook myself, and once you’ve slogged through all the shows showing you how to cook Baked Quail in a futillete sauce with a side of fois gras, there are some that contain food that you can afford, and would actually want to make. It’s a good way to get some ideas.

Let me be clear on this, however. I can tolerate cooking shows, but I don’t actually like them. Mainly because, for some reason, someone told all these TV chefs that they’re actually Rock Stars, and that they deserve treatment far ahead of their z-list status.

These chefs actually go ‘on tour’.

What’s that all about? Do they fill a stadium with thousands of people, come out to wailing guitar, lasers and flashing lights, grab the microphone and shout:


Then the crowd, instead of chanting ‘Freebird!”, “Hotel California!” or “Born in the USA!” Start chanting:

“SCRAMBLED EGGS! SCRAMBLED EGGS! SCRAMBLED EGGS” While teenage girls scream, faint and throw their aprons and chef hats on stage?

“Toast and eggs! Thhankyouverymuch! Uh huh huh!”

Basically, TV cooks think they’re celebrities. They aren’t. No one has a life long ambition of one day finally getting to meet Ainsley Harriot or…actually, I can’t think of anyone else, and I only know Ainsley because he always looks like his eyes are about to pop out of his head. Google him, you’ll see what I mean; he’s a right scary bastard.

So you can imagine my reaction when I walked into the living room to find my wife curled up in front of the Food Network. Basically, I glanced at the clock, and wondered how long it would be before I could change the channel to G4TV. You see, the wife and I work on the ‘dibs’ system. If you get the remote first, you have the first choice. Then you put the dibs on a particular timeslot. These leads to lots of wheeling and dealing, where we satisfy everyone, while pleasing no one.

I was, however, pleasantly surprised.

If there’s one thing that all ex-pats will agree on, no matter what country you moved from, and what country you moved to, we all miss the food we could get back at home, that isn’t available in our adopted homes.

You see, as well as some thing just not being available (Maysan Curry Paste, Beef Crisps, Discos, Scotch Eggs, etc.) everything over here tastes slightly different to what I can get at home. This even includes things you wouldn’t think of, like milk (Different cows in a different climate eating different food), the water and the bread. It’s not necessarily ‘good or bad’ different, it’s just different, and you start missing the things you could get at home.

For example, I would kill for a decent curry. In the USA, they have one type of curry, called simply ‘curry’. In England, there are about a million different varieties, and the curry powder you get in the USA doesn’t come close to anything you can get in England.

Well, that’s what today’s cooking show was about. A Londoner had moved from London to the USA (I can’t remember what state). Me and this guy had a lot in common. We’d both fallen in love with American citizens, and moved to the USA to be with them. We also both missed good ‘ole British grub.

Well, the guy visited England, and brought back some food items. Namely some Sarson’s vinegar, some batter mix and other assorted items.

That will tell the Brits what he wanted. For the Americans, it’s the British favourite.

Fish and Chips.

I was interested. I’m not a big fish and chips kinda guy, but it was just nice to see someone else in the same foodless boat as me.

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of assuming that this show was going to fulfill its promise of showing the American public how to make a British favourite, and give this poor Londoner a taste of home.

It didn’t work out that way. Here’s what happened:

First of all, the presenter pointed out that the only real difference between British chips and American Fries is basically the size.

This is true.

It doesn’t, however, explain why he started cutting the most ridiculously oversized monstrosities you’ve ever seen.

We’re talking about 5 chips per potato. They weren’t chips. They were potato wedges on steroids. The Londoner, being apparently the only man in existence to own the fictitious ‘Great British Reserve’, didn’t say anything, but you could tell he wanted to say something.

“Ok!” The cook said. “Now, the oil they use in England is very high in calories, so we’re going to use Canola oil, it’s a lot healthier.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa!

Hold it right there, Mr. Fancy-Apron!

That’s sacrilege! Chips aren’t meant to be healthy! If they don’t clog your arteries and give you a glorious heart-attack inducing greasegasm, what’s the point?!?

Cutting the fat out of chips is the equivalent of making a McDonalds burger out of tofu, or not using real shortening in your biscuits.

The guy was making healthy chips, he might as well have been taking a dump on the Queen, then wiping his backside with the Union Jack!

It was downhill from there.

Instead of just dumping the chips in the boiling oil, he used his own special technique. Frying them once to cook them through, then again to crisp them up. Instead of being a yellow-gold brown, they were just plain brown.

(Nixon accent) “That is not a chip!”

The guy wanted chips. What he got was Gourmet, spiced and seasoned, healthy potato wedges.

Delicious maybe, but Old Fashioned British Chips? Not a chance.

He came to the fish. Oh well, there are lots of different ways to make chips. He will at least get the fish right.

Was it cod? The fish you’ll find in every British Chippy in the nation?


It was frigging haddock. Stupid, bollocking, stupid haddock!

The Londoner tried to regain control. The chef might as well have been carpet-bombing London. Trying to get the recipe back on track, he brought out the batter mix he’d bought in ‘ole Blighty.

Not a chance.

“Now, I want to do something special with this. I’ve got some Italian herbs here that we’re going to mix with it… and to add a really nice, interesting flavor, before we batter the fish, we’re going to rub it in this special cornmeal.”

What the hell is this guy doing? He’s already dumped on the Queen, wiped on the British Flag…now he’s setting fire to Big Ben, and turning 10 Downing Street into a whorehouse.

Cornmeal? Herbs? Why not wear a ‘Winston Churchill is Bent T-shirt’ at a veterans parade on Victory in Europe Day?

Seriously. He’s making a British Classic, and hasn’t made a damn thing the traditional way. Americans, imagine moving to the UK, then someone offers to make you a Big Mac. They then make the ‘Big Mac’ out of Tofu, using feta cheese instead of a processed American Cheese slice, using spinach instead of lettuce, and putting on a ciabatta roll instead of a sesame seed bun. The giving you a smug grin, and expecting you to fall on your knees and thank them for your ‘taste of home’.

Sacrilege, heresy…plain and simple.

So he starts plating it up. Suddenly, he does a really bad acting job of pretending he forgot something.

“Oh, of course, we need a dressing! Now what do we need?”

The word ‘dressing’ set off alarm bells. You don’t use ‘dressing’ on Fish and Chips.

‘Dressing’ to Fish and Chips is what a tutu is to professional football. ‘Dressing’ with Fish and Chips is about as welcome as Hitler at an All Jewish and Negro Gay Pride Parade.

However, I tried to keep some optimism. The wife was looking at me in a puzzled way, maybe it was the sound of my grinding teeth that was drowning out the TV.

“Simple!” I said to the wife. “He’s got three options. Ketchup, Daddies brand Brown Sauce, or if he wants to mix it up a little, gravy.”

Oh, how wrong I was:

“Great!” Says the host. “I’ll make a special tartar sauce! Pass me the mayonnaise, the fresh basil and that jar of capers.”

I was paralyzed with rage. I literally couldn’t move.

“Fucking tartar sauce?!?” I hissed through clenched teeth.

“mayo-friggin naise!?!?” My voice grew in volume.

“Fresh sodding basil!?!?”



I would have continued, but I was choking on my own rage.

It’s a damn good job that that TV also plays the Video Game Network, or it would have taken a short, but violent, jaunt through my living room window. I suddenly understood all the anti-gun propaganda, because I wanted to grab my rifle and empty it right into the TV screen.

The whole point of this show was to give the poor Londoner (who at that point was swigging a pint of lager while singing ‘Here we go, here we go, here we go!”) a taste of home and introduce the American public to a British Classic.

I only hope that the second the cameras went off, that Londoner glassed the Chef in the face with his beer glass, poured the Sarson’s Vinegar on his wounds, beat him to within an inch of his life with a flagpole proudly bearing the Union Jack, let his British Bulldog maul him, then buried him alive in a shallow grave…along with that culinary abortion he had the brass nerves to call ‘Fish and Chips’.

That’s what I, or any self respecting Brit, would have done.

Here’s a taste of home for you! Gourmet slightly spiced potato wedges, with sautéed haddock in a finely seasoned batter, garnished with a home made tartar made with fresh basil and capers.

Capers. Sodding Capers. That’s the part I can’t get over.

I can imagine the look on my wife’s face if I made a Southern Classic the way he did.

“I’m going to make biscuits and gravy for you, sweetie!”.

The actual recipe for biscuits is flour, milk and shortening, mixed together and baked. The recipe for Biscuit Gravy is Flour, bacon grease, and milk, mixed up and served with lots of salt and pepper. (it sounds awful, but it’s delicious and artery clog-tastic)

“Ok, let’s make that Southern Favourite! That shortening is very fattening, so we’re going to use low fat olive oil. To add a little spice to the gravy, I’m adding capers, some minced garlic, turmeric and bay leaves. Now here’s a cup of instant coffee with low fat soy milk and artificial sweetener!”

You would find me with every bone in my body broken, a 50 caliber hole in my head, and a confederate flag shoved where the sun don’t shine (and I’m not talking about that humorously named place in Wales either).

You do not say you’re going to give someone a ‘taste of home’ and completely change the recipe. Especially when you pick a food that is a dyed in the wool tradition. Fish and Chips (A chippy tea) is, on Fridays, the law in England. I mean, this guy didn’t have a chance in the first place, as it is impossible to make at home anything that even comes close to the food from a good British Chippy. Rather than make an honest, but futile, attempted, he had the balls to commit food crime.

He might as well have offered a Redneck a Light Beer.


Vicarious Living said...

Of course now I'm hungry and there is nothing in the house to eat.

aurora said...

Yeah now that there's a TV station dedicated to them chef's have gotten all rock star. Ugggh Emeril. I do reccommend The Barefoot Contessa though. She makes things that I feel like I could copy. And I want to live her life. Except I want the role of slightly befuddles husband who wanders in to eat and pronounce the food delicious. All that cooking looks like awfully hard work.

Miz S said...

LOL- I am torn between having to watch you dream of those home favorites and do nothing
trying to duplicate them and failing- therefore dissapointing you.
I think I will just wait til we go on holiday to England so I can see for myself what these things taste like - it's so much easier to duplicate things if you have an inkling of HOW they SHOULD taste.

Until then, Know I sympathize with you and if I could fix it- I would.

I love you, Sweetheart!

R. U. Serious said...

I like it on Iron Chef when they have live food items.

I think the food should have a sporting chance.

Damned If I Know

MC Etcher said...

It's horrible when a classic dish is ruined by supposed experts.

Why is there no cooking program that show food prep as it really is, quick and dirty, and with frequent use of the microwave?

serendipity said...

Ahh fish and chips - the yummy great british calorie laden, butt size increasing, artery clogging favourite.

there's nothing quite like chips from the local chippy. i don't know what they do to make them sooo damn good, but there's no duplicating it. Eating chips on Skegness sea front...classy...LOL

I personally prefer haddock to cod, but in a lightly seasoned batter with fucking capers!!! I want it deep fried and dripping grease....

Oh god I think my ass just grew two sizes just thinking about it!