I grew up in the age when TV was a relatively new luxury. The first TV set I remember was black and white…we were allowed to watch Blue Peter, but not Magpie which my mother thought was a bad influence (it was on the ‘wrong’ side) and Magic Roundabout after tea, before bed!
Cookery programmes – well, there was Fanny Cradock (with Johnnie) and Graham Kerr. When we were allowed to stay up, we laughed at Fanny Cradock and loved Graham Kerr. We were too young to understand why my mother thought it was funny that Fanny had a side kick called Johnnie …and when we asked I think she told us it was something to do with fish.
At times my Dad seemed to really believed he WAS Graham Kerr in the kitchen – I remember him cooking things that were quite inedible but totally dependent on flambé, wine and a lot of herbs and spices. Fanny Cradock was desperately serious, old school and very proper and as kids, our main interests was watching my mother’s reaction to her.
Graham Kerr was the opposite, with recipes inspired by places most of us never thought we would see. Remember, this was a time when travel to the far east or Australia took 3 or 4 days even by air and was something only you did if you were emigrating or in the diplomatic service!
Somewhere along the line ‘reality TV’ kicked in and someone must have twigged that televised cookery competitions would be fun. So far as I can see, Masterchef was one of the first, but I honestly don’t remember the Gary Rhodes era. Hells Kitchen showed us what it was like being a ‘real chef’ and there were a host of ‘celebrity chefs’ ranging from Keith Floyd to Michael Caines, Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson who were for the most part glamorous rather than mumsy.
Now there are certain nights of the week when my fellow food and lifestyle bloggers are totally engrossed and twitter is dominated by the cookery shows. Right now on Wednesday evening, Heston followed by the fabulous Baker Brothers followed by Masterchef. And we discuss the merits of Masterchef UK versus Masterchef France versus Masterchef Australia. We get upset by some presenters and we rave about others.
This lady who runs ‘bitchin kitchen’ in the US seems to have built up quite a base of love-to-hate followers the other side of the pond. Perhaps you can understand why!
I have actually tried cooking a couple of recipes now…a real first for me, since I seldom follow a recipe at all. But, watching Heston on TV was interesting…and I felt challenged! So, Heston’s Chilli and then Heston’s Flowerpot Tiramisu found their way onto my menu…and actually I am pleased, not just with the food but with the techniques and combinations of ingredients that resulted.
Whilst I fully understand the marketing benefit of running a TV show in parallel with a recipe book launch, that wouldn’t work if the show didn’t get an audience. So where does our fascination with TV chefs and cookery programmes come from? And how many of us actually cook what we see on TV rather than, for example, what we find in a book we buy because of the TV show? I’d love to hear your views on why we have such a fascination with food programmes.