In the back of my mind there is ‘Generation Game’ style conveyor belt laden with food that revolves endlessly, night and day.
Where it comes from and where it goes I’ll never know, but it never stops.
Any time I look quiet or pensive, like I’m contemplating great philosophical matters, I’m probably just watching a lasagne go past.
I’m always hungry.
Food has become such an obsession in our time. Our consumption has reached obscene levels of excess.
Television has been overrun by programs about food. Sometimes they are soft, hazy, day-dream affairs with voyeuristic scenes of food being sensually massaged around the work surface. They exist in an alternate reality where cooking takes place in a timeless, uninterrupted trance, with no one storming in to angrily demand ‘where is my football shirt I can’t find my football shirt YOU must have put it somewhere now my life is ruined’ or to simply reduce you to tears with ceaseless, screeching demands for a fifth Peppa Pig yoghurt.
The other kind of programme is the extreme opposite. ‘COOKING DOES NOT GET TOUGHER THAN THIS’ we are threatened. Masterchef brings us scenes where food is not lovingly prepared with care and attention but frantically thrown together, laced with stress and anxiety. When their time is up the contestant is forced to stand by and watch whilst the judges rile themselves up, sneering and leering over the plate like they’re about to gang-rape a risotto.
The most notable by far though must be Heston Blumenthal, who inhabits an entire genre, if not world, of his own. Never has there been such a focused, determined and vile display of waste and squander. The effort and lengths to which Blumenthal goes to find new ways to turn food into extravagant spectacles of excess is shocking. Some say it’s the space between cooking and art. I say not all spaces need to be filled. How disdainful must one be of poor, starving people to put on public display a meal that is so big its not actually possible to eat it? There’s also a touch of the macabre about creating a dish out of various animals that have been stuffed with one another. A duck that’s been stuffed with a goose that’s been stuffed with a pig which was once beaten about the head with a frightened turbot. I thought I’d give it a go. But I couldn’t quite break down my own culinary inhibitions and the closest I got was a huge cake, that when you opened it up, was full of fucking cake.
As a parent of young children I find our mealtimes are in danger of being over saturated with urgency. When I was growing up my parents worked a lot and meal times became a scattered, indifferent exercise in apathy. Vegetables became a foreign concept and potato waffles, burgers and beans moved in to rule my appetite. We ate separately and at odd times. The worst thing that arose from this was not malnutrition -it was the fact that no one talked to each other.
One thing I value amongst the most precious and worthwhile aspects of family life now is the simple act of sitting at the same table at the same time over the same meal. It’s not just to teach my youngest to use her knife and fork. Its a chance to come together as a family and share time together. That time isn’t always harmonious but we will keep trying.
There’s no pleasure to be gleaned from eating food that’s been prepared under stress. I find just as little enjoyment in eating food that’s been prepared as a novelty, or as some sort of joke, as you can never be too sure who the joke is meant to be on.
It’s fine to be creative, even innovative with food. But with so many starving in the world, with poverty on our own doorstep, someone should tell him. ‘Heston – don’t play with your food’