I was in ‘Waterstones’ the other day, perusing the many items I would happily part with my money for when two words caught my eye that caught in my craw as surely as a failed reality TV star assassination. The brace of words were not the two of the title of this piece, though they did feature on the book cover, but these two…‘Jamie Oliver’.
Not being a massive foody myself, the celebrity chef thing has passed me by but they are a species that cannot be avoided entirely if at any time you have had your eyes open. All these culinary persons, invariably attired in white, have an agenda that must be harkened to but it is Mr Oliver that I think I am most aware because of his ‘this is what and how you should eat’ proclamation in a rather overly authoritative, I’m right, you’re wrong, way. I feel he’s literally trying to ram his way of food preparation down my throat…which I feel he would, had he got enough chairs with restraining straps attached to them.
Food to me has to do two things: taste nice and stop me feeling hungry. Beyond that, I’m pretty disinterested. And if someone else can make it for me for free – within the two parameters already stated – all the better.
Back to the book. The first thing I thought of when I read the title, ‘Five Ingredients’, was ‘Four chips and a steak and kidney pie’. I know, rather flippant but it amused me. As I continued my stroll around the bookstore my thoughts kept getting dragged back to this brain worm of a title. What about a roast dinner? You could knock one of them up with five ingredients, couldn’t you? Chicken, peas, carrots, spuds (prepared in a variety of ways) and gravy. A full(ish) English. Bacon, sausage, egg, mushrooms, black pudding. A sandwich and a fairly complex one at that. Bread, cheese, Marmite, salad cream (must be Heinz), salt and vinegar crisps. This is a piece of piss. What’s the big deal about using five ingredients to make a meal? Without even trying I had created a whole day’s menu.
Then it occurred to me. This is Mr Oliver we’re talking about. He won’t be using ingredients you’ll have in your kitchen cupboard or possibly even available in your county…country…planet. It’ll be something like Mongolian Worm carcass, dressed with balsamic lettuce flower, moon dust and unicorn piss with a side salad of air cress. There won’t be any recipes in the book you can throw together when you stroll in from the pub; these will be meals that will require efforts akin to finding the Holy Grail. And I bet they’ll all taste like Yak’s bollocks…especially the dishes that include the use of Yak’s bollocks.
And how much does an ounce of leprechaun jism cost? I surmise just one of the meals will require the financial outlay that could feed a family of four (using my recipes above) for six months. Plus, once you’ve tasted Venezuelan Canal Compote are you ever going to use any of the leftovers of the five ingredients to make it again? I bloody doubt it. So that’s more stuff to dump in the landfill and I truly believe most of the ingredients have a half-life of two billion years.
All that said, I bet this book will fly off the shelves like a flatulent wasp and grace many a kitchen library of culinary wannabes the world over. The delusional will whip out their copper bottom pans, fire up the sustainable peat burning Aga and happily blend Middle Earth chillies with duck-billed platypus spittle and rest it on a bed of Jedi droppings and woven mist.
Okay, I understand I may be being a little unfair. I haven’t read the book (never will) and am judging things by the cover, which is famously something you should never do…even though I bet I’m right in this instance. The fact is, I can’t bring myself to like Jamie Oliver (by the way, I suspect there’s a silent ‘Cromwell’ suffix to his name; another chap who quite enjoyed enforcing how people should live for their own good) and his own, very marketable, brand of food dictatorship. Truth be told, I don’t think I can get over seeing him cry on the telly because the darling kiddiwinks wouldn’t eat his version of Turkey Twizzlers which, if my memory serves me right, were made from fermenting broccoli and weasel snot. ‘It’s not fair! It’s not fair!’ he may, or may not, have whinged. I couldn’t stop myself feeling they were tears made of the same substance that is used to fashion X-Factor back-stories.
That might seem a little heartless and unfair of me but on the other hand, I’m not going to make Mr Oliver eat one of my sandwiches, delicious as they are, so I think we’re even. I also suspect he won’t give a toss, salady or not, what I think. Especially as he gets high on the smell of his ten gasquillion quid royalties I have no doubt he will earn from ‘Five Ingredients’ this Christmas.
The upside of all this prattling is that I’m thinking of joining the literary gravy train that is cook books and penning my own full colour instructional kitchen tome. The title is a work in progress but so far it’s between ‘Tasty Menus To Try If You Think Heart Disease Is A Myth’ or ‘Life’s Too Short; Fuck It, Have A Pot Noodle’. At present, I have two recipes, both of which require a fire blanket in close proximity during the preparation and, if possible, a defibrillator for use after consumption of the prepared nosebag.
Kickstarter, anyone? I can see a spin-off TV series…and I’ve got my bag of woe tale ready too. Taken home by the wrong parents when I was a baby, they just didn’t have enough money. Whoa, here come the tears…