My ebook: Journeys with the caterpillar

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Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Utility no.1 : Cookery Shows

A few years back, while taking a stroll in London, I met this procession of five, holding placards saying, “I hate Jamie Oliver”. That’s when I realized that television cookery shows and their hosts are of much greater social and political import than what we assign them. After all, these are the people who keep teaching us dimwits again and again what mankind learned to do several thousand years ago. Just imagine, if you missed the episode on Chicken Tikka Masala, will you be able to redeem yourself in life again? The way to a man’s heart is his gut, stupid, not your blog.

Everyday around the world, the tele-chefs, all with beaming faces, fill the time slots in television channels one by one. There are even dedicated 24 hour food channels. May be at any point of time, there are more cookery shows in the world than there are recipes. So to differentiate themselves, some like Nigella Lawson take to cutting spinach in a sexy way while those like Gordon Ramsey take to the best thing one can do today to attract immediate attention: bad mouth people around. Yes, Simon Cowells and Anne Robinsons are fast taking over our world.

Still, the most magical thing about cookery shows is the speed and ease. The star chef puts the lamb on slow flame; goes for a commercial break, and when back, bingo, the food is ready. Life is beautiful. Often these cookery shows bring in a guest who is forced by the chef with a smile and some sweet talk to taste the food. Given that the audience has no way to know whether the food has been cooked well or not, this celebrity guest plays the most crucial role. After tasting the first spoonful, he has to put up a blizzard of facial expressions and throw up a verbal diarrhea of praises to prove how the sautéed asparagus tastes the best thing ever allowed to go inside our mouths. Life is simple.

In India, watching a cookery show by Sanjeev Kapoor will instantly earn hundreds of in-laws miles for the new bride. As for me, to serve my metro-sexual aspirations, I did take to watching a few episodes of cookery shows. Soon I realized that I didn’t know recognize any of the English names of the ingredients, neither did I know their names in Indian languages. So whether it was Lamb Shank or Navratan Korma, it all ended up with pepper, salt, chili powder, and a little turmeric for me. And I have been desperately looking for a cookery show that rather starts with the basics: how to boil water, how to distinguish a microwave alarm from an SMS beep, how to make instant noodles, etc.

Food is an amazing thing. A spoonful spends about five seconds in our mouth after which it loses all its glamour or horror as it touches the esophagus. Yet, it has spawned celebrity chefs, super-expensive restaurants and Foie gras. But then, as Credit Suisse ad would have said, some think cooking, we think opportunities in sewage clearing.

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