Five things I learnt from food television

By Annette Klinger, 27 May 2015

Professional TV watcher and couch critic Annette Klinger is a firm believer in the fact that important lessons can be learnt from watching cooking shows.

A man needs his dog
Or at least, that’s what I came to believe when watching celeb chef Rick Stein go on his cooking adventures accompanied by his beloved Jack Russell terrier, Chalky. It was indeed the end of an era when the scrappy, well-travelled mutt passed away in 2007. Herewith, an extract from the obituary Rick wrote: “He travelled all over the British Isles and Ireland and nearly went to France. He got up to some mighty capers, leaping to bite a microphone, snarling at our cameraman so fiercely that we thought twice about using the film and bearing his shocking fangs, which would frighten children. He dispatched rats and caused consternation by doing the same with a rabbit or two.” RIP Chalky.

It’s not cooking without a glass of wine in your hand
This is a lesson I learnt from the sadly departed bon vivant Keith Floyd. Whether he was cooking in Italy, France, Vietnam or North Africa, a tipple was never far at hand – no wonder he always looked so rosy-cheeked and cheery. Perhaps one of my favourite quotes by him is during an episode where he was making slow-cooked beef in red wine and said the following: “You’ll need a bottle of good strong red wine. Because you’ll probably need half a bottle to go into the dish itself and you will need half a bottle into yourself to make things really cheerful.” Now that’s solid advice, if ever I’ve heard some.

People can surprise you
I was first introduced to Gordon Ramsay when I saw him on the original British version of Hell’s Kitchen as a foul-mouthed meanie-pants who seemed to take an inordinate amount of pleasure in reducing chefs to blubbering wrecks. It certainly made for entertaining TV, but it often had me saying “Ag shame man!” from the comfort of my couch. And then I saw MasterChef Junior USA. Suddenly, the tyrant was all sweetness and light, handing out pats on the back and encouraging words to the mini cooks. He even laughed out loud when one of the little tykes upended a bowl of under-whipped cream on his head, accidentally letting a swear word slip, and correcting himself saying “Sugar, I meant sugar!”

Big is beautiful
During its run in the nineties, Two Fat Ladies was one of my favourite shows. Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson were two of the most bad-assed cooks I’d ever seen. They had a wicked sense of humour (about life and themselves), they got around in an awesome Triumph Thunderbird-and-sidecar-getup, they were totally unapologetic about their love of adding butter or lard to a dish to make it taste better, and, they were besties before the hashtag was even invented. It is said that on her deathbed in 1999, Paterson called Clarissa to bring her a tin of caviar, but that Clarissa was too late. Clarissa then ate the caviar after the funeral as a tribute to her friend. Sadly, Clarissa too passed away in 2014.

Impossible is nothing
If I’ve learnt one thing from MasterChef Australia, it’s that you don’t need to be a trained chef to bang out delicious food – sometimes with mere seconds to spare. Put me behind a cooking station and ask me to debone a chicken, or whip up a scrumptious meal with from the mystery box in record time and I would most likely choke, but time and again I’m surprised at the sheer willpower and chutzpah of the novice cooks on this show.

Annette Klinger

Article by Annette Klinger

Woolworths TASTE’s features writer maintains that almost any dish can be improved with butter and cream. She’s a stickler for comfort food, especially German treats that remind her of her late grandmother, such as pork schnitzel with sauerkraut and spätzlen. She is a voracious reader of food magazines and recipe books, and instinctively switches over to the cooking channel whenever she checks into a hotel or guesthouse.
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