Over the years, I have prepared thousands of meals. Whenever I plate up a meal, I take a little trouble over it because the savouring of good food is not just about the tastiness of what is is on the plate - but it is also about its appearance. I don't like to see the elements of a meal just dumped carelessly on a plate - say with vegetables on top of the meat or with the gravy idly dripped on the plate's edge. No - to me it should look nice.
Television is awash with cooking programmes. Nobodies like Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson have become well-known celebrities - on a par with rock stars or Olympic athletes. Viewers who are probably munching on pizzas and ready meals find these cookery shows spellbinding but I am utterly fed up with them and I would like to see nearly all of them banned. Their relationship to real life cooking and the reality of ordinary people's lives is extremely tenuous.
One of the things that really irritates me about many of these cookery shows is their obsession with how dishes look. That plonker Heston Blumenthal is probably the worst exponent of this "food as art" cult with his swirls of red wine sauce, his globules of balsamic vinegar and his pomegranate foam. Herbs are often used for mere decoration and there are blow torches and piping bags. It is all too much.
In the suburbs of Mumbai, Sao Paulo and Kampala, children are scrabbling in the dirt, not knowing if there will be anything to eat back in their tin shack homes but if there is it won't be five star and it won't look as if it has come from some glossy coffee table book. The gulf between the diets of the world's poor and the plates shown on "Celebrity Master Chef" is outrageous and arguably an indictment of our times.
There's a big difference between making a little effort to present meals nicely and viewing the presentation of food as some kind of art form.
I'd like to see a whole new breed of cooking programmes - "How To Make Best Use of Your Microwave", "Saving Money by using Leftovers", "How to Use Your Freezer Better", "Good Meals from Cheap Ingredients", "Cooking When You Haven't Got Much Time", "Takeaway Food", "The Sandwich Show" etcetera. And we'd get rid of the celebrities. Instead there'd just be a rasping and anonymous northern voice narrating for the TV audience as ordinary mortals take centre stage, -showing us genuinely helpful cooking tips. So farewell Rick, Nigella, Chef ****ing Ramsey, Jamie and the odious Nigel Slater! We don't need you any more. In fact, we never did.