100daysofgrievances #28 MASTERCHEF: A LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP

I do enjoy a wee cookery programme of an evening (or of a occasional hungover morning, truth be told). A cheeky bit of Jamie with his overly large tongue, or some Nigella and her cringeworthy innuendoes; it never fails to lift the spirits. I don’t care that Jamie is incapable of cooking a single meal without the addition of a big glug of olive oil, plenty of garlic, or his ubiquitous lemon, or that the entire time Ms Lawson is purring away, never deigning to don something as unflattering as an apron, all I will be thinking is ‘if that was me, I’d definitely have sloshed some over my boobs by now’, the sheer predictability is what pleases me. 

In much the manner that I know I’m certain to mute the sound at some point during Don’t Tell The Bride, or want to throw things at the spoilt rich people on house-hunting programmes, or feel brain cells curling up to die the minute a soap comes on, or indeed have to look away from the box as I assume the cringe position during any episode of the Undateables, I can rest assured in the knowledge that a cookery show is sure to relax me. In my humble opinion, cookery programmes are no-brain, guilt-free, feel-good TV at its best. 

MasterChef, unlike Jamie et al, isn’t a programme I accidentally stumble across in a hunt for any old trash; it’s one I actively seek on iPlayer and then binge upon, often watching a whole week’s worth of episodes in one sitting. Despite being one of my all-time most favouritest programmes in the world, it is definitely not as relaxing as the aforementioned cookery demonstrations, and there are certain elements of this show that do not fail to bug me beyond belief. 

It’s difficult to pinpoint the one single most irritating element of the programme, but something that never fails to have me yelling at the TV is the fact that contestants never cook an extra one. Now, I don’t mean an entire extra plate of food, that would clearly be silly and wasteful, but hear me out… Imagine you were cooking a roast, you would make some extra yorkies, right? You would serve the most presentable looking ones to your guests and then save the others for seconds – when nobody cares about appearances in any sense as they fight over the dregs – or for drenching in gravy and saving as a tasty snack for the following day when you can’t actually get into the kitchen for all the dirty dishes and you need sustenance NOW. This is a fact, yes? Ditto scones or soufflés or brandy snap baskets (clearly I have never wasted time creating something as footery and pointless as a brandy snap basket when I could be making extra Yorkshire puds, but you get the idea). Basically, if there’s anything liable to become misshapen, or burnt or anything I might like to sample beforehand, I cook extra ones. It’s common gumption. Is there a secret Masterchef rule that forbids the contestants from cooking extra, ensuring that one patronising critic will always be bestowed with that single sunken soufflé, or are the contestants simply universally stupid? It’s a Masterchef conundrum. 

On the subject of contestants who appear to lack in brain cells, why on earth do so many people go on the programme and attempt to cook something they’ve never concocted before? Incidentally, I’m talking about the rounds when they get to cook with whichever ingredients they wish (or the ‘Calling Card’ round if you wish to get technical). I would never hold a dinner party and then experiment on my guests (mainly because it’s really difficult to concentrate on a new recipe whilst supping on the obligatory I’m-the-chef-so-it’s-allowed-and-anyway-I-had-to-open-the-bottle-to-put-some-in-the-sauce glass of red). Why would you voluntarily put yourself under the extra pressure? And I do genuinely think it must be pretty high-pressured. 

Whenever I cook, it is at their own peril that an unwitting individual enters my kitchen domain. I have occasionally been known to get a little cross. “Do you think I can’t SMELL the burning?” “No, it is NOT ‘a bit smeechy’ in here! (And do you know how I know that? Because ‘smeechy’ is NOT A REAL WORD, regardless of the fact your mother has always used it!)” “Yes it IS supposed to looked like that, no I do NOT need any help and no it is NOT nearly ready!” “No I did NOT just drink that whole bottle of wine, it’s in the SAUCE, goddammit!”

 Just imagine what it would be like with a film crew loitering and no BF to summon in order that he immediately locate that lost appliance/clean the cemented-on garlic from the garlic press/peel 12,000 mushrooms/open another bottle of wine (chef’s prerogative). Instead, you’d have the pleasure of Gregg Wallace poking his finger in things and John Torrode commenting on his favourite types of ‘paaaasta’ and how it’s a ‘lovely thing’. I’m feeling stressed merely thinking about it. 

You are probably wondering why I choose to watch the programme when it seems to evoke such strong feelings. Believe it or not, most of the time it is massively entertaining; basically I like food. I like watching it being prepared, and I like picking up new ideas. I’m not generally a pudding person but Masterchef never fails to bring my sweet tooth to the forefront of my conscience. There’s nothing like watching Gregg salivating over a dish comprising of salted caramel, exotic fruits, and other such delights to make me realise I need a pudding and I need it NOW. 

The BF invariably tries to be helpful and points out all the sweet treats residing in our kitchen cupboards. Sadly, as someone who doesn’t usually suffer from pudding-envy, the cupboards are not always forthcoming. That tupperware containing the leftover chocolates from 2013’s advent calendars isn’t really going to hit the spot (what can I say, I find waste as unpalatable as morning-time chocolate). Ditto that ice cream with the layer of ice covering the top and all the cookie dough bits long-ago excavated and consumed. And I’m sorry, but despite my parents’ decades-long declarations to the contrary: satsuma and plain yoghurt does not a satisfying pudding make! 

In additional to having the ability to make me re-grow a long-dormant sweet tooth, I think there are various other prerequisites for Masterchef contestants. I believe they must possess at least three of the below attributes: 

  • An affinity towards deconstructed food items.
  • An exotic mother/grandmother who has relinquished various family recipes for the sole purpose of wowing the judges.
  • An inability to carry three plates at once when delivering them to the critics,  even if they have previously waxed lyrical about acquiring their love of all things foodie whilst working as a (clearly crap) waiter. 
  • The cool-headedness required that enables them not to yell intermittently: “Will you please hurry up and stop wittering on about his stupid deconstructed lasagne, my dearest departed Granmamma’s secret family recipe egg on toast is getting COLD!”
  • A propensity to sweat, thus enabling viewers to play a fun game of ‘did that drop fall into the food or not?’
  • An overinflated impression of just how good a cook they actually are. 
  • An love of jus, sugar work and foam.
  • The ability to cook with ludicrously expensive ingredients and still create something mediocre.

Before I finish with a gratuitous photo of myself and my friend Gregg (complimentary food-festival champagne rendered me somewhat star struck and uncharacteristically keen to pose for a photo), I urge all you Masterchef and music enthusiasts to click on the following link; one of the funniest things I’ve watched all week.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GkkEO7hzALY&feature=youtu.be

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