Saturday, March 27, 2010

Food, glorious food!

I just adore cookery shows on TV.

There’s something enchanting about seeing the everyday ingredients transformed into tempting creations with minimal hassle and with more neatness than I believed humanly possible. I love seeing the neat little bowls of spices and condiments, the shining pots and pans, the variety of spoons, knives and spatulas, the bright greens and yellows of the vegetables, expertly julienned or diced, the pristine looking filet of fish, the tender piece of juicy steak, the glazing with honey, the sizzle of butter, the batter of eggs and flour, the melting chocolate, the frosted icing…

All this might make you believe that I love cooking and you couldn’t be more wrong. Some people might find cooking relaxing but I find watching cookery shows with their aesthetic, non-messy approach immensely therapeutic. I take comfort from what the great French cook, Julia Child (on whom the movie Julie & Julia was based) said, “I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then I just ate.” So there’s still hope for me…

Anyways, my favourite celebrity chef is Nigella Lawson. She hosts ‘Nigella Feasts’ and ‘Nigella Bites’. Her cooking style is relaxed and almost flirtatious. A few male friends have even been known to say that they find Nigella's cooking almost sensual. Here’s what Rahul Khanna had to say - "Nigella Lawson's cooking show is mouthwatering. And the food looks delicious too!" :) Well anyways, for me the most important criterion is that the dishes she rustles up look immensely edible. Also, she doesn't skimp in terms of portions or ingredients. Whether it is rich chocolate cake or honey glazed chicken roast, you know you're getting the real thing, diets be damned!

Kylie Kwong is an Australian-Chinese chef famous for her Oriental cuisine. She travels the South-East Asian countries speaking to the locals and cooking up the delicacies the region offers. I am sorry to say that the dishes she makes, fail to make my mouth water. Don’t take me wrong – I like my ‘Chinese’ cuisine as much as the other person. But I’m not into exotic foods overmuch. My dissatisfaction with Kylie’s show could thus have something to do with the episode where she boiled small octopuses. I guess I'm not much of an octopus person.

The men are not to be left behind of course. Jamie Oliver is the cute Brit guy on the cooking show scene. He is also known as The Naked Chef – thankfully not for his sartorial preferences but because of the unprocessed nature of the dishes he makes. His show focuses on using organic and fresh produce, from his own garden sometimes, as ingredients. The dishes look healthy and sumptuous at the same time. He tends to be a little rough and ready in terms of style.

Anthony Bourdain is a famous American chef who hosts ‘No Reservations’ – a travel cum food show. He travels to different places round the globe and samples all the food that it offers. He has the distinction of having eaten fermented shark, warthog rectum and uncooked seal eyeball! Okay, sorry for the gross-out but it’s true. On the other hand he also roams the valleys of Tuscany sampling choice Italian dishes. And the streets of Mumbai eating “bheja fry” or fried goat brains…okay, seriously I cannot get over what all this man has consumed and lived to tell the tale!

On a more comfortable and homely note, Rachel Allen, an Irish celebrity chef, has a show called ‘Bake!’ where she…err…bakes. Since I am not an “I-hate-carbs” person, the delicious and warm looking goodies she makes are right up my street. Cakes, breads, biscuits – it’s a wonderful fairytale world in Rachel’s kitchen. Her focus is on making baking seem like a relatively simple process which you don’t need to be a celebrity chef to master. On her show, she also teaches groups of people how to bake different items and makes it seem like the easiest thing.

While we are at it, let us not forget Madhur Jaffrey – the grand dame of Indian cooking shows. This multi-faceted personality is “an actress who can also cook.” Besides being a noted actress credited with introducing Ismail Merchant to James Ivory, Jaffrey is the noted author of cookbooks of Indian, Asian, and world vegetarian cuisines, many of which have become bestsellers. She is credited with introducing the Western world to Indian food. I caught a few of her shows on Travel & Living and enjoyed watching her cook some spicy South Indian fish curry. She feels like a grandmom sharing a personal recipe for a favourite dish.

Kunal Vijayekar is another new ‘Foodie’ on the block (and boy, doesn't he look the part!). He is also a well known character artiste but I feel he fills up the shoes of a gourmet best. He tends to leave the cooking to experts and instead puts himself in the shoes of the audience. Except of course that he gets to sample the dishes that the chefs conjure up.

Though I have seen several other such programmes some from the good ol' Doordarshan days, these are the few people who I could name off the top of my mind. Those who made their food speak to me. There are many other such shows and many other dishes to be tasted…
So till then I will leave you with this tantalising visual and just say, bon appétit!


  1. Juicy!!! is all that i can say. Oh and yummy. But I think it is my duty as a vegetarian to point out that there is a sumptuous platter of vegetarian dishes (and no, they do not all start and end with just 'paneer') that rest of the world has not been exposed to. I strongly recommend Tarla Dalal for the uninitiated. Till then, let's savour and chew and hog the goodies :-)

  2. Thats quite a gastronomical post. I never knew that you had such fondness for cooking shows and that you keenly follow them too. After all you mentioned that a way to a man's heart is through his stomach - and I can see you excelling in that. Impressive and intresting as well :-)

    Keep writing as you write really well.

  3. @ Bluestocking: Thanx...and yes, I enjoy vegetarian fare too...and not just watching people cook it...I like eating it also!

    @ Satra: Thanks for the vote of confidence dude! You get a super sized chocolate ice cream sundae with a cherry on top! :)