Monday 17 October 2005

two words: free samples

We're off to the BBC Good Food Show in November, and I'm all agog. As you know, I'm a sucker for celebrity chefs, and I don't care how geeky that sounds. The thought of seeing some of my favourites live while spending a day wandering around and eating sends my heart aflutter. Sadly, you are only allowed to book one celebrity chef session per day so I had to choose between Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver - Jamie won.

Now hear me out before you start wrinkling your noses and making gagging noises. I used to think that Jamie Oliver was an obnoxious git. All the "pukkas" and "lovely jubblys" came across as gimmicky, totally distracting me from what he was actually cooking. I watched the "Jamie's Kitchen" series, and I gained a newfound respect for Oliver. I thought what he did with those kids was amazing and we saw a completely different side to him. When reruns of "The Naked Chef" were broadcast, I finally gave in and started watching them. What I saw were dishes that not only looked tasty, but were things I would happily make myself. I have a strong affinity for people who cook by approximation - and by that I mean those who use a "handful" of this and "a glug" of that - and who care more about taste than how pretty it looks on the plate. I bought his books, have used several recipes with great success, but most importantly, got several ideas from his books and created my own versions. It's one thing to follow a recipe by the letter and create a reproduction, but it's quite another to be inspired by a recipe and make it your own. As wanky as that sounds.

I happened to catch a bit of Delia (I think you can get a cream for that now) while flipping channels the other day, as she was instructing us to use eight grinds from a pepper mill in her vinaigrette. Yes, eight grinds. No more, no less. I find her cooking to be very prescriptive, to the point that she not only specifies ingredient amounts, but which utensil to use when preparing the dish. Don't use a spatula for god's sake, only a metal spoon will do! Some people love Delia Smith's style and I commend her for providing thorough instructions for those who may not be very confident in the kitchen. I think that she did encourage people to get cooking, and that's a good thing. I cook by taste, look, and experimentation, which is the sort of thing that Oliver encourages. This is why he appeals to my culinary side.

Right so, we're seeing Jamie Oliver at the Good Food Show and I'm pretty pleased about this. Hopefully Rick Stein will understand.

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