Sticking the knife into poncey, chefy ‘theatre on a plate’

Sotck Photo of Michelin-style food

The ‘sainted Delia’ (Smith) was recently roundly attacked online for complaining that: “Cooking has become very poncey, very chefy. If I get one more plate put in front of me with six dots of sauce on it, I will go mad.”

Personally, I can’t stand Michelin-style minute portions, the emphasis being on minute, with artfully arranged drizzles of coloured spots or smeary daubs. 

I go out to eat, not admire the lavish plate decoration when more time’s plainly been spent on appearance than on how the food tastes. And don’t get me started on seasonal tasting menus with wine flight – I’d have more fun at the chiropodist, getting my corns removed. If I get served one more, I’ll have the chef up before The Hague…  

The problem with present-day cookery that we see on shows like ‘Masterchef’ is the idea of deconstruction. This turns food into something less about the pleasure of eating, more about the chef’s creativity. ‘Good’ cooking invariably reflects the established ways of making the dishes. 

That’s why old-fashioned TV chefs like Keith Floyd were so much fun to watch. He wasn’t a creative genius but was devoted to tasty dishes made traditionally.

Nowadays, everything’s rushed: chopping, pressure cooking, pan frying, pre-cooking in a water bath. What’s become of long slow roasts, braising, stews? Chefs produce ‘theatre on a plate,’ traditional cooks produce tasty, comforting food full of flavours and tantalising smells. 

But that’s ‘reality’ TV for you: everything’s instantaneous. A garden can be ‘made over’ in days, an entire house in a week. Unlike in real life…

Benny Hill had it right. Diner sees sign in Diner: ‘Home Cooking Just Like Mother Made.’ Diner orders meal which he finds disgusting. He complains that he expected more from ‘Mother’s Home Cooking.’ Chef responds: ‘Nobody said my mother was a good cook!’ 

So, good, traditional ‘home cooking’ best done, yes, at home and you avoid the salt, sugar and fat, plus all the added preservatives most people can’t spell let alone pronounce. You got this one so right, Delia!   

Nora Johnson’s psychological crime thrillers ‘The Girl in the Red Dress,’ ‘No Way Back,’ ‘Landscape of Lies,’ ‘Retribution,’ ‘Soul Stealer,’ ‘The De Clerambault Code’ ( available from Amazon in paperback/eBook (€0.99;£0.99) and iBookstore. All profits to Costa del Sol 

Cudeca cancer charity.        

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Nora Johnson

Novelist Nora Johnson offers insights on everything from current affairs to life in Spain, with humour and a keen eye for detail.