I love cookery programmes. There’s a statistic that’s very in vogue with the Bill Hicks ‘fuck the media’ generation that apparently states that the human brain is less active when watching television than when sitting doing nothing. This is in all likelihood urban legend, but either way, I don’t think my brain is ever less active than when watching a cookery programme. That’s what I love about them. There’s only so much challenging and edgy art that the human mind can encounter before it all becomes desensitising, and there’s nothing wrong with zoning out while someone you’ll never meet cooks food you’ll never taste.
Cookery programmes are the closest I’ve come to a non-harmful cure for insomnia. I’ll put on an episode of The Hairy Bikers Make a Lovely Bit of Soup in a Village (think that’s what it’s called), close my eyes and drift off, thinking “That sounds like it would look like it would taste nice”. Si and Dave are possibly my favourite TV cooks, just because everything about them is so twee that to see them riding motorbikes becomes hilarious. In my darkest hours I just want them to hold me and tell me that things are going to be OK.
That’s what I like in a cookery programme. I don’t want Jamie Oliver dicking around trying to make dinner exciting. Dinner shouldn’t be exciting, it should be relaxing. I like the sort of cooking shows they’d play in a Logan’s Run-style suicide booth. I want to hear Mumford and Sons, and a soft voice telling me that there’s no point worrying about anything because they’ve just made a nice lasagne.
Sophie Dahl’s show was the absolute epitome of this. Every now and again she’d dreamily mention that courgettes go well with mozzarella, but most of the show seemed to be devoted to slow-motion shots of her garden accompanied by gentle music. I’m certain she read poems throughout it as well, though my logical brain tells me this must be a dream brought on by too much beetroot gazpacho.
I’m not as keen on Nigella Lawson, simply because it’s too sexy. Stop trying to make dinner sexy, Nigella. It’s weird. I don’t want to have sex with that roast chicken and the fact you’re trying to persuade me otherwise makes me uncomfortable. The reason the bikers are my favourite TV cooks is because despite being obvious pinups in the bear community they’re utterly sexless. When their kids featured in an episode I naturally assumed they had been baked rather than conceived.
Gordon Ramsay can suck it, too angry. Jamie Oliver is too ‘funky’ and also somehow self-righteous. Heston Blumenthal – just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Hugh Fearnley-Whitttingstall’s probably alright, but his weird mates make the show difficult to watch. Nigel Slater presents a similarly artsy and soothing show to Sophie Dahl, but something about his demeanour always makes me think he’s going to have sex with all the food he makes the moment the camera’s off.
So here’s to the Hairy Bikers. Long may they reign. They seem like they genuinely like what they do, and each other. They’re not trying to make me think. They’re just two lovely men making dinner. And what’s wrong with that? If you’re reading this, guys, nice work. Hold me.