To The Kitchen

Added on 23 November 2010

As of 13 November, publishing behemoth Jamie Oliver had sold 446,969 copies of his eponymous 30-Minute Meals book, and has been number one now for a fair few weeks in the Neilsen chart. In the week to 13/11 alone he sold 85,628 copies, more than twice the number two title, Guiness World Records. That’s a lot of thirty minute meals people are making. Or not, as the case may be.

It’s also 12,233 sales a day, 510 an hour, 8 and a half a minute. Someone is buying that book right now. And.... wait a moment.... now. Every day Shackleton comes into the office and makes some comment about how I could live to the age of 17 million and not sell as many books as the lad Oliver sells in a week.

Funny lot us British. We’re lazy, fat, self-indulgent, entitled, whining, indebted wankers most of us, but we like to buy books that plank us in the kitchen for large parts of our lives. (Haven’t read Jamie’s 30-Minute meals, but I know the thirty minutes doesn’t include the washing up.) Or, at least, would plank us in the kitchen if we were actually to follow the Celebrity Chef Rule Book every day.

I spend large amounts of time in the kitchen, but prefer to use an old copy of the Good Housekeeping cookbook, rather than a celebrity volume. I appreciate the basic instructions, and nowhere does it actually say who wrote it. Occasionally I make a chocolate cake from the Lawson woman, but can’t stop myself getting annoyed every time I look at the recipe. It’s the fact that she has to list ingredients as, for example:

30g best cocoa

Just, you know, bugger off with your best cocoa. Best cocoa my arse. I’ve made the stupid cake using Co-Op’s own brand hot chocolate drink instead of cocoa. I’ve made the stupid cake using the most expensive cocoa to be found in all of Europe. I once even travelled to the very heart of the Venezuelan jungle, where I traded my third child, young Maw-reece, to the local Atu-Atu tribes people in exchange for 30g of the very finest cocoa in the whole world, and brought it home to make the stupid cake.

Taste-tested the three different cakes on a discerning sample of over two thousand relatives. No one could tell the difference. Best flippin’ cocoa...

(I do sometimes wonder whether I did the wrong thing by young Mawreece, but he sends a postcard every now and again and seems happy.)

Then there’s "I like to make the ganache with a mixture of light and dark chocolate; the light I use is Valrhona Lacte..." Oh, please... Just get over yourself, for crying out loud.

But they’re all like that, all the same. Spewing our pretentious pish, peddling their culinary crap. And yet, the audience is enormous. As a nation we drink too much alcohol and eat too much fast-food pish and we eat chips with pasta, and chips with just about everything else, but we love our cook books and our cookery shows and all the required kitchen gadgets that we’ll use once or twice before consigning to the back of the drawer.

So, if you can’t beat them... (and in my case, there’s no doubt about that.)

Coming soon, in full colour, with more pictures than text, and an accompanying TV show on MoreMore E4+1, Barney Thomson’s CSI: 5-Minute Roast Dinners. ISBN: 978-0956146687 Long Midnight Publishing £29.99