April 2: from my lateral position

For reasons too tedious to explain I have found myself sitting through cooking programmes over various lockdown seasons. I watch The Great British Bake off and Masterchef out of the corner of one eye from a lateral position on the settee. If I want to watch the television head-on I will have to lie on the floor like a dog (the armchair is taken). So when I have only a passing interest in the fayre I go lateral. I have found that from this obtuse eye-beam angle you are more receptive to the incidental musical score of the programme: pizzicato for Bake off (pizzicato as wry comic accompaniment was I think invented by the series Desperate Housewives and has since been omnipresent as an ironic narrative voice; and what Adorno in his study of Mahler calls course of life music for Masterchef, as in these contestants are dealing with one challenge after another and taking them all in their stride, they’re dealing with whatever life or Greg Wallace throws at them. Fair play to the producers on this. But what is most offensive to an adult viewer is the simpering puerile masochism of the contestants when a food critic makes a guest appearance, often arriving in slow motion and to the hyperbolic commentary of the voice-off whipping up the guest judge in the high-astounding terms of some World Series All-in Wrestler. Cut, then, to the adoring faces of the contestants, sometimes weeping with joy as some guy from the Waitrose magazine who only got the job because his dad was big in journalism comes in for another free meal. And then there are the interviews after they are kicked off the show (what a privilege it was… I’ve learnt so much... let me coat mud all over myself so much I am not worthy yada yada) or get voted into the next round (I can’t believe it… it’s a dream come true to be standing in this weird industrial kitchen zone for five/tent in the middle of nowhere). The television cooking world is, of course, a complex Escher world of surreal interlocked realities. Best typified by quote unquote Chef Ramsey, now working as a quiz show host on prime time BBC. Television wants to just load him with options. His commitment to cooking is such that he would now rather not touch it and is skipping through formats looking for the best vehicle for his remarkable hybrid talent-basket of bully, foul-mouthed charmer and business-type, reminding me of GCSE students who can’t wait to study Business Studies at A level because they will be doing a no-bullshit subject in which they do not yet have a history of failure. I suppose Chef Ramsey is now taking on the mantle of Donald Trump and like the ex-President, will inevitably soon toxify himself to a frazzle.


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