TV COLUMN: Simply Nigella, Masterchef: The Professionals, Syria debate

James Waller-Davies
James Waller-Davies

Columnist James Waller-Davies gives his view of some of the recent events on television.

Where’s that old moralising marauder, Mary Whitehouse, when you need her? The epidemic of ‘food porn’ on TV must have the prude-protester spinning in her tomb.

Simply Nigella (BBC2) is the epitome of food as a voyeuristic, effete and pretentious lifestyle delusion that makes me want to stuff a cold and congealed doner kebab in my gob as some form of dirty protest.

Nigella, the self-styled ‘domestic goddess’, certainly comes from some unearthly realm. When she speaks, it sounds like English, but I’m never quite sure. Maybe it’s the affectations of the deity that are just beyond my dull human ears to understand.

The goddess Nigella has ‘entry level’ and ‘warp factor 9’ liquorice in her special liquorice box. (Should I feel inadequate because I don’t have a liquorice box?) Perhaps I’m more of a warp factor 6 person? And how would I know, there’s nothing on my Bertie Bassett packet to help me out?

Then there’s the measurements. Nigella adds a ‘whisper’ of this, a ‘slight flirt’ of that and a ‘more boisterous’ bit of the other. Just how many ‘whispers’ to the teaspoon are there?

While the rest of us squeeze lemons, Nigella has ‘serious impaling work to do’. She has ‘peeps’, not people, coming for dinner (maybe it’s Pepys – that would be impressive) and she has ‘yog’ in her salad dressing.

And finally, while the rest of us mere mortals would just eat our food, the ethereal Sloane-Queen picks up her Chicken Shawarma wrap and ‘applies to face’. A wonder!

But the divine dinner-lady is a benevolent god and she helpfully shows her guests how to use a spoon. A miracle!

Whatever happened to food as just food, presented as real, not hidden behind soft focus camera-shots, and eaten at a table rather than an alter?

When the anti-food-porn revolution comes, I’m going to be first at the wall with the ghost of Mary Whitehouse and all the other food atheists stoning Nigella with her own pumpkin seeds and liquorice almonds. Long live the revolution!

On Masterchef: The Professionals (BBC2) unbelievable dishes of a different flavour were being served up.

‘Professionals’ (the clue’s in the title), one would have thought, would be able to knock out a dish or two, and the old 1970s perennial classic of the prawn cocktail should be a breeze.

But no. After mangling the prawns and concocting a Marie Rose sauce from oiled down ketchup, one chef served up what looked like the blooded remains of three severed fingers clinging to a lettuce leaf.

It was a dish never to be tasted, let alone eaten, as all three judges refused to even try it. What we got was three cut-to shots of the fixed, incredulous eyes of Wallace, Wareing and Galetti. It looked like a ‘Paddington-Bear-Stare’ competition.

Parliamentary debates, especially of the almost box-set, 10-hour-long, variety are not always up there on the riveting telly list. But this week’s Syria debate (BBC News) produced one of the great speeches and theatre of the modern parliamentary era.

All of the contentious politics aside, Hilary Benn’s speech in support of the government motion will be remembered as part of the great fabric of Commons’ oratory, applauded and glowered at in almost equal measure.

If the speech provided the drama, Benn trying to squeeze himself back into his seat between the unmoved and unmoving bookends of his leader and the shadow chancellor provided the comedy. You could just imagine the thought-bubbles.

In this age of social media, when consensus is claimed by the number of ‘shares’ and ‘likes’, and where a misplaced tweet can sink a career, it is somewhat grounding and reassuring to know that well-crafted language, spoken with conviction, can still hold sway - even if it may cost one ones seat.