THE FABULOUS BAKER BROTHERS: Wednesday 25th January, BBC2, 8.30pm
Cookery shows have become a ubiquitous presence on our screens and can generally be considered as the ‘bread sauce’ of the television kitchen cupboard – bland, unnecessary but a traditional staple. However, millions of us still tune in to watch a myriad of chefs compete to activate the salivation membranes in our stomachs (that’s a scientific fact – don’t bother checking), my appetite for these kind of shows – such as it was – couldn’t be more unwhetted.
If you take a quick glance at the current broadcast schedules there seems to be one particular ingredient dominating televisual recipes: testosterone. The latter months of 2011 seemed to have a lovely feminine touch, with Nigella making love to our eyeballs with her own unique brand of food fuckery and the perfectly lovely Lorraine Pascale bringing a delicate warmth to cookery programming, mostly in a bid to prove that her recipes weren’t as bland as her presenting style. The dawn of 2012 has seeded a new crop of cookery shows that all seem to emanate an annoying middle class blokey swagger, which has caused the likes of the comparatively prim and proper Anthony Worrall Thomspon to go on the rob in order to earn some ‘geezer’ points.
The newest of the current batch of culinary stars are The Fabulous Baker Brothers. One is a baker, the other is a chef and they’re brothers. You know they are brothers because it’s in the title and because we are reminded at the beginning of every show and then at ten minute intervals throughout the rest of the programme. Obviously they love competing because they are brothers and because they are brothers they act like little scamps and throw flour and get each other in headlocks and mess up their hair and stuff. They hold meat pie baking competitions, throw ingredients cavalierly into hot pans and chop up incredibly manly things like bruschetta with an oversized axe, which is in no way compensating for an undersized manhood. Just to cement the fact they are blokey rascals, their surname is Herbet. Tom and Henry Herbet. In case you still harbour some affection for these Fabulous Baker Bastards, take a look at this photo..
The chef equivalent of a Middle Earth sorcerer, Heston Blumenthal, is back with How to Cook Like Heston, a programme that teaches you how to boil an egg correctly, as long as you have a blowtorch, heat vision equipment and access to the Hadron Collider. Heston comes across as the less obnoxious of the ‘bloke chefs’, appealing more to the ‘boys-and-their-toys’ demographic. While he shows you how to make some of the more exciting recipes in his repertoire like bacon and egg ice cream, which is handy if you have some spare solid carbon dioxide knocking about in your cupboard, he occasionally veers too closely towards the mundane, such as the aforementioned egg boiling and teaching us how to fry a steak. In case the show becomes too educational, the bloke quota is upped somewhat with some pointless science experiments, such as jumping up and down on a piece of meat to see if it’s cooked correctly. Which is what real men do, evidently.
Perhaps the worst offender of this faux-blokey wankery is the latest spin-off from the River Cottage franchise, Three Hungry Boys. The programme sees Hugh Fearnley-Whittingeatsitall challenge three strapping men to travel from Dorset to Land’s End for some reason, in a milk float for some reason, cooking and eating only things they find in the wild for some reason. The shaky premise aside, the series seems to only exist to showcase proper bearded manly men killing things with their hands, foraging in the wild and cooking outside like real survivalists. Real survivalists with a milk float and smartphones. And a five-man camera crew. Bubbly and bouncy Jamie Oliver is also at it too, with much of the cooking of his last series filmed outside in front of a house that has a perfectly lovely fully functioning kitchen, seemingly for no other reason that it’s ‘more manly’. Barbecuing meat in the open air seems vaguely practical but Jamie has even taken to making hot chocolate and waffles in the garden. Grr! The bloody beautiful hunk of a man.
This tsunami of testosterone has even seeped into the safe, familiar and reliably dramatic Masterchef. Over the last few episodes we have witnessed the usually cuddly Gregg Wallace manhandle a whole chunk of dripping meat and devour it like a hungry, angry caveman and the generally affable Australian John Torode emit a guttural animal wail directly at a contestants face (I assume because the cook had failed to smear food across the plate as is mandatory in these competitions). Apparently later in the series, Greg tears off his shirt and starts fucking a chocolate fondant while calling it his ‘bitch’. Which explains why Masterchef is now aired after the watershed.
Where next can this style of blookery (blokey cookery – I coined this term, remember that) TV go? A series where a shirtless Ray Winston cooks whole wild boars on the back of a monster truck driving around a football field? A show where Vinnie Jones makes an omelette in the woods while penetrating a Page Three girl? For the sake of our retinas let’s hope not. Maybe we should all wait for the relative cosiness of The Great British Bake Off, where the blokiest person in the room is Mary Berry. Until then just futilely scream ‘twat!’ at your television sets. Or watch a DVD. Or stop complaining, switch off your TV and cook yourselves.