Not being a regular prime time TV viewer, I found myself last night glancing at the final of MasterChef (only as it happened to be on, of course).
Now, I’ve definitely conveyed my thoughts on these pages regarding the proliferation of cooking reality TV, along with other cooking shows that dominate our screens, along with the ubiquitous “foodporn” clogging up our social media news feeds.
Still very much a prominent leisure pasttime of ours, is this intense form of food and food preparation voyeurism. If we’re not cooking it ourselves or eating it, we are watching others prepare it, compete over achieving a kind of perfection over it, or simply gaze at images of it.
Why is it all so fascinating? I’ve previously suggested that it provides us with comfort, by its very nature of looking delicious and reminding us of wonderful meals we’ve had in the past and hope to have in the future.
It certainly holds its own type of aesthetic appeal – colours, textures, patterns and designs. Art on a plate – in fact, presentation holds a level of importance almost akin, if not equal to, the actual taste and flavour component.
Visuals and other senses are indeed extremely important for us, as we contemplate food in front of us; how else were we able to ascertain freshness in days gone by without using our eyes and nose, as well as our tastebuds?
But in the era of Season 7 MasterChef, perhaps there is a suggestion of too much “prettiness” amongst the offerings from the frantic contestants?
Perhaps if there was a little more emphasis on developing flavours and thoughts on perfecting cooking techniques, instead of all the worry about “plating up”, there would be less of the disaster dishes and stress meltdowns …
And these young and talented home cooks could be given a chance to breathe and create truly spectacular flavour combinations and develop their own true personal style.
No way, you say – it is pretty much all about showing off. Pumpkin three ways, exploding dessert, gels, foams, science experiments galore. We want to see them sweating and getting yelled at by master chocolatiers and world class tyrannical chefs.
But in the real reality, not the “reality” reality – isn’t it true that often the best food is the kind that doesn’t look anything like art on a plate? The simple home cooking that we remember from childhood, a bowl of noodles – spicy and steaming. Macaroni and cheese?
Maybe it’s just the middle of winter and the constant viruses and chilliness invading the household has gravitated me back towards craving the rustic. Next season bring on the pasta challenge, or noodles of the world, or even just the world’s best chicken soup for a challenge!
Now, I’m sure on MasterChef they do sometimes hark back to simpler times for inspiration, especially as they really do acknowledge the importance of family food traditions in shaping chefs, and the contestants often reach for the familiar ingredients of their childhoods in the pantries.
Yet in all things food, as it is in life itself – it can be easy to get caught up in the visuals and end up with all style and no substance.
Meanwhile, we’ll all be quite content being served up our continuous diet of food, followed by foodporn!