Recently, I have become totally hooked on Masterchef (BBC 2). Which is odd, because it combines two of my biggest nightmares: posh cooking (as in dinner parties), and deadlines.
Here, you have pale, trembling contestants cooking fiddly, decorative little meals, against the clock, and with the judges literally leaning over their shoulders as they cook, clucking, rolling their eyes, and shrugging with dismay at each misplaced fragment or extra half-squeeze of lemon. Last night, they had to make tiny little souffles, plus a caramel sauce, in just 10 minutes. It was quite terrifying to watch. "Do you think your souffles will be cooked in time"? one of the judges asked gleefully of a miserable contestant, who was watching his pale, liquid efforts not rising through the see-through door of the oven. What was the poor guy supposed to say? Of course the souffles didn't rise; they never stood a chance.
The food in this programme is all fiddly food (I've posted about this before, but I have a bit of a thing about it). It's the kind of food which might do as an appetiser, or a subect for a still life painting, but it isn't a proper meal. I little mouthful of this; a small puddle of that; a garnish of tiny twigs...I simply don't see the point. As my eldest son (a very good cook, with a proper man's appetite) says: "people want pie". Exactly.
But I shall continue to watch this mesmerising programme, and keep everything crossed for the poor wretched cooks, and hope that, notwithstanding the extraordinary food, everyone manages to come out of it alive.