There is a very good reason why those who watch too much television are called couch potatoes: It’s the food, stupid. The food we eat while consuming TV and the food we see cooking on TV which only makes us (want to) eat more.
Masterchef Australia, into a new season (Star Plus), is one of many shows contributing to an alarming increase in our girth. With several dedicated food channels and others with food shows (TLC, Travelxp), our TV screens are bursting at the seams — no wonder every new TV in the market comes with a wider screen. Yes, Kitchen Chronicles (Living Foodz HD not Living Foodz which serves a different menu) are Pure Sin — Food Porn (Food Food) filled with Food, Dudes & Tattoos (TLC) or almost nude people: Hosts like the lady in Backpack (Travelxp) appear in a bikini “plated” on an ocean wave.
The food, well, there’s everything you could, would ever want to chew on and more. From mussels to muscles, from fruit and flower to fowl, from cattle to cattlefish, accompanied by gallons of alcohol for the Spirited Traveller (Fox Life) with a sweet tooth.
Nobody told chefs on TV that sugar is bad for you, kids and the teeth? Just watching a chocolate brownie with meringue gives you a cavity (Food Porn, FYI TV 18). And the cheese oozing from every pore of a sandwich in USA Cheese (FYI TV18) — kya cheez hai!— makes you exclaim before heading for blocked arteries. Or there’s the buttery slope for you to slip on and break your neck.
There’s something very fishy going on here; that’s because every conceivable creature living (a thousand leagues) under the sea is on the menu: Oysters appear like pebbles on a beach. Consequently, less meat on the burner, unless it’s mutton curry or biryani.
Even fishier? When the unpronounceable “Sukadelappen” was being cooked in Amsterdam, a “beep” replaced the naming of the meat (Fox Life); ditto Australian meat pie — “pure sex” to a satisfied customer (FYI TV18). Is “beef” being censored on food shows?
Indian food channels cook Indian food and Western dishes as we like to call them even if they are Eastern. So there was cinnamon French toast with sponge cake instead of bread (Food Food); Tofu with Chiu spinach sauce (Living Foodz). Health food is a fad: khandvi fruit salad, anyone (Ranveer’s Café)? Healthy and exotic? Fish sans oil cooked in sulphur fumes from an Italian volcanic eruption. Or spiders and bee larva (Fox Life)?
A few other points: Difficult to follow some recipe because Indian food, in particular, can have too many ingredients. Or this health dish of water melon, melon, pineapple, papaya, mango, plums, cherries, pomegranate, chia seeds, walnuts, gold leaf, etc. (Health Maange More, Food Food). Hosts frequently dress like they’re Nigella at a banquet: One wore a crimson kurta, yellow jacket with a blackish pocket kerchief — trying to rival the red chillies and haldi in the recipe (Dussehra Special, Food Food)? Another, stirred ingredients with a fork, her finger, a spoon and a spatula — in that order — while a third wore a chunni close to the gas range. Hygiene and safety first, please. Hosts also go “wow”, “beautiful” at their own handiwork — decidedly tasteless. Embedded ads: A host used Savlon soap and praised it – “germ free”. Not done.
But let’s not quibble: Cookery shows are a feast for the eyes, a sort of comfort food even if at the end of it, we are dying of hunger.
Speaking of health, a gargantuan thank-you to BJP leader Yashwant Sinha. His opinion piece in this newspaper last week compelled the republic of English news channels to deliberate the well-being of the Indian economy on their newshour debates that very evening — and to interview Sinha himself.
Even News 9, which normally confines itself to glad/bad tidings south of the Vindhyas, weighed in on the issue. If such articles get critical issues discussed on TV news, then as Oliver Twist (Mark Lester) famously asked in the film Oliver!, “Please sir, I want some more?”
Last night I dreamt I went to Mandalay — this line, rephrasing Daphne Du Maurier’s unforgettable opening sentence from Rebecca, played like a haunting soundtrack in the head, while watching TV news after the horrific mass murders in Las Vegas. It was interrupted only by an insistent tap-tapping — bullet fire — in video replays of the killings. Watching bloodied bodies on stretchers, you never want to visit Mandalay Hotel again (CNN).