Masterchef – why food on TV doesn’t get old

Crab claws

Firstly a quick message to Deirdre who mailed me looking for a chicken recipe, Deirdre I tried to mail you back but it kept failing. What recipe are you after and I'll re-post it for you. 

So, back to business. In the photo you can see my dinner from last night, the pic is taken with my phone so it's not fancy, but I wanted to share, except for the crab claws which I devoured with my 14yo eldest son. 

I got these from a stall at the Milk Market yesterday, they were cheap. I boiled them for ten minutes and me and the younger fella had lots of fun cracking their shells open with the side of a cleaver. I had one of those driving around doing tiny errands evenings, get firelighters, get dvd, that kind of thing. So When I got back towards home there was nothing for it but to get three bags of chips from Rio's for €1.50 a bag, and I'm sorry but I do prefer them to Luigis. We chopped some garlic, melted lots of butter and warmed the claws up in the pan till nice sticky browns bits appeared. The other fella fried himself a nice bit of haddock. 

Crab claws incite a kind of feeding frenzy here. They're so tasty, yet you can't get enough out of them fast enough to quell your appetite. A sort of madness takes over, I guess it's called hunger, mixed with excitement. We puled part the shells, bits of them flying everywhere and crab juice splattering on the walls. It was at least twenty minutes in when I was surprised by the feeling that I was getting full, something that never ceases to amaze me. So we had to stop, there's still some left for a Sunday snack. 

Food never gets old. Unless you leave it out in the heat for to long of course. I guess that's why cooking programmes just keep gaining popularity. Food, is the one common ground we all have. Everybody needs to eat, everybody loves to eat, even those who claim to now really be into food, we all do it, because we have to, and it's the one real sensory passion we can indulge in over and over again without risk of arrest or divorce. 

I was asked recently "what is it with the celebrity chef?" "why not have a celebrity plumber, or electrician?" Answer is firstly there has been an attempt at the celebrity chippie, Craig from Big Brother. It didn't last because you can't eat furniture. While these trades are essential and worthy, they just don't hit the parts that food does. Food is a huge part of life. We can't live without it, simple. 

The cult of the celebrity chef has arisen from demand, if people didn't enjoy watching Jamie or Nigella, they wouldn't do it. If cookbooks weren't so damn nice to read, we wouldn't keep buying them. If food wasn't so essential, we wouldn't keep on eating it. 

One programme that ignores the institution of the celebrity chef is Masterchef. The new Irish version of this mega popular show (not copied by RTE but commissioned by RTE to an independent production company) is already second highest on the ratings here. It's a genius concept and draws the viewer in so much that we get emotionally connected to the contestants. The presenters are carefully chosen for their skills and experience and lack of fame. I was asked to screen test for the job, I did my best but didn't get it and rightly so because I'm not a chef or a restaurant owner. While reviewing for restaurant guides has given me experience, it's not the same. So kudos to the producers for looking for new talent, as the show's precedence can carry itself. 

Watching the first show, where contestants were trying to win their apron, I felt mostly that the timing of this couldn't be better. Just now, in the grip of a financial meltdown, people who want to change their lives and have the balls to step up and do so are going for it. These consenting adults know what they're doing when they take part in this competition. Yes it's very tough, but it's a choice. They get to discover skills they didn't know they had and to develop their cooking under the guidance of the Michelin man Dylna McGrath. Would that have happened if they'd stayed home, moaning about what could have been, should have been? Let's not forget too, the prize of €25,000. So these contestants are not camera fodder. 

They have to invest so much of themselves, so much blood, sweat and tears as we've seen. It's gutting when you get kicked out of the race. I took part in a show called Heat two years ago and made it to the quarter finals, where I lost and I was sure I'd won. Standing there in front of the cameras, after incredibly long hours on your feet with your nerves in shreds, it's hard. I was told my bad news in front of the camera, like they all are, and gutted, like they all are. It took me weeks to feel better. When it was shown on tv I got so many positive comments. Everybody loves the fall guy, or girl. Thanks. But I'd rather have won. 

Masterchef is gruelling. But it helps grown ups who want their lives to be different, to make it happen. Anyone who gets to the final few will probably ditch their job and work in food anyway. You can't argue with the fact that even the people who complain about it, are still watching it, but that's good TV for you. 

My one beef is I wished they'd called the Langousine the correct name which is a Dublin Bay Prawn. Surely now is a good time to own our own food culture, but that's just my opinion. 

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