Cookery in this country has become a spectator sport. No-one does it anymore, they just watch it on television.
There seems to be almost nothing on TV most days except cookery programmes. Master-chef misery with Michel Roux, the Hairy Bikers being prole, Countrywise Kitchen, and most recently Raimond Blanc, the Very Hungry Frenchman, slavering his way around France with a mixture of pride, nostalgia and sheer greed. In every vineyard, every dairy, every bakery, every fishmarket, he rolls his eyes, smacks his lips and exclaims "Ooooh-la-la!" before selecting ingredients for one of his five-course banquets. It's a pity he tarts up the traditional recipes so much. Bouillabaisse with star-anise, fennel and chilli sounds pretty awful. And what a waste of raspberries to squash them into a flat sheet, bake them dry and then cut out circles that look just like a slice of salami - on top of your pudding!
Lorraine Pascale, Nigel Slater, Rick Stein, The Saturday Cookshow, and of course dear Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (international hero since he took on the EU Fisheries policy) ...there is even an entire Cookery channel. Meanwhile, take a look at what is on the shelves of the local supermarket. Thousands and thousands of little plastic boxes, tubs and frozen cardboard packets, containing ready-cooked meals. Carrots are sold ready-chopped, cheese is sold ready-grated, people buy pre-cooked omelettes and pancakes to warm up and I have even seen plastic containers of ready-cooked porridge. It is truly sad and pathetic. Also the price of £1 per tub is outrageous.
In short, we have never cooked less. Cookery has become something everybody watches and talks about, and fewer and fewer people do. We have become a nation of voyeuristic culinary eunuchs. In the rare moments when there is no celebrity chef show on the box, they are probably showing Come Dine With Me, a formula reality-tv-show whose success is completely inexplicable. What is so entertaining about watching four incompatible people thrown together, giving bad dinners, being appallingly rude and bitchy to each other, and making utterly dense remarks? One thing revealed by the show is how many British women are either anorexic or have a deeply neurotic attitude to food. One woman this week had a horror of lamb, and could not bear to hear it talked about. Time after time we hear women complain that there was too much food - as if they were required to eat all of it. Another woman, faced with a massive pasta and meat course, demanded bread to be served with it. Her host had to go and get her some from the kitchen.
This week one man served, as his starter, a full English breakfast. Yes, as the starter to a three-course dinner. Bizarre. A full English breakfast with fried eggs, bacon and kidneys before a main course of roast lamb. And he seemed to imagine he was a foodie. It's one thing to be carried away by the fashion for serving cheese as, or in, a starter (a fashion I deplore) but a full English breakfast...? Another contestant left nearly all of his roast lamb because it was slightly pink. And said that he really couldn't bear fish in any shape or form. He served his main course in what looked like dog's bowls. No wonder the French think we are mad.
Affluent modern Britain is full of people who don't know how to plan a meal, don't know how to cook, and certainly don't know how to give other people a good time. They can't even be civil for two hours before diving for the door. This is a sad state of affairs and I call it the collapse and downfall of civilisation.