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To flambé, or not to flambé?

Stephanie 1:53 pm, Feb 2nd 2012

There’s only so long that a person can live off pizza. So I’m learning how to cook.

To teach myself I need a half-decent cookbook. But how do I choose? The world’s littered with celebrity chefs telling us to forage through Devon for mushrooms and slaughter pet pigs whenever we want a fry up.

This got me thinking about the language celebrity chefs use. With all their different quirks and flourishes, which chef do I want telling me how to get from beans on toast to duck a l’orange?

With Heston Blumenthal it’s all a bit Alice in Wonderland. With book titles like Heston’s Fantastical Feasts, and Further Adventures in Search of Perfection, Heston turns the language of cookery into a curious children’s fairytale.

Then there’s Nigella. Full of fertile adjectives, always tactile, not so subtle with the innuendos:

“I love a bit of companionable cooking and I’ve had a lot of it this week. Yesterday, my Brazilian friend (and the best cook I know) Helio came round with a ridiculously beautiful bouquet of vegetables, and we set to dismantling the ravishing still life together.”

With Gordon Ramsay it’s all about verbs. For him the language of the kitchen is masculine, commanding and combative:

“I have a very assertive way. It’s wake up, move your ass, or piss off home.”

And then there are those chefs that make cooking sound like an unattainable art form, something a simple plebeian like me could never fully master. Telling you to braise this and flambé that. Al dente, consommé, etouffe, en croute, cartouche. I wouldn’t know what a cartouche was if you cooked me one for breakfast.

That’s why I choose Jamie Oliver. Jamie’s got it spot on. The language he uses makes cooking seem simple and accessible to everyone. Even down to the way he describes measurements. In one recipe he say take piece of fresh root ginger that’s ‘thumb-sized.’ Who can argue with that?


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