73. Masterchef jn

Tapehead no 73

According to Loyd Grossman, shopping is now our “number one leisure activity.” (Sex, drugs, eating, sleeping, and TV do not count). 

His aptly named new series, Off Your Trolley, starts with The Persuaders, a look at the people responsible for supermarket layout, and other various manipulative methods supermarkets use to persuade the public to part with their money.

These include putting fruit and veg by the entrance – to make us think we’re in a field – and putting the alcohol at the back – to make us desperate and thirsty. They also use music – “to adjust the speed we shop at” – with most stores slowing shoppers down by boring them to death with Mozart. Tapehead’s own local store is unusual in preferring The Ramones.

Most of the programme consists of overpaid people telling us how sophisticated and important they are to the supermarkets’ success. 

These include experts like Professor Gary Davies, Professor of Where To Put Bananas, and Fred Dale, an “artificial smell manufacturer” who reckons the (artificial) smell of chocolate reminds us of birthdays, which in turn reminds us to Buy Things.

Fred has come up with the ingenious idea of wafting the smell of freshly baked bread round the aisle. This makes people feel as if they’re going flat-hunting (and then spending thousands).

To lure us inside, supermarket chains hire expensive architects to create that authentic mock-Tudor supermarket look, with all the features the public expects form a first-class supermarket: turrets, weather vanes and clock towers.

The future of supermarkets though, is Connecticut, where stores like Stu Lennards have given up on shoppers’ needs and concentrate on their children instead. One US superstore has its own farm and singing vegetable puppets (no food).

No one seems to consider the possibility that the pubic go the supermarkets simply because they know the food they like and that’s where they sell it. This is, all in all, a programme about people who think the public are idiots.

Back on Junior Masterchef, Loyd takes Tapehead back to the days when he was young, developing his own culinary talents, knocking up a medley of oven chips or spaghetti hoops. (Now, with his palate matured, he had graduated to baked potatoes and spaghetti letters.)

This week’s contestants are aged 13-15, judged by nice Sue Cook and the chef from Le Caprice, who makes the youngest girl cry by telling her the ways in which her mango brulé could go wrong.

On this evidence, there is something radically wrong with the youth of today: wasting their teens cooking steak cacciatore or lamb wrapped in spinach and bacon with baby carrots and potato rostis, when they could be out sniffing glue and going joyriding.

They’ll regret it when they’re older.

Meanwhile in A Cook On the Wild Side, likeable loony Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall tries living off the land in London, gathering elderberries form a canal bank and preparing snails in garlic butter in some bloke’s back garden.

Tapehead’s only problem with Hugh is the way he’s always showing off – pointedly swallowing everything raw or alive, and boasting about eating it with “no pepper, no garlic, no oil”, when the fact is food tastes much better cooked in oil, garlic and pepper.

His series had provided a valuable service, though: confirming that all that stuff about living in the wild and surviving off the fat of the land is a myth. It’s much better to just go to Sainsbury’s !

Living off nuts and berries is all very clever, but the food at Le Caprice is much tastier and healthier.

Sadly, the quality of wildlife in London proves restrictive: the rats are too dirty and the pigeons for pigeon pie too scrawny.

So, as a starter, he ends up fricasseeing a young child he finds wandering round Hyde park (served with county baked mushrooms in filo pastry)) followed by a well-braised tramp from a doorway on the Strand for his main course.

Actually, poor High is reduced to knocking up something from that old London standby, a road-kill; a freshly killed cat poached in white wine sauce and redcurrants. 

Sick Bastard.


Junior Masterchef: Sun, 4.25pm-4.55pm, BBC1

A Cook On The Wild Side: Wed, 8pm-8.30pm, C4

Off Your Trolley: Wed, 8.30pm-9pm, BBC2