Monday, 15 June 2009

Rant: The Supersizers Eat The Eighties (TV Review)

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The Supersizers known as Giles Coren and Sue Perkins are back with a whimper rather than a bang. The Eighties? Even I remember the Eighties (kind of) - I wants my Supersizers properly historical.

The montage of 80s Giles Coren is doing nothing to alleviate my concerns.

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The chef to guide them in their Eighties folly is deadly serious Marcus Wareing who was cooking at the Savoy during the 80s. Sigh, I guess I'll join them for the ride.

First up is breakfast - Filter Coffee, Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice and Potato Waffles. I'm not sure I believe that such waffley versatile products were ever consumed for breakfast and I cringe at the Phillipe Starck Juicy Salif lemon squeezer (which also sits atop my kitchen cupboard).


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Next Giles and Sue go to Alastair Little for a Power Lunch. As far as I know, Alastair Little himself no longer has any say in his eponymous restaurant.

Anyway, Sue opens a book called "Power Lunching: how you can profit from more effective business lunch strategy", an utterly insane tome dividing all foodstuffs into "P" for "Power" and "W" for "Wimp".

Some of its completely arbitrary judgements are Minestrone = Power, French Onion Soup = Wimp, Grilled Salmon = Power, Salmon En Croute = Wimp, Ratatouille = Power, Mixed Veg = Wimp. I need this book STAT.

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The Eighties saw the dawn of Madhur Jaffrey, Indian Uber-Chef who introduced the delights of vindaloo (but not ten pints of accompanying lager) to Britain. I also remember the rise of Ken Hom around this time - his was the only cookbook my mother allowed in the house.

Marcus uses "Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking" to prepare a curry banquet for Sue and Giles. They both declare it delicious but though Sue barely breaks a sweat, Coren's face and nostrils are streaming with chilli pain.

The next revelation is that Pret a Manger (or "Pret" as it styles itself these days) started in 1986. 1986? Pret's been around for 23 years? Get lost.

Anyway, Giles imbibes expresso after expresso just to keep him going at his job as a trader on the derivatives market (no, I don't know what that is - think it has something to do with Trading Places).

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Sue's off to Peter Jones - the stalking ground of the Sloane Ranger. In lampchop frill collar, pearls and pastel cardie, she meets two high-profile Sloanes - one a contributor to the Official Sloane Ranger Handbook, the other the editor of Majesty, "the quality Royal magazine" (the latter Sloane is still dressed like the Eighties).

At La Brasserie, they indulge in the Royal Wedding Breakfast of Charles and Diana, the Ultimate Sloane. This comprises Fish Quenelles in Lobster Sauce, Princess of Wales Chicken with Broad Beans, Creamed Sweetcorn and New Potatoes, Strawberries and Clotted Cream and lashings of Krug champagne. Sue rather enjoys it despite herself.


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After a hectic morning, Giles off to the Royal Exchange to quaff some Dom Perignon with some traders of the era, before going on to have a game of squash bolstered by glugs of Lucozade.

Time's moving on as Coren decides that being a trader isn't for him and that he wants to become an MP. So he and Tory wife Sue go to Westminster restaurant Shepherd's to have Shepherds Pie and green beans with pulp author and perjurist Jeffrey Archer and Skeletor himself, Norman Tebbit (he's written a book on game cookery, don't you know?).

Of course the delectable combo of Shepherds Pie and Krug was and still is Jeffrey Archer's signature toss-pottery served up at his "fabled" dinner parties to show that he was "salt of the earth" or ironic or some such balls. Even if he is beginning to look like Johnny Ball, he's still an arse.

Banoffee pie is the dessert of choice - allegedly Margaret Thatcher's favourite pud although this seems unlikely and I hope it's not, since hubby and I have bowls of banoffee ice cream on our laps right this minute.

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Anyway, trapped by such paragons of society, Sue starts to feel as uncomfortable as I am and even whips out a "Vote Labour" rosette.

The Eighties was also responsible for Yuppies and the accompanying travesty of Nouvelle Cuisine. Accidentally kickstarted by Anton Mosimann who wanted to show how French food could be stripped down (not sure about those swans, Anton), every other chef in the UK got distracted by the dainty portions.

I fail to catch the name of Sue and Giles' guest this time as I'm too fascinated by his eyebrows.

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The starter is Terrine of Tomato, Coquille of Tomato Sauce and Yellow Tomato. I think. Anyway, Coren wolfs it down in one mouthful and bemoans the fact that if his parents hadn't blown all their money on overpriced meals like this, he'd be living in a castle by now.

The main is Breast of Quail Harlequin in a Turmeric Sauce served with Pinot Noir. It sounds vile.

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From Yuppies to Miners next, specifically the Miners' Strikes and the subsequent pit closures where the miners, and Giles and Sue after them, were sustained by Pan Haggerty and Pot Noodles as they shouted for Maggie to go.

Pot Noodle was launched in the UK in 1979 and since then many of the unemployed miners found employment with Pot Noodle - that might explain their recent ad campaign.

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Black Monday happened in 1987 - the big stock market crash - where many who'd invested in shares found themselves penniless. Out went Filter Coffee and in came Instant Freeze-Dried Granules. The breakfast of choice was Pop-Tarts - "envelopes of molten strawberry" as Sue dubs them. Um Bongo also arrived from the Congo (though I've always preferred Kia-Ora - it's too orangey for crows).

Torvill and Dean are big, inspiring the Supersizers to go for a quick spin round the ice rink, followed by a snackette of ice cream with Bird's Ice Magic and the classy Viennetta. I used to love Viennetta, especially the Mint Choc one - now it just makes me shudder.

As Giles and Sue are now skint, they turn to Microwave Dinners - nasty pseudo-Oriental reconstituted gloop of Sweet & Sour Chicken and Chicken Chow Mein featuring chicken that's long-dead. The Australian boxed wine (Chardonnay) helps them swallow it down and there's Trivial Pursuit to help them take their minds off it. I say Pie, hubby says Cheese.

Giles and Sue fancy going to the disco next and, transformed into Madonna and Adam Ant they take to the dancefloor to neck several cocktails made with the ultimate Eighties liqueur Baileys. First up is a B52, next a Flaming Lamborghini. I've never had either but they look pretty palatable.


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However, Coren meets his nemesis in the form of the Cement Mixer. Giles's method is something like this - Take one shot of Lemon Juice and one shot of Bailey's. Swill them together in your mouth till it curdles. Projectile vomit the lot.

Sue decides to get physical next - aerobics really took off in the Eighties, along with the F-Plan Diet which involved cramming down as much flatulence-building foodstuff as possible, such as the Baked Bean Cassoulet and Stewed Prunes with Bananas. It does not end well.


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The next day, Giles takes himself off to Bibendum to meet some of the people who changed food in the Eighties - Simon Hopkinson, Rowley Leigh and Alastair Little. Alastair Little does look rather sad.

Anyway, these guys started a backlash against crap food and small portions, making flavour and generosity fashionable and eating out an everyday activity rather than a special event.

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Lunch is Piedmontese Peppers followed by Steak Au Poivre. I can't help wondering where the chips are though.

They mention that stuff got nicked all the time, ashtrays, cutlery etc, but they'd just add the price to the bill. Pity Tom Aikens didn't respond with such a compromise.

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1987 saw Ikea come in, but also the rise of the Foodie. Foodies would spend ages devising mineral water menus for dinner parties and would decorate their tables with raspberry vinegar (I quite like raspberry vinegar).

Giles follows this dutifully by using instructions from the Official Foodie Handbook to prepare for their own dinner party.

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Meanwhile Sue's off to Partridges to buy ingredients and she chooses to get there by Sinclair C5.

At this point, I feel obliged to inform younger readers that this wasn't a common mode of transport in the Eighties and in fact the Sinclair C5 was regarded in much the same way the Segway is these days.

It does look rather fun though.

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For this last hurrah, Giles and Sue invite Lynn Franks (aka Ab Fab), Toby Young, Carol Decker (T'Pau!), Ken Livingstone, some official food dude and "an Eighties Expert". Right.

They all bond over Prosciutto Ham, Sundried Tomatoes, Ciabatta, Pinot Grigio and Perrier. Astonishingly, ciabatta was only invented in 1982 as a riposte to the French Loaf.

Next up is Grilled Tuna with Peperonata, Gratin Dauphinoise and Mange Tout.

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Dessert is Tiramisu ("like Tampax soaked in paraffin"), Amaretti Biscuits, Physalis (say it carefully) and Limoncello. The amaretti is discarded in favour of the wrapping paper which they set fire to so it floats up into the air.

Finally the Cheeseboard is rolled out with Jacobs' Crackers. Sue calls it the Listerial Wheel - stilton was responsible for a spate of listeria in the Eighties so it was decreed that all stilton should henceforth be pasteurised. Neal's Yard got around this by calling their unpasteurised cheese "Stichelton" - it's rather nice by the way.

At the end of this Eighties orgy, Giles goes for his usual medical check-up. He discovers that though he's not overweight, his heart is racing at 180 so he's certainly not "Eighties Proof".

Coren blinks a lot at the diagnosis and it dawns on me that he looks rather like a mole who's been thrust into the sunlight or someone who's just had his specs snatched off his nose.


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Heigh-ho.

Next week - The Supersizers Eat Medieval - now that's more like it.

All screencaps copyright BBC

9 comments:

  1. So very funny, M, that I actually laughed out loud; you're blogging on these programmes is brilliant and frankly, I haunt your pages for the next one. And I also like the rest of your blog as well!

    Chumbles

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  2. Ditto immensely! Well done meemalee!

    NB I have a thing about Sue Perkins; intelligence and instantaneous wittiness, swoon!

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  3. I have a delicate stomach at the mo' so couldn't watch some of it, the cocktail segment in particular. But I was disappointed with the whole thing otherwise, I'm hoping Medieval and Roman will be better.

    Alternatively I may just read your precis....

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  4. Perrier is the eighties to me, my mother was a wanna be yuppie (very wanna be, she was more like a female Derek Trotter).

    I do love B52's however.

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  5. @Chumbles - Thanks, I always love your feedback :)

    @Fat Les - It's impossible not to love Sue Perkins - Did you ever watch Light Lunch with Mel and Sue? Awesome.

    @Catherine - It's worth watching just for Schadenfreude ...

    @Dave - A Female Delboy? Wow. I really want a B52 now.

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  6. Actually, Pret-A-Manger was, in fact, founded in 1986.

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  7. Unidentified guest with eyebrows looks a lot like Peter Yorke, author (co-author?) of the Sloane Rangers' Handbook and always wheeled out when programme makers do posh and eighties. 18+ months on someone has almost certainly told you this by now. Sorry to be anon- promise will sign up - just bought 2 tote bags and 2 tea shirts - good for you for doing that (and the blog).

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  8. D'oh! T-shirts, obvs. - though tea-shirts sounds a bit like a gadget Q would invent, for thirsty Bond missions. Bit like Eddie Izzard's jam trousers...

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  9. I guess I am the only one who has reviewed this TV show that is not that impressed with it. It could've been more of an educational show instead of a slapstick-making fun of different foods during different eras in history. When I first saw the commercial on the Food Channel for this series..I was all excited to see how foods from different periods in history were made. But instead had to watch two people spitting out food, getting drunk and licking their fingers in some of the most posh restaurants---disgusting to me...and to their guests who were experts in historical-culinary fields! I wish another TV series would be made that took this great aspect on learning about foods served/prepared in other eras in history more seriously. The only reason I continue to watch all the episodes in this series is to make notes of the names of the foods-during the era they were served so I can research how they were made myself. Which I had hoped this series would've shown to the viewer since it is on a food-network channel. All the other part of the episodes...I am just Fast Forwarding through all the silly/slapstick 'tripe'. (No Pun Intended)

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Thanks for taking the time to comment!