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My pork ribs! Yummmmmm

Food. Glorious. Food. The other night I had a dream that the 3 judges from Masterchef Australia came and made me dessert. I couldn’t believe that I was actually eating the type of food I had salivated over through the tv screen. Now I could actually taste what I was seeing. But, alas, it was not to be and I had to wake up and eat the same old cereal instead.

The whole celebrity chef thing is a little outrageous. Now if you can cook and if you look ok on tv you can be famous baby, yeah. I know we eat with our eyes first but television cooking, who would have thought? It all started for me when I was a kid. There was a funny bearded chef called Peter Russell Clarke who cooked who knows what but it was around dinner time and the one word that comes to mind when I think of him is ‘cheese’.

I love cheese; blue vein, camembert, haloumi, brie, tasty, fetta. I’m cheese mad. These days cooking shows are on the menu for me and my family mostly because they are rated G. The kids love watching Nigella or Jamie, Masterchef  or random cooking shows from around the world. They love the look of the food on the screen even though they won’t touch the awesome food I serve up each night.

I’m not sure what I’ve done to raise such fussy eaters. We’ve always tried to instil in our kids the importance of fruit, vegetables, water, dairy and meat. So they eat fairly well. The one thing I cannot understand is that I only have 2 kids right, but it seems that most nights there’s at least one who doesn’t like what’s in front of them.

My daughter doesn’t like rice, some chicken (especially when it is barbequed), peas, fish, baked beans, bananas, rissoles, soup,  lemon meringue pie, potatoes, home made chips, pies or sausage rolls. But she does like raw garlic in pesto with gnocchi, cherry tomatoes, sprinkle cheese (that’s parmesan or mozzarella), hard cheese, cherries, cheese on toast, mango and jelly.

My sonny jim dislikes some pasta, spaghetti, baked beans, peas, potatoes, chicken kebabs, tomatoes, cooked vegetables, soup or dried pear. On the other hand he will eat fresh salmon, caesar salad, pork ribs with spicy sauce, every fruit imaginable, rice, tacos/fajitas, fish and vegemite sandwiches nearly every day.

I miss tasty food. I’m really trying to inspire adventurous taste buds in my kids but perhaps they’re still too little. I’m looking forward to the day when satay is back on the menu. When salads are more than just carrot, cucumber and tomato. When my slow cooker makes food everybody can enjoy. I imagine serving up meal after meal and each time I do, I look around the table and all I can see are beaming, excited and grateful faces. And all at once, they squeal “Thank you mummy, this looks delicious!” Ah, a girl can dream can’t she?

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Image by Douglas Gray

What is it about the underdog? The little mutt with the sweet brown eyes staring up at you, begging for a moment in the sun? That elusive spotlight where all those mean large gruff slobbering dogs have hogged for so long. “Give the little fella a turn”, we say. A crowd gathers. Clapping begins, slowly at first then increases to a loud, fast paced demand. “GIVE THE LITTLE FELLA A TURN!”

The great thing about reality tv is that you can root for your favourite and if they don’t win, it’s no skin off your nose. You simply change the channel and choose a new favourite. No one likes to fail or even likes to witness failure. I’m talking about mistakes or temper tantrums or flat out bad behaviour. Yep, I’m watching Masterchef Australia tonight and it looks as though the girls are in for a big flop.

Forgetting ingredients, flustering about, staring down the camera, begging, pleading for the fast forward button. It’s so hard to watch cos this is real life. These people are almost living the dream… almost. But if they can’t serve the food they’re looking down the barrel of the firing gun and no one likes that… no one. So you sit there, fingers splayed against your face, hoping that the ad was wrong. Perhaps it’s not all that bad!

I am going for the girl team tonight. The fellas neh, they’ll cope. Gotta go for the ‘sisters’! In the end it’s just another ‘sport’ to consume. Another game, another team to back. If this was a footy game, we’d be yelling at the tv (as if they can hear us), “don’t forget the cinnamon!” or “the pan’s too hot, turn it down” or “Matt hates it, you’re done for!”  But as it is a food cooking comp it seems that the stakes aren’t as high, it’s not as exciting as watching someone score a try or a goal or a basket. It’s more of a slow build, an emotional (and here it comes) JOURNEY. There are no tears at the end of a footy game, just tired, sweaty, dejected looking dirty men with a beer on their mind.

For the contestant eliminated from reality tv, the rules are different. As the tension builds and people stare at each other, the music plays and the host counts down the seconds to when he can reveal who is going home, tears well in the eyes of those with heads on the chopping block. By the time the name is announced all eyes are awash with tears, some guilty some just plain sad. But this is a game of the heart, rather than the muscle. Cos the muscle kind still get paid, win or lose, but the Masterchef contestant has to say goodbye to their dreams, their 15 minutes and their mentors. Tough gig.

Ah it’s all fun and games, til someone cries. Then there are hugs and a bit of tough love, off they walk with their heads held high and their dream still alive. With reality tv o’clock drawing to a close, you exhale as the credits roll, knowing that you will be going down the same path next year and the year after until you are all worn out with anxiety and empathy for these poor sods who look at you with those puppy dog eyes, begging, hoping that this year will be theirs.

Masterchef Australia is a competition for amateur cooks who want be chefs. I like the show. It makes me want to cook, it makes me hungry, it makes me nervous. I love competition and I will be very upset if my favourite doesn’t win. But no matter who wins, life will go on for me.

Reality tv. How do they get people to be entertainment guinea pigs? What is in it for all the contestants? What drives a person to go on national television to become a chef? Aren’t there easier channels? You could go to cooking school or get an apprenticeship could you not? Why would you put yourself through ‘pressure tests’, ‘mystery boxes’ and public humiliation to perhaps, maybe, become a chef?

It must be the longest, most intense job interview around. Australia is watching you sweat, cry, and often stuff up. It is not exclusive to cooking either. Look at Australian/ American/ etc. Idol, America’s Next Top Model, So you think you can dance?, just to name a few. Perhaps contestants think it’s easier than going to  auditions or getting slop jobs in dodgy restaurants. Is it easier to be ridiculed in front of the world?

There’s the money, of course, which is always a winner. And some may do it for a taste of fame, which often leaves a very bitter taste in the mouth. In the end, the majority do it to achieve their dreams. In the end there is only one winner, so where does that leave the rest? Sure, they have created an entertaining product but after all that work, all that exposure and criticism, how do they feel?

This is worse than a regular interview that only goes for an hour. Usually, these are private meetings with no theatricals. Once you are finished, you walk out, red cheeked perhaps, tummy knots unravelling, knowing that you’ll only have to wait a week or so to know if you’ve scored the gig. Unlike the poor muppets on Masterchef who have to wait months to see if they’ve got the job.

I know why they do it. It’s the ‘journey’, the ‘dream’.

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