Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Cadbury’s Eyebrow Ad

March 3, 2009

With the public going batty for healthy comestibles, now is a bad time to work in the snack food industry. Vilified on television, snack foods are shown as the reason for poor, twenty-four-stone Janine from Slough being barely able to lift her bottom off the sofa, and also why the nation’s children are wobbling balls of fat in Jamie Oliver’s School Dinners. Give it ten weeks and your humble packet of salt and vinegar crisps will be held responsible for the recession, knife crime and the breakdown in relations between the UK and Russia.

So, you’d imagine it would be quite hard working in the marketing department at Cadbury’s. I remember chocolate adverts from my youth, usually featuring a cartoon frog in a baseball cap screaming its lungs off, designed to get us kids worked up into a pestering frenzy. The money-shot would always feature an enlarged shot of the chocolate bar, with all the different layers of chocolate, sugar and marshmallow labelled. Like porn for chocaholics.

To do that now would not only be impractical with all the anti junk-food advertising laws around, it would also make your ad’s guilty claims of being ‘more chocolatey then ever’ seem unappealing, almost perverse when displayed next to promotions for organic celery sticks and drum-wheat cracker bars.

So, the new trick is to resort to novelty promotions that do everything to distract the public from what they’re promoting. Poor old Walkers had to drum up some novelty flavours, from Chilli & Chocolate to Menstruating Goat ‘n’ Cress.

Cadburys have taken a different route, and the result is 30 seconds of very surreal television that makes about as much sense to me as the time I hit my head and tried to listen to BBC Cymru.

The advert stars two kids, both abducted from a special needs school in the 80s, who wiggle their eyebrows in time to some funky electro pop. The boy on the left is common or garden funny-looking, but the girl on the right is something else; a cross between those spooky little girls you get in Japanese horror films and the child of Frau Farbissina from Austin Powers.

By the time she starts to squeak a balloon in time to the music, you’re not only left confused as to what’s been advertised, you’ve also forgotten who you are. Your jaw hangs open as you stare agog at this new watershed in pointless advertising. It might work to the extent that it has distracted you from the unhealthy nature of the food whilst subtly reminding you that chocolate is fun, but it’s messed me up so much that I can’t decide if I hate it in all it’s fake internet meme glory or not.

I spent half an hour last night watching it on Youtube, oscillating between abject hatred and childlike affection, while jamming milk chocolate bars into my face at a rate of six a minute. At least it’s temporarily stopped me from thinking about eating healthily.

That might have been the point in the first place, come to think of it.

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Big Chef Takes On Little Chef

January 20, 2009

The Great British Food Fight, alternatively referred to as ‘more cookery rubbish’ by the public at large, kicked off last night with Heston Blumenthal’s much-touted attempt at reinvigorating Little Chef’s branding, by way of the focal point of their operation – their rancid menu.

Like Blumenthal, I’ve not been inside a Little Chef in twenty-odd years. When Channel 4 eventually ventured in, it was both heart-warming and disturbing to see that absolutely nothing had changed in there. Not only in terms of the style of the interior, but also the actual interiors themselves. No broken chairs or peeling wallpaper appears to have been fixed. Now, this may not be true of every branch. Channel 4, devious bastards that they are, are probably using one bad example to tarnish the whole change. All the same, wilting pink walling isn’t what you want to see as you eat a leathery mixed grill.

Speaking of the food, it’s hard to defend what Little Chef were putting out. Hardened, overcooked, frozen meat. The fish pie looked like mixed bodily-fluid with the skin of an old woman floating on the surface. The Hawaiian Burger looked like roadkill. Heston and pals even gagged as they sipped the coffee. It could have been pantomime snobbishness, but it looked the real deal. Even as someone who despises the meaningless, middle-class bullshit of the word ‘foodie’, the food here simply looked unappetising

The strange thing with Heston Blumenthal is that, despite his running one of the most celebrated ponce-kitchens in the world, he comes across like a very decent bloke (and the kind of boss we all wish we had). He reminds me most of certain posh kids at secondary school who were almost embarrassed of their accents and sought to rid themselves of their upper-middle class roots by selling hash by the teenth in the playground. He comes across, essentially, as a stoner schoolchild with a frying pan.

Heston B’s approach to food is, fundamentally, at odds with what Little Chef seek to do. They’re operating in completely opposing markets – as Channel 4 knew full well when setting this absurd venture up. And fireworks have already started to fly, with the show’s one special ingredient turning out not to be the not-very-nutty professor Heston, but rather the Head Honcho at Little Chef, Ian Pegler. Pegler gifts Channel 4 the tools with which to make entertaining television, and from the moment he refused to give the company’s GP (or any figures at all, as it turned out) to Blumenthal, we knew we were on to a winner.

Ian is the anti-Alan Sugar, by way of Alan Partridge. From his bewilderingly misplaced use of the term ‘bluesky thinking’ to his assertion that Heston B could do absolutely anything he wanted with the company (so long as he didn’t change the menu), the befuddled swine was a trove of amusing vignettes, no moreso than the point towards the end at which, when pressed, he hung up on Heston Blumen-heck in a mild panic – a comedy moment which had to be seen
to be believed.

So far it’s a curious little programme this. You can’t help but feel HB is the only one of Channel 4’s four chefs who could actually do something with the idea. Hugh FW would start blubbing straight off the bat, Ramsay would fail, then blame everyone around him and Oliver would fail whilst pretending he’d succeeded, playing some Snow Patrol over the end credits by way of insisting he’d changed the world.

It’s interesting watching snobbishness battling inverse snobbishness and so I’ll watch this through to the end. It’s worth it for the guilty pleasure of the hilarious hatchet job on Ian Pegler, which would be cruel rather than amusing, if only it wasn’t Ian himself himself holding the hatchet.

Jamie’s Ministry Of Food

October 8, 2008

As with his School Dinners campaign, Oliver’s attempting to change the eating habits of those who are just too working class to work out how an oven works.

He’s already befriended that old ogre who forced burgers on her children through the school fence in School Dinners, but having discovered that she’s not really cut out for TV, he’s got back up in the form of a young Mum who gave kebab meat to her children every night (with a side plate of fries with Kraft cheese slices) before meeting JO in episode one. She’s onside primarily to give the show a ‘heart’ which is a televisual bit of jargon meaning ‘time to fade in Snow Patrol really clumsily’.

So they swear (a fuck of a lot), they cook meat (with the odd vegetable here and there) and a lot of northern folk say ‘Ee that’s right tasty, that – wi’out a doubt’. All this whilst Jamie Oliver allows lots of unflattering shots of himself to be broadcast, aware that this will make him seem even more ‘man of the people’ than he was before.

Though he has a point and even though the problem is reaching morbidly obese proportions, you can’t help but find this campaign short sighted. School Dinners worked (or is beginning to work) because it was about changing the way a small niche of the food industry operated and forcing the government to change the routine.

With this ‘Pass It On’ idea, however, Jamie’s floating in la la land. As the Teaching Assistant who dropped out of his class said, time is a huge issue for most people. But it’s not only that. Good produce is almost impossible to find. Vegetables have been frozen en route to supermarkets and most meat has been intensively reared, with labelling disguising all the underhand processes that go on. Add this to general, wilful ignorance, stubborn stupidity and the fact that a lot of people aren’t that keen on Jamie Oliver and the mountain seems infinitely unassailable.

Are our eating habits so bad that it requires TV chefs to assuage the problem with campaigns like these? Or is it just another format – something new to excite viewers who are tiring of the usual kitchen based food programming?

First School Dinners, then the chicken/organic Hugh Fearnely Whatsit stuff and now this… are we being scared into a hypochondriac state by foodie fascism, or have they got a point?

Anyone fancy a chicken kiev?

The Restaurant

September 25, 2008

Though we’ve been keeping up with this over at Swineshead Towers, and despite its enormous similarities to The Apprentice, there’ll be no weekly breakdown of each episode as Badger Madge over at BMTV seems to be making a decent fist (titter) of it herself over here… and here. It’s undoubtedly improved on the first series and there’s a lot to enjoy in joining the affable Raymond Blanc as he orders a load of wannabe restauranters to undergo tests that would make any normal human being unravel within minutes.

Just as a taster, last night’s saw the teams of two – who each have been given their own restaurant for the duration of the show – delivered half a pig each and set the task of cooking and selling as much of the squealer as possible. Marks would be given for profit and then deducted for wastage. The format is exactly the same as the Apprentice and remarkably it doesn’t suffer from the transposition, apart from in one area.

Nick and Margaret are, by now, firm favourites when it comes to how Apprentice fans feel. The incredulous looks on their disgusted faces have become a part of the fabric of the show. In their place, on The Restaurant Monsieur Blanc is shanked by a couple of thorough bastards. Not cantankerous, lovable silver foxes like Sugar’s charges – these are just oily, smug shitbags and they take a bit of the fun away from proceedings.

David Moore wanders into the restaurants with the kind of fixed, shit-eating grin that lets you know that he thinks you’re shit before he’s even seen the supposed shitness of your shit and said ‘it’s shit’. His blank, jelly-baby face occasionally warps into a sneer, but on the whole he gives nothing away, making him the sneakiest Casper lookalike in the country.

Sarah Willingham is even worse. Permanently overdressed – like she thought she’d been invited to lunch with her Majesty – she takes herself far too seriously. The main problem wirh Willingham is that she asks leading questions to the contestants which offer nothing to the show, other to explain at point blank range what you already know is happening. If a cut of pork has been burned she’ll ask ‘do you realise that that’s burned?’ and both viewer and contestant will nod while shrugging as she smiles at how clever she’s been. She’s not a patch on Sugar’s Margaret. But then… who is?

Still, it all works out alright in the end when we hit the boardroom (or whatever they call it on The Restaurant) as Blanc sits in the middle of them and adds an air of respectable, reasonable Gallic charm to the proceedings. He does the job of Alan Sugar but he does it his own way – which is to be fair and offer appropriate advice. His approach is as effective as Siralan’s because, more often than not, contestants are blinded by his unerring friendliness and complete obsession with stuff you masticate and as a result they admit their failings immediately, as though they’ve let Daddy down. It’s very impressive.

And the food?

Magnifique!

One Minute Review: Come Dine With Me (again)

April 25, 2008

Come Dine With Me

I’ve covered Come Dine With Me before, as regular readers will know. And if you’re not a regular reader, can I ask why the blazes you’re not one? A regular reader, I mean. Become one this instant.

Yes, I’ve covered Come Dine With Me before, you’ve probably seen it umpteen times, so we’re all aware of how it works. The exciting news is that they’ve transferred the daytime version to a 9pm primetime slot on Channel 4. Clearly success has gone to their heads. And now it’s post watershed, there’s swearing. They’ve also condensed the format into one 50 minute episode featuring four dinner parties rather than five over the course of a hundred minutes. It’s not an easy transition and feels a little rushed, but at least we’ve lost all those irritating little ‘catch up’ segues and montages of stuff we’ve already seen before (or, even worse, stuff we’re about to see).

A development of the show in its new incarnation is the fact that the contestants they’ve picked are as thick as cat-muck. Where before we had genuine members of the public, all with their charms and flaws, genuinely trying to express the inner-foodie within their soul, now we’re served up four blithering idiots. In every instance, they blither and are idiotic. And they swear a lot. And they insult one another. And they get as drunk as they possibly can.

So far, in two episodes we’ve had:

Show 1

  • A fat, alcoholic wannabe Tory councillor with a David Cameron fixation who had no idea about even the most simple cooking process.
  • A gay, alcoholic student with a barbie doll collection who got drunk and flung booze about.
  • An abrasive geordie fishwife with wild, staring eyes and a burnt paella who was an alcoholic.
  • A mousey woman who favoured giggling over speaking. She was an alcoholic.

Show 2

  • A fat, cheery alcoholic who ducked out of the room midway through a starter to hawk up several gallons of puke before returning for the main.
  • A long-haired neurotic with worrying latent violence issues and the propensity for alcoholism.
  • An insane, oversexed old crone with a crap line in Alan Sugar related japes who came on to every male she encountered before passing out due to alcoholism.
  • A horrible, pretentious red-haired moose who couldn’t stop talking about herself when pissed. Probably because she was an alcoholic.

It’s fucking great. Essential viewing for pissed people – especially alcoholics.

Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares USA

February 21, 2008

Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares USA 

The USA incarnation of Kitchen Nightmares seems to be a lot more brutal than its English counterpart.

‘Why?’ I hear you cry… well let Piqued explain with his wordz, right here.

When Gordon trundles into an American eatery they’ve little idea what to expect. They may have heard that he swears and can get a bit cross sometimes but his Michelin stars and success over here, if known, are ignored. To them he’s (annoyingly) referred to as ‘Chef Ramsey’ and a TV crew is filming him and them. That’s it.

From here on in we follow the original UK pattern – save a different initial attitude for reasons just cited. Restaurant owners seem to be timid, waiting staff thick and the chefs lazy, typically arrogant and obnoxious. The latter carry on as if they quite literally own the place and do as little as possible to get by whilst the owner wrings their hands over mounting bills.

Last night was a key example, the Chef was all full of piss and wind and we discovered that, in addition to producing horrific food, he was making mash potato out of a packet, none of the veg was fresh and his kitchen was filthier than Jordan’s gusset. Said Chef, when caught out, began posturing and giving it a load of old flannel. Cue Gordon really losing his rag, despite quite threatening posturing from the Chef. The stalemate was broken following the sacking of a light-fingered member of kitchen staff and by Gordon reorganising the whole kitchen, menus and restaurant décor, which he does every week…

But unlike the UK model, after all the yelling and learnt mistakes the USA version inspires dreadful gloopy pathos then endless apologies and creepy praise in Chef Ramsey’s direction, which are in sufficient quantities to inspire the viewer to projectile vomit. Whilst we get this to a certain degree in the UK Nightmares, the Americans like nothing more than syrupy oozing sentiment. Even the gangsta Chef was all wet eyed and simpering by the end. It’s almost as if they thrive on being proved wrong.

Americans smother themselves in a veneer of niceties – it’s virtually impossible to tell if an American, on first meeting without preconceptions, is decent or a fucking right wing ignoramus. Worryingly, this veneer of niceties seems to coat anyone who has been living in the US for over five years, wherever they’re originally from. This may have something to do with immigration policy and the pledge of allegiance to the flag which encourages all residents of the USA to BE American, it’s something the UK is seeking to emulate, but that’s another matter entirely…

Anyway, the restaurant closed after five months and everyone lost their jobs, except Gordon.

Bye y’all, y’all be having a good day now…

*bang*

Masterchef. Full fat review

February 5, 2008

 Masterchef

I fucking love Masterchef. I really do.

I hated the two presenters for years – making the show completely unwatchable – until, by chance, I caught sight of the bald barrowboy eating some pudding.

It was something about the way the food went into his mouth, the pause, the slow removal of the fork upwards and then the tentative chew that grabbed my attention. It was like peering into the very reaches of his soul. Then, like magic, his eyes lit up like limelight and grew to the size of Alan’s big plate. He began to moan softly, rhythmically, speech still evading him.

‘He’s going to ejaculate!’ I ruminated, frozen to the spot. Finally he spoke.

‘I like you’, he said to the plate and the contestant, ‘Oh! I do like you!’

The other bloke took some time to warm to, with his frog-like mouth and scowl he can flay a contestant with nothing more than an acid stare and condescending mutter, reducing a person to tears with a sardonically raised eyebrow, but if he likes the food every light in the world comes on. It’s fucking well-weird. Now I think he’s ace.

Masterchef is schadenfreude for foodies. In certain respect the dishes take a backseat, acting as a catalyst for the drama that is instantly realised from the opening titles. Chefs-to-be stand there looking visibly petrified while the two hosts bark out the rules without a shred of compassion; they don’t care if the cunts actually die right there on the spot. They walk among them like The Gestapo in a ghetto, jabbing at ingredients and interrogating them like sub human scum. Recipes are stuttered into the apparent which they deride with sarcasm and barely concealed hate.

The psychological pressure continues when contestants are verbally strapped down and beaten with demands on their loyalty to the food führer… ‘do you want this? Do you? Svinehund!’

But this is the genius of Masterchef, as the wheat is separated form the chaff we’re presented with genuine talent, those who overcome the pressure and prepare remarkable food that melts the hearts of the staff. Praise and encouragement appear in the equation, lifting the spirits -smiles appear, warmth emenates from the screen and all seems good in the world.

 Ahhhh, that’s better. I fill up.

But it’s not better. Someone has been naughty. The presentation of the grilled kneecap with bat-foreskin and regurgitated puy lentils in a faecal broth has made one of them angry. Very angry. The contestant starts to cry, the barrow-boy tastes, his face darkens like a thunderstorm approaching the Serengeti.

‘No, no no, this is wrong, very wrong’.

Now it’s frog-face’s turn. Wordlessly he turns and spits the food from his face like it’s a tramp’s turd picked off a dead pig.

‘I’m not eating that’ he says, his eyes glittering with death.

Puffy-eyed and red-faced, the contestant awaits their fate. Justice isn’t swift – they’re all made to stand in line for what seems like an age before being dismissed, cast out in the street like the food-killing fuckers they are…

Then again it switches. In the chaos a victor rises from the ashes. That one! I always knew it would be you! In the triumph of adversity one shall stand tall. The Staff applaud, they have been pleased, I too am at home sobbing for joy, I’m so happy. For once the barrow and the frog are like us. They have emotions, after all – are we not all mortal? Struggling with the baked bean can of life? Wrestling with the peel-off bit on top of the Pringles tube of existence. Are we not ONE?

Yes, until tomorrow that is, until tomorrow when some cunt decides to cook salmon with raspberry jam.

Hugh’s Chicken Run

January 10, 2008

Hugh Fearnley-Shittingstool 

It’s only pertinent that I, Piqued, head up the fucking row – I mean debate – that has been brought to mine face by Hugh F Whitting-Wotsit over the past three evenings on Channel 4 (which, when I read, I hear it in my head as ‘ChA-NEALL fOOOR’ on account of this West Indian male announcer they employed back in the day. I digress) due to an ongoing discussion regarding a certain Mr. Bernard Matthews and his Chicken Kiev(s).

The premise is simple. Start two chicken farms, one a cuddly free range one, and the other a scene from a painting by Bosch/Breugal depicting hellish acts of (in this case, chicken) damnation – a battery shed.

From scratch the redoubtable Hugh FW cheerily goes about collating information/resources/experts in order to realise his dream of converting the straw-chewing bumpkins of Axminster to go free-range by demonstrating that shoving 50,000 birds into an area the size of a hankie isn’t a very nice thing to do (actually it’s 19 birds to a square metre) where they don’t have access to daylight to increase their growing time from chick to slaughter, which takes just over a month. Obviously the free range fellas are provided with their own five bedroom houses, top of the range Lexus, wide screen TV’s (three of) and a games room, with a full size snooker table and bar.

Hugh’s campaign got off to a bright start by recruiting some families who worked in the nearby allotments. After a brief period of doubt, he made them physically see the different ways of rearing chickens: the lot reclining on Chesterfields reading The Telegraph and other the poor sods pecking shit out of their dead mates’ arseholes in the dark. Apart from one fat cow called Hayley, all were converted tearfully on the spot.

But not all was well in the village. The locals (and really, this lot were a fucking good reason for never leaving London) barked and grunted paranoid abuse in the direction of Hugh and his campaign. Within hours, there were rumours that Hugh’s free range chickens cost ‘twenty pund’. The thick inbred cunts – sorry, did that come out loud? All this as Hugh tirelessly attempted to sign up shops to sell free-range produce. After a hilarious confrontation at the local Tesco (who up until this point had been totally uncooperative, as had the Co-operative, ironically) in which the manager thought Hugh had called him an arsehole, he began to make some progress.

Incidentally, in terms of the campaign having a long term and far-reaching sustainability, Sainsburys seemed to be by far and away the most prepared to assist Hugh’s Chicken Out campaign on a national level. We’ll see…

Overall, the programme was a success. This was due entirely to Hugh’s determination and enthusiasm for his campaign. He was obviously upset at the battery conditions he’d created in order to highlight his plight – on one occasion he was reduced to tears after having to dispatch yet another suffering creature from the intensively reared chicken shed and I noticed his language got all blue and rude due to his exasperation at the backward-thinking townsfolk and money-grabbing corporates as a symptom of his passion.

In all this, however, there was one major flaw, something that vegetarians understand, and for good reason. The bottom line, despite the way they were reared (though I maintain free-range rearing is paramount) is that all the creatures wound up being caught and knacked in the same way, carted off in cramped conditions, hung up upside down on a conveyor, stunned in electrified water and having their throats slit open by the sticker, all for the food industry. I do eat meat, I didn’t used to precisely because of the whole killing part and I am careful to make sure I eat free range/organic birds. But really, eating a free-range animal will always remain the lesser of two evils and no amount of campaigning will change that.

Oooh – look – Piqued just got all serious and deep. I’m off to KFC to recover.