Gouri Dange’s Naming No Names: Cheeni kum!

02 Nov,2011

“You mean you don’t watch the cookery shows and competitions on TV????!!!” – people ask me, using up their entire quota of question marks and exclamation marks for the month. Well I do, sort of, but here’s my problem with them, and why I can’t watch any fully from beginning to end: First, the Indian food shows. The Indian shows invariably have self-consciously decorated kitchens as the background (the usual backlit shelves, phalanx of shiny knives, matchettes and muddlers, bubblegum pink walls, and suchlike). In front of this kitchen from kitschland is prancing (or trying to look as if) a fattish johnny stuffed into some garish shirt, trying hard to keep up the amusing chit-chat while clanging spoons and vessels together. There’s nothing to endear these chaps to me – not the maniacal chopchopchop of a Yan of yesteryear, or the lithe handsomeness of a Bourdain, or the extravagant booziness of a Floyd. Besides the nameless Indian chaps, there are the brand-name Indian cooks, smiling fixedly into the camera and serving up, what else, jazzed up versions of tandoori chicken. I tend to switch channels when I hear ‘adrak-lasan-pyaaz, pyaar sey bhuniye’. Then there are those non-cooking Indian food shows, in which hung-over-looking beefy chaps (always in khaki shorts) bumptiously muscle into dhabas and thelas and then turn around and wax eloquent into the camera. No fun. On top of it, when some of them snigger about the spelling or the naming of some of the dishes, and make the busy street-vendor stop what he’s doing and look foolish while he unsuspectingly explains what ‘Tandoori Manchurian’ is (stale, overdone joke) to the camera, I want to hurl a plate of instant noodles at them. (But my previous TV took its aakhri saans after going through a long melodramatic deathbed scene, when I threw a dibbi of sindhur at it; so chucking noodles at the new one is a serious no-no. It’s written in the manual.)

 

As for the phirangi food shows, here’s my problem: either the person actually has adenoids, or speaks in that breathless way, to indicate shock and awe at the wondrousness of the food that he’s handling (it’s usually a Brit affectation); plus nowadays, with Indian food going places, they’re always going on about some aromatic ‘masalarr’ as they call it, and there’s cumin in everything. Or then it’s that lady who’s been named after the English word for kalonji seed. You know her, with the jaunty tilt of her head and the saucy positioning of other body parts served up for the camera on a plate. Ya, ya, I know guys reading this will say “jealous, jealous”, but honestly she’s a coy bore, and has a cloyingly heavy hand with the cream and butter and chocolate. The only thing I like about the western cookery shows is the big warm kitchens and the lush gardens that lie beyond that. But I get insanely jealous of this and switch channels.

 

And then there are the chef championships. Again, my problem is that there’s far too little food and far too much drama. Call it OCD, but when I see contestants crying and wiping their noses in tension and despair, I want to say severely, like my ma used to (during traumatic chappati-making lessons): “Stop snivelling, wash those hands, and only then go near any food, you big cry baby.” On top of it, the Indian version of Masterchef has you go right into the humble homes of the aspirants and you know that they have far too much riding on winning this competition, and it gets all too sentimental and saccharine for my liking. I mean come on…food mixed with tears? Not a winning combo for me. (The least appetizing of all of this of course is the commercial breaks – currently there’s that daft girl going on and on about her phone working even when the lift shuts; how life-defining is that!) Again, there’s also too much non-food paraphernalia – immunity pins and aprons and t-shirts to be won, rather than actual food to be seen on screen. But here too I love the locales where the competitions take you – I mean cooking out in the open in Central Park while people row slowly past on boats or walk briskly by! Just for that I may cry my way into one of these shows, and teach everyone a thing or two about Indian masalarrs. Or I may indulge in that stab of envy and switch channels.

 

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6 responses to “Gouri Dange’s Naming No Names: Cheeni kum!”

  1. Pooja says:

    Ha ha… love it! Couldn’t agree more on Nigella’s show. There have been days I walked up to my TV and screamed “IT’S JUST F***ING MILK!”

    That said, my Saturday Mornings are not complete without chai and two hours of BBC’s Saturday Kitchen 🙂

  2. Anshu Dorairaj says:

    love it…well said…maybe one on the talk show anchors:))

  3. Hilarious and Hear hear! to most of your comments Gouri.Can’t stand the Indian food shows…most of them display a complete lack of food knowledge and are as boring as hell.
    Yes, Nigella gets funnily flirtatious over every ingredient and her Indian clone isnt much better.
    That said I am a firm fan of Masterchef Oz even though it is heavy in the dramatics department. The people are so nice and sweet after the yelling and screaming, back biting, bad language and hullabaloo associated with these kind of shows on other western food programmes.
    Perhaps its popularity is also due to the fact that there is absolutely nothing else to watch on TV nowadays?

  4. Hilarious and Hear hear! to most of your comments Gouri.Can’t stand the Indian food shows…most of them display a complete lack of food knowledge and are as boring as hell.
    Yes, Nigella gets funnily flirtatious over every ingredient and her Indian clone isnt much better.
    That said I am a firm fan of Masterchef Oz even though it is heavy in the dramatics department. The people are so nice and sweet after the yelling and screaming, back biting, bad language and hullabaloo associated with these kind of shows on other western food programmes.
    Perhaps its popularity is also due to the fact that there is absolutely nothing else to watch on TV nowadays?

  5. Enarai says:

    Phunny, Gouri!
    But once in a while, I pick up a pointer or two even from the kitschy kitcheners and the garish garys — like ‘pyar se bhuniye’. If I just throw the stuff in the kadhai without the pyar, it does come out blah!
    Which are some of the less inane, more watchable shows, would you say?
    And how about doing a review of talking head shows? Oh, I’m sure you’ll have lots to say about those!

  6. Eapen Thomas says:

    Great comment – maybe these shows are really unsure who their audience is and that shows up as a glaring lack of “taste:

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