I WAS approached to do the television show, Come Dine With Me.
I haven’t cooked anything since I was 18 when I was chief apple sauce, celery soup and lobster cook at a local hotel. Incidentally I’ve never eaten lobster so I was similar to a pub landlord who doesn’t drink.
I hadn’t any idea what lobster tasted like or if I’d cooked them properly. I just knocked them out in cold water and put them, while unconscious, in the big iron steamer.
When the screaming stopped I took them out. I never had a complaint – I mean from the diners not the lobsters. Because of this I’m of the opinion that, if they pay a lot the punters think it must be good whatever it tastes like.
They don’t like to complain they just think it’s their uncultured taste buds.
Incidentally if you can’t afford lobster, wood lice are related to lobsters and I understand they taste similar when fried and pink. They are best collected with a vacuum cleaner.
Although I don’t cook I’ve boiled many things and generally stuck to the philosophy that if it comes out of a tin it’s alright.
At the hotel I only ate the celery soup which I made with stock from a huge pot that was full of a bubbling primeval goo. I’m sure if it had been left long enough life would have crawled out.
To this stock I added tinned celery hearts, it was delicious. I only slipped up once with a tin of West Indian soup which I’m convinced was boiled grass. Because Liz once had to go and look after her mum I was left cookless.
I survived quite well on tinned soup and Marks and Spencer’s ‘No mates microwave meals for one’.
Liz, although an avid watcher of these ‘Mucking about with food’ programmes, refused to have anything to do with Come Dine With Me.
When Manuel, my favourite chef heard of her refusal he offered to cook the food. This is allowed within the rules. One woman even had her own cocktail waiter. I then hit an insurmountable snag.
Liz said she wouldn’t allow them in the house. I offered to do a bit of light dusting but to no avail. To be quite honest I was really glad not to do it. I informed the producer what I thought of the show.
My main point was the moronic scoring system. The contestants score each other. So spiteful, jealous contestant’s bad marks can cause the best host to lose.
On one show a contestant said the food was like road kill which is rather unfair to this cheap source of natural food. It does start with the advantage of being pre-tenderised.
Tasmin Day-Lewis, the sister of Daniel Day-Lewis, tried this ‘Carrion Cookery’ with a road kill badger. It didn’t taste too good.
She remarked afterwards it would have been improved if she’d marinated it. So I suppose ideally the best road kill badger is one knocked down crossing the road while drunk. Which would, of course, have to be pre-arranged, badgers not having the usual access to the off-licence.
Tasmin on TV appears to live in what is often described as a ‘Shabby Chic’ environment. ‘Shabby Chic’ reminds me of the fox without a tail trying to persuade other foxes that it was the best way to be.
You live in a house that needs painting, wallpaper hanging off, all your furniture completely worn out and you can’t be bothered to change it. So you tell every one it’s a fashion statement called ‘Shabby Chic’. I try to emulate that style in the way I dress.
I tell Liz it’s ‘Shabby Chic’. She says, “No it’s just shabby”.
My son Dick, when he was small, comforted himself by sucking his thumb holding a piece of fur to his face. He called it his Wuffy.
I hoped he’d get out of the habit before he started school. He didn’t. Did he get the Mickey taken out of him at school? He did not.
He managed to persuaded the other kids it was ‘The In Thing’ like ‘Shabby Chic’ and they were all doing it with their own Wuffy bits of fur. If he insisted on sucking his thumb with the Wuffy, when we were in a shop I’d look at him and say, “Haven’t you eaten all the meat off that yet?”
I was brought up on tinned food – mam on Sunday recreating the Biblical feeding of the five thousand by mixing a tin of salmon with half a loaf of bread and a dash of vinegar.
We always had a tin of condensed milk which we’d bash two big holes in the top of so it would pour. The holes were handy for sucking the stuff out when Mam wasn’t around. We used to put it on sandwiches.
We’d never heard of boiling the can to make the toffee for the exotic banoffee pie. Aunt Zillah always had a tin handy so she could stick her fire place tiles back on.
We never had corned beef Dad was convinced it was horse meat. It was because of corned beef cans that I met the page three model Samantha Fox.
We did a spot together in a large London kitchen. I was there to talk about safely opening cans, specifically corned beef cans, which apparently cause more accidents than any other.
Interestingly corned beef was the second meat of choice for some cannibal descendants because they liked the corpsy flavour.
They actually prefer Spam which apparently tastes just like humans, which has made me look on it in a completely different light. I can now enjoy the cannibal experience with out all the fuss and bother of getting the ingredients.
My only bad experience with cans was when Mam put me on the tinned spaghetti diet every day and of course the grass soup. But you can’t go far wrong if you.
1 Stick to a tinned food diet.
2 Don’t eat cereals that change the colour of your milk ie chocolate.
3 Don’t drink anything that turns white when mixed with water. I learnt this very early in life with granny’s milky diluted Dettol washing water. That she kept in a half pint milk bottle.
4 ‘Never drink anything off the top shelf and you’ll live longer’.
I thought this applied to dodgy liquids put out of the reach of children. I was told this by an old Guinness drinking Irish guy in the Junction Pub, Marsh. So I think he meant something else.
5 The wise man washes his hands before going to the toilet after eating wasabi nuts.
6 Finally, but it’s now too late for me, don’t antagonise lobsters as you could meet them in the afterlife.
l PS Good news on the coffee crème famine. I’ve just got a complete box of coffee crèmes from Sugar and Spice my favourite sweet shop in the covered market.
I was reading about the forced rhubarb trade. Forced rhubarb, if you don’t know, is grown in dark sheds so it grows fast, desperately trying to get to the light which isn’t there. Sad really. It grows so fast you can actually hear it. You can do the same if you keep your rhubarb in the dark.
All this reminded me of when Kath Evans accused me of forcing her rhubarb on the sly. I said: “What makes you think it’s me?”
She said:“Well someone’s put a red bucket over it?”
It wasn’t me and we never did find out who the Rhubarb Rustler of Greenhead Park was.
l Wilf’s autobiography to the age of elevenŠMy Best Cellar can be purchased at Waterstones or via his website www.wilflunn.com