Ready, steady cook! Too many TV chefs are spoiling the programmes

22 June 2017 7:32PM

Are you fed up with our TV channels being cluttered up with cookery programmes?

I know I am. Not that I object to watching the odd cookery programme, but do we really need so many of them?

I think I can remember when we could learn the basics of cooking from Philip Harben and his contemporaries.

Back then, being a lot younger and not being required to cook, I’m afraid that I’ve forgotten the names of his contemporaries.

But the one name I do remember is Toni Stoppani, who was TV chef on Border TV in the 1960s and onwards.

He was immensely popular and, reportedly, probably helped improve the standard and range of the meals produced by the home cooks in our area.

I don’t know how long he graced our TV screens, but I’m quite certain some informed TV fan could provide me with this information.

Can you remember those early Border TV programmes? Did watching Toni Stoppani on TV improve your cooking in any way?

Did you send in to Border TV for a copy of one – or more – of his recipes?

If so, have you still got any of them stowed away, long forgotten, with your cookbooks?

A question here! How many cookery books do you have? If you have any at all, I wouldn’t mind betting that you’ve got dozens of them – either carefully shelved or piled somewhere cluttering up some part of your house.

And, having had a brief perusal, how many of them do you actually use to help you with your cooking?

In case you’re thinking that I dislike all modern cookery programmes, I must confess that I have been hooked on MasterChef, but I’ve not been too keen on some of the other programmes.

I just can’t get too excited about how to cook a bread roll or some other baking delicacy.

I’ve watched Tattoo Fixers and the programme where various designers paint and decorate a number of rooms – both moderately amusing.

But I wonder where television is heading next.

When you walk round any town, you will see a number of nail bars. When will they put on a nail painting competition, if they haven’t done so already?

The opportunities are endless.

TV programmers in search of new ideas for “competition” shows have only to delve into the past for ideas.

How about a hat trimming competition? Why not?

The Wigton Conservative Club ran one in 1898 as part of its grand bazaar.

I suspect that it was a competitive activity which was well- known at the time by members of various women’s organisations. It could make good television.

But what about the other competitive event they put on – the washing competition.

It was a competition sponsored by Lever Bros, manufacturers of Sunlight and Lifebuoy soap.

No men were allowed to enter, although I very much doubt if any would wish to do so, as the advert stated that the competition was restricted to ladies.

I don’t think many viewers would switch on to see a few ladies wash a handkerchief in a bucket for three minutes.

But I have come across dishwashing competitions on the internet – how many plates can a contestant wash in an hour or so.

The Wigton bazaar was held in the Market Hall and interestingly, the advert stated “the room will be lighted by the electric light provided by Mr TL Hayton, chemist, Wigton”.

The ad then informs us that the room “will be perfumed by Mr WH Younghusband, chemist, Wigton.”

I’ve never come across this before. Was it standard practise at that time for rooms to be perfumed on such occasions?

If television had been available in the 1930s, bread-making competitions would have been popular.

The papers of the day advertised these competitions – all sponsored by flour manufacturers.

One such firm was Hindhaughs, from Newcastle.

One of their early adverts from the West Cumberland News for January, 1919, reminds us of the hardships ordinary people had to put up with during the Great War.

We all know about the food rationing in World War Two – but we forget that there was also rationing during the Great War, during which the bread on sale was considered to be substandard. The ad reads “Pre-war bread is here again.”

The firm ran a number of annual bread-making competitions in the 1930s – the first prize usually being £50.

A lot of money then.

Back to the present, I still think there are too many cookery programmes on TV at the moment!

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