Wealth of cultures in culinary abundance
FOR some years now, our televisions have been slowly morphing into giant electronic cookbooks. Especially if viewers expand their horizons to pay TV, where there are more cooking shows than you can poke a soaked kebab stick at, with at least one dedicated channel, LifeStyle Food, showing nothing but. Those with humbler TV appetites are hardly left to starve on free- to- air TV.
I must admit at the outset I always prefer the softly- softly, moderately educational vehicles, such as Nigella Lawson’s various series, the ABC’s The Cook and the Chef and Maeve O’Meara’s Food Safari to the scald and immolate approach of programs such as Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen.
In fact, I don’t care at all to see contestants’ aspirations tossed down the sink hole for the vicarious and vicious gratification of viewers.
So give me Maeve over Gordon any time. If O’Meara errs in this beautifully shot, sedately paced show about the abundant varieties of local cuisine, it’s in her slightly bland expressions:
that’s a lovely colour’’; that’s a taste sensation’’. Compared with the regular bawling out of hopeful chefs, I can live with that.
The idea of Food Safari is to explore the wealth of cultures and cuisines thriving in Australia, to deliver a culinary travelogue without leaving home.
While there is a good deal of preparation and cooking technique on display, from which most of us who aspire to cook can learn something, the emphasis is not as much on helping you to prepare food at home, as on, say, The Cook and the Chef . Instead, it’s about immersing yourself in the flavours and scents, the colours and creations, and most especially, the people of the various nations represented.
Tonight it’s Indonesian cuisine, a source of food I have not had much experience of, apart from the odd youthful pilgrimage to Bali, and much more recently to Ratu Sari, in Sydney’s Kingsford, one of the restaurants profiled here.
O’Meara’s great skill is to help us witness the soul and passion for cooking of the people she profiles, in quick sketches, as she drifts about their kitchens.
How much do you have to love cooking to want to do it six days a week, nearly every week of the year? If you are like Rohana Halim, chef and owner at Ratu Sari, the answer is, a very great deal.
O’Meara gets out of the kitchen and into the produce markets with her chefs. She toils a little with them, without overwhelming, or hogging the camera, then adds narration and stunning vision of vastly different culinary processes to complete the picture.
Passion for cooking: Maeve O’Meara, centre, with the chefs presented in this second series of Food Safari