TIM FANNING MY VIEW
What is the appeal of the pilgrimage when we no longer believe in religion?
There’s a wide- eyed quality to Simon Reeve that makes him the perfect guide for a travel show. He looks genuinely excited by the people and places he encounters on his travels. In his new series Pilgrimage (Tuesdays, BBC2), he’s exploring what it is that has driven, and continues to drive, people to leave the safety of their homes on, often dangerous, journeys in search of enlightenment.
A thousand years ago, pilgrims would brave bandits as they set out on epic quests to visit a holy shrine, where contact with the relics of a favoured saint might mean the difference between heaven and hell. These days not many of us believe that touching a vial containing the blood of Thomas à Becket gives us an advantage in the afterlife, yet many agnostics set out on journeys of self-discovery, following in the footsteps of our forebears. Thousands of pilgrims, many of them non- believers, walk the Camino de Santiago each year.
As Reeve travelled from the holy island of Lindisfarne, off the northeast coast of England, to the sacred city of Canterbury, he met both believers and non-believers – including a man who has travelled tens of thousands of kilometres carrying a cross, albeit one with a small wheel at its base – trying to understand their motivations. Reeve himself is a lapsed Methodist but, like all avid travellers, has something of a missionary’s fervour for exploration. This first episode whetted the appetite for the great journeys across the world to come.
Another replacement for religion in our secular world is food. Celebrity chefs are the new high priests and we worship at their televisual pulpit, as they dispense wisdom about the worthiness of our crème brûlées. MasterChef: The Professionals (Tuesdays, BBC2) is at the fundamentalist end of this new faith. You know they mean business by the title, and the fact that one of the Roux family is involved. This week, two of the semi-finalists stood before their maker (or breaker), Michel Roux Jr, to hear him deliver his edict. They had made him proud to be a chef, he proclaimed, before telling them that they were among the divine elect. Here endeth the lesson. Christmas is the one time of year when Neven Maguire gets a chance to take a break from his hectic schedule. Over the holidays, his award-winning restaurant is closed, giving him the chance to spend time with his family. But what does Christmas dinner look like in the Maguire household? Well, here’s a chance to find out, as Neven shows us some innovative ways to prepare the perfect meal on the big day, using the best, traditional Irish ingredients. Among the dishes Neven will be cooking are a glazed ham with pineapple salsa, a crown of turkey marinated in buttermilk, oatmeal biscuits, and to roundund things off, a scrumptious chocolate sensation.