Occasionally there is a metaphorical planetary alignment of the sort that can make you exceedingly and effortlessly happy. The best of these are also staggeringly simple and serve to reinforce your general outlook on life. Eating a freshly barbecued cob of corn with my girlfriend whilst sat on a piece of driftwood, with sand between my toes and the Andaman Sea easing into the distance was one such example from last summer.
Other times, these moments of simple happiness are closer to home and more easily attainable as shall be witnessed, no doubt, on Wednesday evening.
I’ve written much about a chap called Fergus Henderson, a rather eccentric London based chef (and qualified architect) who has single-handedly managed to transform the culinary landscape in this country by making offal and other parts of animals ‘beyond the fillet’ not only accessible but also desirable and uber-chic (you don’t see a Franco-Germanic verbal alliance like that every day).
(Photo taken from New York Magazine)
I own both his books (not just wonderful cookbooks, but also excellent reading material) and am hoping to make a pilgrimage to his restaurant at some point in the near future. In short, he is a hero.
Secondly, I have a slightly bizarre penchant for the unusual and an adventurous palate, especially when it comes to the exotic. I am fully aware that we are unwillingly penned in by our own cultural sensibilities and the food we grew up with is the food that feels comfortable and right. In an effort to try and side-step this culinary prison, I make every effort to try things that sound odd, strange or even disgusting.
Somewhat inspired by intrepid adventurers like Anthony Bourdain (my other great food hero and something of a role-model) I make every effort to put aside my own prejudices and chew down the unusual with an open mind and receptive mouth. As a result I love seeing others do the same.
So it was with great glee and delight when I discovered that Channel Four, here in the UK, will be showing a new series entitled ‘Could You Eat an Elephant?’ in which Fergus Henderson and Jeremy Lee (head chef at the Blueprint Café) travel the world in search of the foods that make us pull a face like a child eating Marmite covered cabbage at the mere mention of them. Maggot infested cheese, dog, horse and snake heart all feature on the menu at some point, not to mention the eponymous elephant.
Those expecting voyeuristic simplicity, of the sort seen in ‘I’m a Celebrity’s’ infamous bush-tucker challenge, will (hopefully) be disappointed. This should be anthropology in action with two intelligent (if slightly eccentric) characters at the helm who are trying to find their culinary ceiling as well as taking a serious look at the culinary norms of cultures and societies all over the world.
A planetary alignment of the sort that is making me as excited as an obese child at a Pizza Hut lunchtime buffet.
Could You Eat an Elephant? Channel 4, Wednesday 14th January, 10pm.