By JO ABI
I am a food show fan. I love them all. I love My Kitchen Rules, all of the Masterchef series except the one where kids cried and cooked better than I do and Top Chef.
I even love Cupcake Wars and Cake Boss. And need I add My Reservations which I consider one of the best shows on television, no contest. Anthony Bourdain – you rock!
There are just a few problems that result from my obsessive and repeated viewing of reality cooking shows.
1. My family gets annoyed that they are forced to watch
2. They make me super hungry
3. I usually decide I’m a better cook than I actually am and end up cooking something completely horrible and wrong
Case-in-point, Thai Chicken Soup.
This was a My Kitchen Rules inspired dish from last year’s season that has now become known as the “Thai Chicken Soup” incident in my house and stories will be told about it for years to come.
I’m Italian and have pretty much perfected pizza, pasta and lasagne and just as well because my kids love them and it’s easy to hide vegetables in them.
I can also bake a decent cake. But I’m not contestant-material for ANY of these shows, a fact I momentarily forgot when I decided I had to burst out of my cooking comfort zone and try a completely new recipe.
I printed off Leigh and Jennifer’s recipe and scanned the ingredients list. The only ingredient on the list I actually had was chicken, but apparently not the right cut. Off to the shops I went.
I bought chicken thighs, coriander (a herb I have never ever cooked with) and several sauces including fish sauce.
When I cook my spaghetti sauce I’m very Nigella Lawson. I smell the tomatoes, garlic and basil and savour the aromas. Might I suggest NOT doing this while making Thai Chicken Soup?
My mum once mentioned that coriander smells like dead bugs. I have to agree. But when cooked it creates an amazing flavour. After recovering from my romantic inhaling of this herb I set it aside and opened the fish sauce.
They should write “do not deliberately inhale” on the bottle. Seriously. I coughed and gagged. I actually gagged. But what did I expect fermented fish to smell like? Really Jo.
I followed the recipe carefully and waited for a lovely aroma to fill the kitchen.
“Mum, I think one of the babies did a poo,” my son informed me, holding his nose.
“Um, no, I’m making Thai Chicken Soup.”
“It smells like poo Mum.”
“No it doesn’t, and it will taste delicious.”
“Sure mum,” he ran out still holding his nose.
Look , it did taste delicious but as those who fry salmon know, the smell in the house was quite a price for what should have been a delicious bowl of soup but being the first time I had made anything like it, tasted a little like chicken, dirty laundry and fish stock. Not good.
There is also an urban legend in my family involving me and a pavlova. I started baking them relentlessly as a stress-outlet during my HSC. I had pretty much perfected it when I pulled a beautiful big one out of the oven and it instantly deflated.
“You should have seen her face? It was priceless!”
Gee, thanks Mum.
Have cooking shows created unrealistic expectations of what we should be serving our families for dinner? From us, from our loved ones?
I’ll never forget a friend’s husband who commented on how she had ‘plated up dinner’. In my home I pretty much set up a series of large bowls/troughs and we just dig in.
And no, I haven’t attempted to cook Thai Chicken Soup again.
Jo has worked in TV and radio sporadically between the arrival of each of her three amazingly gorgeous children. She has written a book called How to Date a Dad and plans to finish one of the many other books she’s started once her children get sick of playing Minecraft on her laptop. You can follow Jo on Twitter @JoAbi.
Do you watch My Kitchen Rules? Masterchef? How do your skills in the kitchen stack up?