Modern Woman

Despite having been cooking pasta for more than 20 years, apparently I've been doing it wrong.

Rather than serving the pasta after draining it in a colander, you're suppose to reserve some of the starchy boiled water, then splash a bit back in to stop it from drying out. I tried this and, to my surprise, it was actually an improvement.

I know this, of course, because like every other person in the developed world, I have been watching cooking shows.

And, like every other person in the developed world, I have my favourites.

I am a Jamie fan (despite the way he refers to himself as 'Mr O', in that ad for his charity thingy; I am prepared to forgive the occasional pretentious lapse, he is still on the right side of Nigella), particularly of his 15- and 30-minute meals.

My mum gave me the cookbooks for Christmas and, so far, I have managed to turn a 15-minute meal into a two-and-a-half hour meal (about twice the time I usually take to make dinner) and a 30-minute meal into a 36-hour meal - I probably need to work on my knife skills or something. Still, it's not as good an effort as one of my gorgeous friends, who is planning a cookbook on 45-minute cocktails.

Gourmet Farmer is always a pleasure to watch, except for the episodes where Matthew Evans is killing chickens - I know, as a carnivore, you're supposed to take responsibility for the animals you eat, but I prefer my occasional piece of meat (when my veg-aquarian husband goes away) served with a good side dish of denial.

But I just don't get the reality shows.

Apart from not understanding why anyone would want to be patronised by someone who wears a cravat and white trousers - wow, those people are mean!

I love the occasional scathing comment (why is it so much easier to be funny while being cruel?) but these cooking contestants make the wannabes on America's Next Top Model seem like stick-figure Pollyannas in spike heels and I'd always assumed the models were nasty because they were constantly hungry.

You can't really give 'reality' chefs the same excuse.

Apparently, due to the popularity of food shows, children have been scoring their parents' cooking - my answer to this would be to then give the children a bill and tell them they weren't getting dessert unless they tipped properly.

But it's the obvious manipulation that really has me stabbing at the remote.

From the hideous music to a contestant revealing, with reluctant tears, that they really need to win the prize so they can get treatment for their child's brain cancer, I resent a television show mixing up food and emotional blackmail - are they trying to give the nation a collective eating disorder, where we can't eat or cook unless there's been a screen involved?

I don't like my food contaminated with awful behaviour - I tend towards the Like Water for Chocolate approach, that the mood of the cook goes into the food.

If I want to watch people behaving badly or being mean to each other, I just flick on the House of Reps website.

Now, rant finished, good mood restored, I've got three hours till dinner, I better get started on prep so I don't plate-up late.

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