This is a guest post written by Pippa Harris from off of stuff
Human beings like big stuff, don’t we? And small stuff. And big piles of small stuff. All of these stimulate some primitive part of our brains and make us go ‘Oooh, I never eat Jaffa cakes usually but somehow seeing a two metre stick of them with Christmas holly on it makes them irresistible.’ I’m particularly susceptible to this, which is why I had to be dragged away from John Lewis the other day having taken it into my head that I needed to purchase these ridiculous glasses. That picture is misleading – these things are huge. I’d like to get six and then pretend I’m in a giant’s kitchen.
Pretending you’re in a giant’s kitchen/exploiting people’s weakness for bigger versions of everyday objects is the less than complex premise of Ubiquitous Blumenthal’s new show ‘Heston’s Fantastical Food’ (Channel 4, Tuesdays at 9).
Heston has given away the game somewhat, in the adverts where a woman cracks a giant egg with a big spoon, the establishing shots of an enormous ice cream being lifted by crane and a vast packet of hobnobs sailing over the countryside attached to a helicopter (how are they going to put those down without crumbling them? Hmm). Once you’ve already seen the big food, maintaining interest for the next hour is going to be a tricky one.
The first episode is about breakfast, and to disguise the fact that he’s just supersizing for the lols, Heston spouts some guff about people not bothering to eat breakfast and says he’s going to try and change that. He makes a giant fry up in Birmingham train station (including frying some enormous sausages that I would bet good money weren’t cooked in the middle) and tries to tempt some commuters into coming to eat it with him by rugby tackling them at the exit gates of the platform and shouting ‘Do you have time for some breakfast? It’ll take about half an hour!’
Half an hour? Fuck off!’ they all say (with their eyes in a Brummy accent). Doesn’t he understand that the average wage-slave has their morning scramble to work planned down to the last minute, in some cases the last second? If he tried that in Victoria at rush hour the beep beep beep of the tube gates being closed yet again might be the last thing he ever heard.
‘Amazing’ Heston says, shaking his head ‘I haven’t even got a single person to make time for breakfast’. Well, not really. You mean you couldn’t get a harassed commuter to add a full half hour to God knows what length journey by indulging you in your ‘job’ of making baked beans out of jacket potatoes and tricking people that mango yoghurt is egg. The weekday breakfast is a lost cause anyway – the continued existence of the ‘breakfast biscuit’ is clear evidence of that.
The biggest problem with this and indeed any Heston program is that Heston is not built for TV. I’m always interested in what he’s doing, but I feel he ought to be doing it quietly in the background while someone else – Jamie Oliver, perhaps, or even James May – provides the necessary whimsy to carry the show. To put it bluntly, he’s not that funny, and all the Harry Hill glasses in the world won’t change that. I don’t crack a smile when I see him comedy dropping condoms full of egg all over the place and doing a jolly test of which cereals are the most crackly crispy. Stop wasting time, I feel like snapping – just make massive food!
Which brings me to the Waitrose advert where he’s standing with Delia Smith in an empty warehouse. They say ‘Happy Christmas’ in unison and nearly wet themselves laughing. Why are you laughing, Heston? Nothing was funny. At all. Sometimes I worry that this is flirting and Waitrose is leading up to some kind of horrifying will-they-won’t-they coupling storyline where Delia eats him afterwards with her pointy teeth.
I digress. After his Birmingham failure Heston retreats from being snapped at by commuters into more familiar Heston Wonka territory, giving people golden tickets to his own version of the Orient Express and providing a topsy-turvy breakfast of tomatoes made of sausage, bacon smoke and edible newspaper, which all looks like a lot of fun. The crowning glory is a metre-high boiled egg (made again, of yoghurt), but I didn’t pay attention because by then I’d seen the egg cracked with a big spoon 72 times already in the adverts, the trail and the ‘coming up next’ segments.
Will I be watching the next episode? Oh, probably. The lure of big stuff is too tempting for my tiny mind. He’s making a big icecream! Will it melt? Will the cone crumble? Will it end up studded with perspective-challenged seagulls? Can’t wait.