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January 22, 2020

Anyone watch the new Channel 4 food show last night?

The latest vehicle for Heston Blumenthal, Crazy Delicious is billed as a 'magical culinary competition' where contestants who have been 'inspired by #foodporn' make visually jarring dishes from an edible set. You can watch it here. Main pic is from Jack Barnes/Channel 4.

This scribbler dipped in and out for about five minutes in total but I couldn't get my head around why anyone would want to make, let alone eat, strawberry cheesecake chicken wings or hot dog profiteroles.

It has nothing to do with real food. It doesn't teach viewers anything useful and it seems unlikely to inspire anyone to head for the kitchen.

Perhaps it doesn't have to do any of the above. It is telly and, arguably, its primary purpose is to entertain.

Fair enough. To a degree. But what is it doing to our sense of what food actually is?

There is an argument that pornography distorts our sense of normality. Teachers report that children think that some sexual practices which were once thought of as extreme as now being normal.

Their idea of sex is being warped by exposure to online porn. How will that play out when they start exploring sexual relations in real life?

Extreme food porn

This blog is not the place to ponder that question but there are similarities between the desensitising effect of online porn and the normalisation of extreme food porn.

It is just one example but shows like Crazy Delicious warp our sense of what constitutes normal food. Sure, it's only a telly show and, judging by reviews, it may not get a second series but it feeds into a growing disconnect between real food and the false food culture we are spoon fed by both adverts and programs like this.

Fewer and fewer people know where actual food comes from or how it is produced. Yesterday, a survey, funded by the Mushroom Bureau (there are a lot of these surveys about), found that 37% of the 2000 adults questioned thought that apples were a tropical fruit. Do parsnips grow on trees? 7% thought so.

Potatoes grow on trees?

Worryingly, 5% thought that potatoes grow on trees. The average Brit scoffs 100kg of potatoes a year and they have been a staple crop around these parts for nearly 300 years. You might imagine we know a fair bit about them. In fact, according to the survey, one in twenty people don't know how they are produced.

Perhaps that one person in twenty has good reasons for not knowing where potatoes come from but the survey also found that nine in ten of us confess to total ignorance about where all the veg in our fridge was sourced. The average British consumer knows where less than a quarter (23%) of their fridge contents comes from.

If you don't know where your food comes from, how do you know what you are eating? Do you trust global food manufacturers and supermarkets to have your best interests at heart?

Chef Blumenthal is not to blame for all of this; he is an amazing chef that understands innovation and the value of making food visually appealing. Shows such as Crazy Delicious take that innovation and exaggerate it to more unpalatable extremes.

It is not Blumenthal's fault that 7% of the UK seem to think that parsnips grow on trees but when Crazy Delicious features chocolate earth or a brook that babbles Prosecco it tends to muddy the waters.