Imitating Art

I watched Jamie on TV last night: he was in Venice, trying to improve on carpaccio, Giuseppe Cipriani’s signature dish in perhaps the most famous and enduring Italian restaurant of all time – Harry’s Bar. Instead of the pale drizzle of mustard sauce which, in combination with the glistening red of the finely sliced beef inspired the name of the dish (the colours reminded Guiseppe of the work of Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio), Jamie heaped a pile of shaved zucchini, radicchio and mint on it and drizzled it with vinaigrette.

It looked very pretty, at least, but it’s probably not culinary art.

After that he tried to add melted chocolate to tiramisu. Of course you can add chocolate to coffee-soaked savoiardi, top it with an egg-mascarpone sabayon liberally laced with alcohol, and sprinkle cocoa on top. It would probably be delicious. It would just not be tiramisu. Jamie calls this concoction “my chocolatey tiramisu”. What is that? What would he do next? Add potatoes to the ossobuco and call it “ossobuco Dublin”? I really do appreciate cross-continental-(I know to the rest of us Britain is a small misty island, but the Brits still think they own half the world)-fusion-cook-anything-you-friggen-like-together-type cuisine, but let’s call a spade a spade.  Veal-shin-and-potato stew would not be ossobuco. Jamie’s probably delicious pud with eggs an’ a bit o’ “maascarpony” is not tiramisu. (I think.) Jamie cooks Italian just like he speaks it. He knows the words, but when he puts them together the result is not quite… Italian. And now I am going to stop using hyphenated compound adjectives.

In spite of the alarming number of cookbooks I have, I do not have a single one by Jamie Oliver. I am not sure why. There is nothing new, exiting or particularly revealing about his books. They are average books for average cooks, and I guess that is their appeal. The only time that I felt vaguely wistful about anything Jamie Oliver did was when he drove an old camper van all over Italy and ventured to cook with the locals in every province. Now that, for me, is a dream. Even so, when the response to his cooking was “good, but not Italian”, I felt a little vindicated. When the Italian farmers made him kill the lamb he was going to cook, his tears irritated me. It irritates me when people who cook meat are squeamish about the truth of how it reaches the pot. Only vegetarians are allowed to cry.

Anyway. The reason I got to be irritated with Jamie the choir boy is that I had access to DSTV, on account of spending the night in a very nice hotel room in Woodstock, Cape Town. No, really – there are hotels in Woodstock. Or one, anyway, and it is surprisingly lovely. Amidst the factories, towards the Roodebloem-highway side of Woodstock, is this brand new hotel with decently sized rooms, crisp and thick cotton sheets, acceptable room-service food and DSTV.

I am here for the Impumelelo “Beyond Talk” skills workshop. Tomorrow I have to give, for the first time in my life, a PowerPoint presentation. Fortunately it will be short, and I have a video to show.

(I admit that I no longer remember what I was going to say about the rest of my holiday since my last holiday post, other than that it was wonderful and that I saw, for the first time, places everybody should see before they die: the Swartberg pass, Meiringspoort, the Langkloof, and  kilometres of deserted road in the vicinity of the South African coast during the summer holidays.)

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2 thoughts on “Imitating Art

  1. paul 24 March 2011 / 17:33

    Aah
    I do
    miss
    your frequent energy
    here.

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