Jamie Cooks Summer, Channel 4, review
Ceri Radford fails to recognise the British summer in the sun-dappled fantasy of Jamie Cooks Summer on Channel 4
I had to keep adjusting the angle of my screen and tilting my head throughout Jamie Cooks Summer. Everything was pale and overexposed, like a botched holiday snap before the days of digital cameras. After a while, though, I realised that the effect was intentional: this was a fairytale view of the British summer, suffused with white light and apple-scented smoke, populated with good-looking people in retro sunglasses eating slow-cooked brisket next to a camper van. The fantasy was grating and appealing in equal measure.
At the centre of it all sat Jamie Oliver, as chirpy and laddish as ever, practically spontaneously combusting with joy now that he is actually doing some cooking instead of trying to teach American children what a tomato is.
The food itself looked amazing. I watched a preview at 9.30 in the morning, straight after breakfast, and my stomach gurgled instinctively as I saw Oliver put the finishing touches to a slow-cooked brisket chilli, the flakes of meat dissolving into a simmering, scented sauce. Here the concept of the programme – meals you can eat outside, whether at festivals, while camping, or in the garden at home – was a little stretched, as this was a dish to make at home, take with you on the drive and then eat smugly upon arrival at your bucolic retreat.
It was such a seductive fantasy that I found myself thinking: yes, I could do this, I could start cooking five hours before I need to leave somewhere instead of, say, having a lie-in and then packing in a last minute shambolic frenzy. Yes, in fact, I should go camping: it won’t be rain-lashed misery, with drunk people urinating on my tent in the night, it will be beautiful and sun-dappled and I can put flowers in my hair without looking like a six year-old or a weird hippy…
The next dish necessitated an even greater leap of imagination: it was smoked fish, made using your own smoker. This entailed finding a bucket, punching some holes in it, getting a load of white hot charcoal and finally – my favourite bit – using a pen knife to hack off splinters of fragrant wood like cherry or apple. And that’s before you even started to cook. The end results, as Oliver demonstrated, looked absolutely delectable – scented prawns and tender fish - and I salute anyone with the patience to see it through. For me, though, I fear the fantasy is too hard to swallow, and my summer cooking will still involve half-heartedly charring sausages on the barbecue.