The Great British Food Revival (Thursday, 7pm, BBC2) has a neat premise: top cooks trying to convert the great unwashed to ape their deviant gastronomic peccadilloes.
Half of the show saw Mary Berry spreading the gospel about fresh herbs, which seemed like an odd choice. Don’t people already quite like herbs? There’s no creature on earth that can’t be made instantly delicious by shoving a fistful of basil into the nearest orifice.
It was all too easy. On the back of her Bake Off triumph, Berry’s stock is higher than a giraffe’s giblets. With a single matronly twinkle she could flog foie gras to vegans.More intriguing by far were the efforts of Jason Atherton, the Skegness lad-done-good who honed his trade at el Bulli and has worked with Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay. His mission: to reverse the “insane” decline of the Great British cabbage, a “dynamic” veg inexplicably “in crisis”.
His tactics ranged from harassing people on the street to harassing people on the internet. After all, folks love being told they are wrong.He opened on a shamelessly populist note, pointing out that cabbage goes quite well with quail. (Expect a Delia-like surge at your local Asda this weekend.) But he soon lost his way, his tone alternately belligerent and mournful, like a low-rent Bob Geldof shaming us into not boiling the bejesus from his beloved brassica.
He even muttered about “the youth of today”, before trotting out some worrying demographics about how kids just don’t understand real food anymore. Then, with mounting desperation, he claimed that “cabbage is cool, cabbage is sexy”. It had all the conviction of your granddad saying he likes the new Pixie Gaga long-player.
Tellingly, Atherton - who described his cooking style as having “one foot in the past and one foot in the future” - admitted he spent much of his childhood toiling in the cabbage patches of Lincolnshire. For all the warmth in his voice, he might have been talking about the killing fields of Cambodia.
It was a shame, as his basic point was valid: cabbages are indeed awesome. But an advocate less damaged by his contradictory past might have been more persuasive.