It’s autumn at River Cottage and Fearnley-Whittingstall was espousing the virtues of beetroot and duck. “Autumn feels like you’ve captured the taste of summer and put it on a plate,” he said at one point. Well, I’d captured the taste of something, but it wasn’t summer.
It takes a hack to spot a hack and boy, did he try to tart up this TV dog’s dinner with all manner of journalistic tricks. We had alliteration. Tomatoes were “ready to bestow their rich, ripe redness” to a “richly rewarding roast tomato sauce”. We had gags. As he waded into the sea to catch some velvet swimming crabs, he pronounced that he’d “reached the correct depth... to have a pee”. If that weren’t pant-wetting enough, the next step, he said, would take place in “the wee small hours”.
And don’t get me started on the cunningly engineered debate over whether haw berries should just be referred to as haws. The punchline? “They are the fattest, reddest haws I’ve ever seen,” Fearnley-Whittingstall tittered. Haw haw. It was a shame, as there was some good stuff on the programme, including the return to Bramble Farm in Bristol to see how a group of smallholders were doing. We also met the guerilla gardeners of Todmorden, who were growing all manner of fruit and vegetables in public spaces such as bus stops and even a graveyard (between the graves, not on them, don’t worry).
And there were some nice recipes. I was particularly taken with the chocolate and beetroot brownies, which as well as the lovely chemicals in chocolate contain tryptophan, which boosts serotonin. They could be, in his words, “rather heady” (I’ll report back). But it was not enough to rescue the programme. The whole thing was too laboured and Fearnley-Whittingstall’s puerile wittering too irritating.
Thank God What to Eat Now’s Valentine Warner has turned up to steal the seasonal crusader crown.