Heston Blumenthal’s gastronomic sophistry has always left me cold, and after subjecting myself to an early episode of the pug-faced one’s latest series, I’d gone out of my way to avoid subsequent offerings.
But I couldn’t resist the lure of Heston’s 70s Feast (9pm, C4, Tuesday 4 May) mainly because I, like Blumenthal, was a child in the 70s and have distinct memories of the unashamedly HFSS food of that decade.
Blumenthal claims he still has nightmares about school dinners and I have dark recollections of my own the most vivid being drinking milk that had been souring in the sun all morning (smelt like vomit, tasted like vomit, made me vomit… once).
I also recall being assaulted as I walked into the dining room by the rancid smell of ‘home-made’ crisps (apparently 100% grease, 0% potato) and finishing off whatever nutrition-free fare was on the menu that day with the foulest dessert known to primary school kids: frogspawn (aka tapioca).
Fortunately, he didn’t attempt to resuscitate any of these delights. He did have a go, however, at the no-less disgusting Spam fritter. I still can’t believe this was ever on school menus and it is a sign of how beyond rescue this dish is that not even the gastronomic alchemist could transform it using the base ingredients, electing instead to conjure up a deluxe version featuring pata negra ham and truffle juice.
Thankfully, his Pot Noodle didn’t bear much resemblance to the 70s original either when he visited a Unilever factory to recreate the 1977 recipe it was revealed to contain 4g of salt (two thirds of an adult’s daily allowance) and 10 e-numbers!
His guests, who included Noddy Holder, Jo Wood, Jo Whiley and Rosie Boycott, couldn’t get enough of the free school lunch. They even seemed to like the chicken liver pâté savoury “Feast” ice-lolly (the sight of which made me gag).
But although you had to marvel at the inventiveness of it all, I was tiring of the culinary conceits after a while.
By the time Blumenthal got to the flying saucers (filled with 10p mixture favourites, fried eggs, gobstoppers, foam shrimps and a sherbet fountain), I’m sure I wasn’t the only viewer thinking: who gives a flying f***?
More from this column