Once in a while a programme comes along that’s so bad, it’s almost good - and so it was this week with A Question of Taste (8.30pm, BBC2, Monday 2 January).
Anyone expecting a foodie version of A Question of Sport will have been sorely disappointed. This was more akin to nerd-fest University Challenge - Kirsty Wark unfortunately lacking any of the deftness of touch of either Paxman or Gascoigne. Despite her Celebrity MasterChef appearance, The Newsnight and Review Show host just doesn’t come across as a foodie and her high-brow persona is ill-suited to a quiz show format - as her unconvincingly jaunty boast that this would be the show that “puts the quiz into cuisine” illustrated.
But as with all car-crash telly, after gawping slack-jawed at its sheer awfulness (stilted pacing, limp banter and embarrassed-looking guests were just the half of it), you couldn’t help be drawn in by its almost defiant amateurishness. Slick and manipulative this was most definitely not. Better still, unlike University Challenge, you had a fair chance of getting some of the answers right. Especially if you were the sort of white, middle-class dullard this was aimed at - and I tick two of the three boxes, hurrah!
The two teams were asked questions relating to different cuisines, cooking techniques, cuts of meat, food origins, famous chefs, you name it. Some were easy (What are the ingredients of a Waldorf salad?), some harder (I certainly didn’t recognise the equation for alcohol - despite my close relationship with it).
But whether I knew the answers or not, I found myself yelping at the screen with far more enthusiasm than during University Challenge or A Question of Sport. I also enjoyed the shameless ransacking of the BBC archives for footage such as the 1950s clip of Marguerite Patten talking about a recipe “so easy, I feel sure that even a man could walk into the kitchen and make it”. Priceless.
And I actually learned a few things, courtesy of resident expert William Sitwell, who awkwardly interjected from the sidelines every now and then with an interesting fact. Indeed, by the end, I was hooked - perhaps because, ironically, with A Question of Taste, the less taste you have, the more likely you are to enjoy it.