"With Floyd, food on television went Technicolor. It had life. Anything was possible – exotic locations, unscripted howlers, wild adventures, humour, drink, and casual nonchalance in the cooking department." Matthew Fort
It's been a while since I've done a 'Word From' post. I need to find some new heroes or heroines whose words of wisdom can be published. Currently I think I've exhausted all my food heroes.
I have just finished reading Keith Floyd's autobiography, lent to me by my gourmet friend Monika so I thought 'A word from' approach would be a good way to deal with it.
I think you probably all know who Keith Floyd was. I say was because he died in 2009 of a heart attack, probably caused by the stress of operations and treatment for bowel cancer. The book was published just after his death. I actually don't have any of his many books and I only watched a few of his television programs, so I am not really an authority on the man But it was an interesting read.
In many ways there are two different Keith Floyds. The fun extrovert that everyone remembers with respect and fondness and the less well-known one whose life was in many ways disastrous. He was married and divorced four times, although he seemed to, at last, have found real love with Celia - a friend for over 40 years although married to another friend for almost all of them. He owned several restaurants most of which. I think, failed. He went bankrupt and was never good with money anyway. And, of course, he drank far too much, although he claims he never was drunk whilst filming. He did drink on screen though. His wives were probably right to divorce him.
So in spite of that cheery, devil may care exterior I suspect his life was not really that happy, and he probably wasn't quite as nice as we like to think.
When he died any number of celebrity chefs and famous people stepped forward to sing his praises - although it seems they did not turn up to his funeral. He fell out with people all the time, because he was nothing if not blunt, but it seems they all loved him, and they did indeed all owe him a huge debt.
For it was Keith Floyd who began the TV chef thing really. Well that's what they say, although there were others - I remember Fanny Craddock - dressed up to the nines and assisted by her retiring husband - Johnny I think his name was. I actually quite liked those programmes. They were fun but in a totally different way, and ruthlessly made fun of by Richard E. Grant in a wonderful series called Posh Nosh. Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson never did TV. I think Robert Carrier did, but I'm not sure how successful he was. I don't remember seeing any of them, and lots of people made fun of him too.
Keith Floyd, however, was a hit because of all those things that Matthew Fort says at the top of the page. And one thing that he also said was part of his appeal was that he appealed to men as well as women"
"Above all, he's a bloke. Women may have adored him too, but essentially Floyd is a bloke's bloke and he made it all right for blokes to be interested in food, even to cook." Matthew Fort
I actually find that a curious thing to say, although maybe this short example of his work - around 8 minutes - might explain it. In this video he cooks what he thinks Roman soldiers on Hadrian's Wall might have made. It's really rather funny. The food is not great as you will see, the weather is abysmal - it's raining and obviously cold - and he's not in a good mood but you do indeed learn in a very tactile way what indeed it might have been like as a Roman soldier at the northernmost edge of the Roman Empire.
But possibly a bit dated. And I don't think that whoever titled this particular video can spell.
It's all there though. The trademark plummy accent - he was educated at Wellington - a posh British public school - the bow tie, the directing of the cameraman, the booze, the moans and groans and complaints. But the enthusiasm too. For whatever else he was, he was enthusiastic and the enthusiasm was catching.
So much so that he basically pioneered the concept of the celebrity chef and the TV chef. He went out and about as many of today's TV chefs do, and he cooked wherever he could. Also a common thing with TV chefs these days. And none more so than Rick Stein who was an early disciple, but with whom he fell out with for several years. Jealousy perhaps.
So here are a few quotes from the man himself:
"Cooking is an art and patience a virtue.. Careful shopping, fresh ingredients and an unhurried approach are nearly all you need. There is one more thing.. love. Love for food and love for those you invite to your table. With a combination of these things you can be an artist."
"It was the impromptu feel of our programmes that would help to capture the hearts of the British public, as well as the feeling that anything could go wrong at any time. I mention rules, yet I don't think we had any and if we did, then we most certainly would have broken them."
"We went to buy fried fish here (in India) and we simply went to the stall which had the longest queue; that's how I can tell. You let the locals vote for the food"
"We’ve become a nation of voyeurs. We don’t cook anymore, we just watch TV programmes about cookery. Nobody takes cookery seriously now, it’s just cheap entertainment. I’m totally to blame. I started it all and now I’m going to go down in history for having started a series of culinary game shows. It makes me terribly sad."
"It strikes me that the good life parallels a wonderful dish. You assemble your ingredients, and they are fine ingredients, and the recipe - if followed correctly - should produce exceptional results. However, when you start to add too much of one ingredient and not enough of another, the dish becomes something entirely different and is in danger of turning wholly unpalatable. All cooks - and cocktail barmen, too - know that something sweet benefits from a dash of lime or lemon juice. But if too much juice is added, the primary taste of sweetness turns bitter."
Now those are indeed words of wisdom.