Jamie Oliver's New Computer Cookbook
Tessa Boase | UK Telegraph
I own a signed first edition of Jamie Oliver’s debut The Naked Chef which, one day, I thought, ought to be worth a bit of money – perhaps when he’s knighted?
But these days I’m not so sure. Ten years on, there are Jamie jars of pasta sauce in the supermarket, Jamie pots and pans in John Lewis, Jamie’s face on Channel 4 most days of the week and, launched in December, Jamie Magazine, a bimonthly Jamie-fest promising to “create a more personal relationship between us all”. There is also, in a move which tips him well into Beckham territory, a new Nintendo DS computer game and interactive cookbook, What’s Cooking with Jamie Oliver.
I want to sneer, but could he be on to something with this latest wheeze? Like so many I have a shelf bulging with cookery books that I never open, opting instead to Google for recipe ideas which use up what’s in the fridge. I admit I’ve never so much as held a Nintendo console, but wonder if it could have something to offer.
A small box arrives with three instruction booklets. Finally I open the Nintendo DS (DS for double screen) and peer with furrowed brow at the screens – smaller than a credit card apiece. I’m not interested in the cooking against the clock game (it’s hard enough finding time to cook, let alone pretending to cook), so I jab the plastic stylus at “Interactive Cookbook” for some inspiration for tomorrow night.
“Cook fer yer friends!” cries an unmistakable, infuriatingly chirpy voice. Up-beat rock plays in the background. Argh. The program, the first cookery venture of its kind, is marketed at “casual gamers and women” (more than 50 per cent of DS owners are female), but I’m guessing that they’re under 30 and not wholly familiar with the insides of their ovens.
First up is Baked Garlic Mushrooms and Crispy Prosciutto: “These make a wicked weekend winter brunch,” says Jamie, all spittle and glottal stops. Bless him. I begin clicking on every recipe just to hear his relentlessly positive sell. “A very simple beef soup. Like the one you get in a can but much, much betta.” There are 25 starters, 48 mains and 27 desserts (all fresh ideas), complete with photographs – and at this rate it’s taking me rather longer than flicking through my extensive stash of books.
But there are positives. You can filter the recipes by time and ingredients – so if you’re a vegetarian with just 15 minutes to spare you can whittle the whole list down to Breakfast Tortilla; Grilled Halloumi, Spinach and Toasted Seed Salad; and The Best Falafel Wrap. The other gimmick is an instant shopping list at a click. But how do you push a trolley and wield a Nintendo DS plus stylus?
With difficulty, is the short answer. I end up propelling the trolley around Sainsbury’s with my stomach. But the clever thing about this gadget is that you can organise your shopping list by food aisle, starting with the fruit and veg section. Somewhat eerily, Sainsbury’s Camden Town branch is laid out exactly according to the game’s logic. Would Tesco be so obedient? I whip round in minutes without a single impulse buy.
I’ve chosen Smoked Salmon with Clementines for starters. It’s an assembly job for which I hardly need a commentary, let alone background music. “Oh shut up!” I fume, jabbing at the screen irritably as I flip between ingredients and instructions, “I’ve heard this before.” It’s impossible to get the whole picture with this infantilising step-by-step approach. I want to know why I’m doing what I’m doing, and what’s coming next.
But then comes a spooky moment. I’ve put the rice on for my Chicken Fried Rice with Crispy Spring Onions, started on the Chocolate Brownies (“One of these beauties is never enough!”), when an alert pops up on screen: “Time to look after the rice.” Heavens – he’s right, it’s nearly burnt dry. But how did he know? Did the machine somehow pick up the scent of burning? Is there an inbuilt timer?
From now on I’m rather nervous, wiping down surfaces assiduously and meekly following instructions. Two hours later I have my three courses plated up, garnished as if for inspection by Jamie himself. They look, though I say it myself, rather good. “Well done,” he intones as each recipe is completed. I feel it would be a nice touch if you could personalise the program with your name. “Pukka tucker, Tessa,” he’d say. I can almost feel him squeezing my shoulders.
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