FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Gordon Ramsay in India

by BINOY KAMPMARK

Chefs who have an absolute sense of self are closed beings.  They have found the cosmic truth to the workings of the kitchen, and no one will convince them otherwise.  To be confronted with something as extraordinary, diverse, if not more so, than what they are accustomed to, shocks them.  They register various reactions.  Some go into traumatic denial.  Others, like the permanently agitated Gordon Ramsay, respond with cultural stereotypes and foul language.

Ramsay  has not doing too well of late.  His restaurant at Claridges, according to the early release of the Michelin guide, has lost its only star.  This has been put down to the departure of his pupil, Mark Sargeant, though one can also put it down to the fact that Ramsay   has himself taken his eye off the cooking scene.  He might have become a stellar chef of the television circuit, opening restaurants globally, but he has become a celebrity of food at the expense of making it.  The viewers are left in no doubt who his programs are meant to promote.  The food is secondary.  Its structure, its creation, is placed to the side in a blur of kitchen activity and verbal abuse.  (What would Ramsay   be without his defensive, overly marketed use of the ‘f’ word?)

For that very reason, his travels to India, featured in the program ‘Gordon’s Great Escape’, have been nothing short of a disaster.  He has followed the traditional formulae developed in previous cooking programs.  But the food content is even more conspicuously absent.  The audience is treated to his anti-vegetarian outlook in much detail, but very little as to the vegetarian diet he so happily assaults.  He bristles at suggestions that his food might be spicier.  He recoils at notions that a carrot might be ‘living’.

There is minimal discussion about the food served by the feared ‘real’ guru, who calmly cooks food along with a whole army in cool, collective fashion.  The food is no doubt delicious, and Ramsay  has to make the astonishing suggestion that he expected something ‘bland’.  There is no room for hysterics, and Ramsay is left stunned that any kitchen could operate that way.  The guru’s suggestion to Ramsay is simple: eat more vegetables.  They might calm you down.

The stereotypes about India are so larded in this effort it beggars belief that a network would show it.  Christopher Hart, in the Daily Mail (Jan 22), had an analysis.  The British, he argued, ‘have become depressingly inured to the wearisome and repetitive stream of expletives that flows from his mouth.  After all, swearing at the top of your voice – whether on the bus, in the pub or on TV – is, I’m afraid, now a daily staple of British life.’

Hart’s point is more on swearing that anything else.  The good Briton surely should behave better in other countries.  Courtesy is the famed attribute, even when hypocritically exercised.  But there is a far more fundamental point here, and one that goes to the very approach undertaken by this ‘renegade’ chef.  Ramsay  , to put it quite simply, is not interested in educating us about food.

Ramsay, instead of dealing with the food in detail, takes every chance to focus on his own being.  Every opportunity to remove his shirt is taken.  There is one scene where he hunts for fish (a particularly unsuccessful enterprise) in Kerala, another where he is riding on a raft dragged by bulls in muddy water.  Machismo, in such displays, comes first.  He has little to say about the complex interaction of spices and the extraordinary world of food he encounters.  He has nothing to say about the cultural values, which he mocks with boorish intensity.  One scene is particularly jarring.  In a display of childish intensity, he resorts to embracing the meditative ball in a pool.  The other attendants, who never touch it, look on in bemusement.

‘Gordon’s Great Escape’ is historical nostalgia brought in stormy fashion to a kitchen he cares not to understand, a cultural denial of a country that incarnates him in the category of a coarse, colossally ignorant Briton from the days of the Raj.  In truth, he was simply being a confused savage who did not know better.

BINOY KAMPMARK was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

 

 

 

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
Dean Baker
Time for an Accountable Federal Reserve
Ted Rall
Working for US Gov Means Never Saying Sorry
Dave Welsh
Hunger Strikers at Mission Police Station: “Stop the execution of our people”
John Eskow
The Death of Prince and the Death of Lonnie Mack
May 02, 2016
Michael Hudson – Gordon Long
Wall Street Has Taken Over the Economy and is Draining It
Paul Street
The Bernie Fade Begins
Ron Jacobs
On the Frontlines of Peace: the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Louis Yako
Dubai Transit
Bill Quigley
Teacher, Union Leader, Labor Lawyer: Profile of Chris Williams Social Justice Advocate
Patrick Cockburn
Into the Green Zone: Iraq’s Disintegrating Political System
Lawrence Ware
Trump is the Presidential Candidate the Republicans Deserve
Ron Forthofer
Just Say No to Corporate Rule
Ralph Nader
The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders
Ken Butigan
Remembering Daniel Berrigan, with Gratitude
Nicolas J S Davies
Escalating U.S. Air Strikes Kill Hundreds of Civilians in Mosul, Iraq
Binoy Kampmark
Class, Football, and Blame: the Hillsborough Disaster Inquest
George Wuerthner
The Economic Value of Yellowstone National Park
Rivera Sun
Celebrating Mother Jones
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir and Postcolonialism
Mairead Maguire
Drop the Just War Theory
Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail