Dubai Diaries: Food podcasts for thought
It has been another busy week of podcast listening and, thankfully, a new player to enter the game provides some much needed respite to the hours upon hours of football analysis accompanying the ongoing Euro 2020 tournament. I’ve always been an admirer of food and dining programmes and in the last couple of years the genre has carved out a gem of a format across all platforms: celebrities on the promotional trail selling their wares under the guise of discussing their most coveted meals or snacks. If the description doesn’t ring familiar, the penny is sure to drop when I mention shows including the YouTube juggernaut Hot Ones. Here the star must devour 10 chicken wings, each with increasing levels of chili sauce ferocity, whilst a traditional interview conducted by host Sean Evans takes place. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Evans matches his guest’s eating odyssey wing for wing. If the whole meal is completed, the performer wins the opportunity to plug their latest project to the millions of subscribers the channel boasts.
In the audio realm, Off Menu with British comedians Ed Gamble and James Acaster provides dollops of amusement smeared atop a crusty loaf (or should that be papadam) of chat. Typically the well-known name will mention their film/ book/ album etc. while revealing their favourite starter, main course, dessert and drink. Out To Lunch with Jay Rayner is more of a dialogue between the restaurant critic and his caller conducted from some of the world’s best eateries, though the latest I wish to highlight is Comfort Eating with Grace Dent. Here the reviewer invites a personality over to her house and asks them to arrive armed with their comfort food of choice to share. Plates vary in quality although possess one element of commonality: they are all simple recipes.
The latest contributor for example, English actor Rafe Spall, brought in a humble cheese and pickle sandwich, which coincidently would be my choice. For those unaware, the creation consists of a couple of slices of bread, Cheddar and Branston (always this brand, never another) chutney. What could be easier? Our sharing a predilection for this UK staple prompted a train of thought. Does anyone crave complex ingredients when they require a gastronomical pick-me-up? Is anybody reaching for the pots and pans to throw together a duck a l’orange if they’re feeling blue? What is it about a straightforward carbs and fat combo that evokes a culinary hug? As Spall continued, the answer became clear. Introduced to him by his mother, the memory of eating the treat together was the draw. They say there’s nothing like olfactory familiarity to jog the old hippocampus and, as with the I Give It A Year (2013) player, Branston’s very unique scent can set me off just as vividly, which dictates I always have a jar handy. What in your cupboards does it for you?