Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
who thinks it nice but in need of more salt. Oliver,
more confrontational, wins over his sceptical
Italian hosts in each episode with bravura dis-
plays of culinary promiscuity.
Culinary journeys are about distinction,
about cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1989) and dis-
plays of taste 'off the beaten track' (Buzard,
1993) as well as about the sense of taste. Televi-
sion's current obsession with celebrity and fi rst
person narratives 24 means that the mediation of
any sense is secondary to the positioning of the
presenter. Stein is constructed as urbane travel-
ler and bon viveur rather than a tourist, with a
network of contacts acquired ex offi cio as a tra-
velling celebrity, while Oliver is allowed to work
out his relationship with his craft and his family
by going through a series of quasi-Herculean
labours where the produce and culinary culture
of the terroir are the tools and the sites of those
labours. Nevertheless, in their choices of
ingredients and dishes as signifi ers - the gaze of
Oliver's and Stein's cameras function less to
add detail to the business of cooking than to
add culinary detail to authenticate and illus-
trate programmes which are about travel and
aspiration - they share much with Elizabeth
David's eye for the sensuous detail.
Of all the spectacular food markets in Italy, the
one near the Rialto in Venice must be the most
remarkable. The light of a Venetian dawn in
early summer - you must be about at four
o'clock in the morning to see the market
coming to life - is so limpid and so still that it
makes every separate vegetable and fruit and
fi sh luminous with a life of its own, with
unnaturally heightened colours and clear
stencilled outlines. Here the cabbages are cobalt
blue, the beetroots deep rose, the lettuces pure
green, sharp as glass.
( IF , p. 169)
Yet reading these words, with their painterly abil-
ity to evoke a scene and to engage the senses,
serves as a reminder that for all that television is
reputed to be a visual medium, its signifying pro-
cesses are generally illustrative rather than allu-
sive. For all the close-up detail of Stein or Oliver's
camera, lingering on a lemon here, a bunch of
herbs there, the cliché that one picture is worth a
thousand words does not always hold good in
enhancing the culinary tourist's gaze.
Barthes, R. (1957) Ornamental cooking. In his Mythologies , trans. Annette Lavers (1972). Cape, London,
pp. 78-80.
Barthes, R. (1997) Towards a psychosociology of contemporary food consumption. In Counihan, C. and
van Esterik, P. (eds) Food and Culture: A Reader . Routledge, London, pp: 20-27.
Bolton, J. (1997) Personal Landscapes: British Poets in Egypt During the Second World War . Macmillan,
Bonner, F. (2003) Ordinary Television: Analyzing Popular TV . Sage, London.
Bourdieu, P. (1989) Distinction . Routledge, London.
Buzard, J. (1993) The Beaten Track: European Tourism, Literature, and the Ways to 'Culture' . Clarendon Press,
Chaney, L. (1998) Elizabeth David: A Biography . Macmillan, London.
Cohen, E. (1972) Towards a sociology of international tourism. Social Research 39, 164-182.
Cooper, A. (2000) Writing at the Kitchen Table: the Authorised Biography of Elizabeth David . Penguin,
David, E. (1950) A Book of Mediterranean Food. John Lehmann, London. Republished 1952, Penguin,
David, E. (1951) French Country Cooking . John Lehmann, London. Republished 1959 and subsequently,
Penguin, Harmondsworth.
24 See Bonner (2003), Dovey (2000), Dunn (2005, 2006), Macdonald (2003) and Rojek (2001) on television as
'theatre of the ordinary' and on the importance of fi rst person narratives, whether celebrity or 'ordinary peo-
ple' in lifestyle programmes.
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