Wednesday’s TV: Could You Eat An Elephant?
COULD YOU EAT AN ELEPHANT?, Channel 4, Wednesday 14th January, 10.00pm Alert Me
Riding tenuously on the wave of public indignation over industrial food production, and clinging to the coat tails of the chic Slow Food movement, Channel 4 brings us Fergus Henderson and Jeremy Lee (“two of Britain’s most influential chefs” apparently) as they try to eat their way up the food chain in an attempt to wean us off a sanitised diet of cow, sheep, pig and chicken.
The two chefs take a wonderful, childlike joy in the delicious but also a less appealing delight in the macabre and downright gross. There’s more than a hint of the little boy with a worm on a stick, though they’d probably eat that too. This isn’t really a program about food, not in the way that the press release makes it sound. Instead, it’s as much about the squirm factor of some of the food being served (a personal highlight on that note would be the still beating heart of a cobra). It does serve a purpose, though, as Lee and Henderson examine what it is that makes us willing to tuck into some foods whilst avoiding others. For them, it comes down to a couple of factors – firstly, personal affection and sentiment for the animal, as in the case of dogs (though Lee quite rightly called the pre-slaughter cruelty they’re subjected to “gratuitous”), and secondly the source of the food. It’s not the simple fact of being served rat that is repugnant to them, but rather the idea of eating anything caught in an open sewer, which is fair enough really.
For all its charms, Could You Eat an Elephant fails to deal adequately with the question at hand – we know that we don’t eat things because of their providence or our own sentimental attachment, it’s blindingly obvious. But why is it that the majority of things Lee and Ferguson try, they are left somewhere between disgusted and unimpressed? Is it a product of societal conditioning, or have we just whittled it down to those dishes which really are most suitable for our consumption? The voiceover, too, is grating, as the slightly fey and very posh chefs could carry this program on their own and the backing track seems an intrusion. By the way, the title is a total letdown.
By Chris Harding