Morning Story: Keeping yourself entertained is fine

It began with a simple free-range egg.

I poured an apple-depth level of water into a deep saucepan with a splash of white vinegar. When the first tiny bubble formed on the base, then rose and popped at the surface, I whipped the water into a whirlpool and dropped the egg in the vortex. The still circling water capped and enrobed the yolk in white. It sat shimmering, neat and meringue-like.

Turning the pan off I had two minutes to toast a thick slice of Vogel's bread until golden.

Then, egg atop, with cracked pepper and sea salt, the dam was gently burst. Silky yolk ran amok through toasted whole grains and butter.

The exquisite breakfast was bettered only by lunch.

In a fry pan I sliced and browned leftover potatoes in butter with garlic. Next, strips of bacon, fried, and some finely chopped spinach and coriander from the garden. Then two mixed eggs, seasoned, added to bind the contents of the pan.

With the egg semi-set, I sprinkled Hohepa parmesan over the top and browned the contents under the grill.

Frittata for three, for one.

The exquisite lunch was bettered only by dinner.

With a cracking riesling in hand, I sweated finely chopped onions and celery. Spicy sliced chorizo was added, then tomatoes. I left it steaming for an hour to thicken, then added a dozen live mussels and selflessly sacrificed a glass of said riesling.

Floury dough was kneaded, rolled into flatbreads and placed under a grill.

Once opened, the mussels begged for a nugget of butter, which added a rich gloss to the ragout.

Oh be still my cavernous gob.

It was the culinary culmination of a very rare bachelor's weekend.

My wife had kindly offered to take our children to see their grandparents for the weekend. My part of the deal was to build a deck - which anyone with children will know is made so much easier without kids burying the skilsaw in the sandpit, chasing each other with sharp tools and playing harp with string-lines.

The common perception is that us family men regress when left alone for a few days, keeping company with beer and chips. While I'm partial to both, I'm more inclined to go a little crazy in the kitchen.

For instance, that little poaching egg trick can work only with one egg. When I cook eggs for my family, I cook seven. You simply can't throw seven eggs in a vortex.

Living alone renders the word "selfish" redundant. I can brew a cup of coffee for one, poach a single egg and wield complete dominance over the TV remote.

But speaking food, and TV, that same night I stumbled across one of those horrid Come Dine with Me real-TV programmes.

You know the ones, where a sad sack invites a handful of sad sacks around to their home for the inevitable vilification of the ensuing dining experience. Awful stuff. Awful because it has nothing to do with food.

It's simply one of the many inane shows popping up as part of the TV food porn phenomenon. Every time I switch on the tele there's a cooking show be-deviling the screen.

I'm mixed about the genre. Possibly it's made better cooks of us all. But it's also made us more anxious cooks. The bar has been set unrealistically high.

And what's more, I fear such culinary pornography may be the death-knell of the dinner party - parties where once it was more about kinship, company and the bonhomie of loved ones.

These shows are pushing one-up-manship, impression and impact. It's a sad shift, one perhaps heralded years ago when the real estate industry introduced that filthy expression into our homes: - "entertaining area".

Who "entertains" friends? That's repugnant. We host friends. Entertainment surely is a bi-product of sharing time with someone - not the aim.

The only mitigating scenarios in this rising TV genus are two exceptions, and as it happens, two Brits, with the names of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Rick Stein.

These two TV foodies have put the folk back in food. In today's TV-driven kitchens, they're wonderful and welcome aberrations, where the word "celebrity" doesn't preclude "chef".

Here's to reviving the dinner party and bringing humility back to the table.

Mark Story is assistant editor at Hawke's Bay Today

- Hawkes Bay Today

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