In spring, a middle-aged, mad keen gardener and cook and telly critic's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of ... things other than watching television. Such as spring, perhaps.
But as said critic lives in Auckland, spring means that it is almost always raining except during the brief respites when it is blowing. So here I am, still inside, grumbling and watching television about gardening and cooking, which is a sort of torture. I would, obviously, rather be outside gardening and cooking things on the barbecue.
I don't mind Annabel Langbein's cooking and gardening show, The Free Range Cook (TV One, Saturdays, 7pm) but I do mind that the new series is set in winter and, therefore, so are the recipes. I might even make her coq au vin pie with crumble topping. It sounded delicious, but I would rather have made it in winter. Last week, she went dog sledding and afterwards whipped up a chicken noodle soup with Asian vegetables. Outside. In the snow. Why? This is possibly the sort of thing one does when one goes dog sledding but it seemed a bit mad. It is possibly a bit posh. She does seem a bit posh and seems to live in a swanky house in Wanaka - "back at my cabin" - which is where she whipped up the coq au vin pie, which was then served to her dog sledding buddies. Outside. In winter. I, too, am itching to get outside and eat things but it's a hankering that will be kept firmly in check until it stops raining and blowing. Eating outside in the snow is just showing off.
In the depths of winter you can't go past a hearty pudding. I heartily agree. And those upside-down pineapple puds looked rather good. Or "mmm, so good", as she is given to saying. But, in the depths of winter? Whoever decided to put this on in the first month of spring needs to be given a calendar for Christmas, by which time it might, just might, even be summer.
There is a spot of heavily sponsored gardening in The Free Range Cook. I must remember to sow micro-greens in the basement. Next winter. And what a shame I had cut down my black kale the day before watching the show. (Not really. Cavolo nero looks very good in the allotment but it is inedible unless you are some kind of health nut or masochist, which amounts to the same thing. As for micro-greens? Nice for rabbits, as my grandfather would have said.)
Anyway, Onwards and Upwards in the garden, as Katharine S. White, the New Yorker editor and mad keen gardener, would have said. Dear old Alan Titchmarsh's Love Your Garden (Living, Fridays, 10.30pm) is just the sort of gardening show I should loathe - it is instant garden makeover stuff. But I quite like it. It's sweet.
It, too, is heavily sponsored, but perhaps because it's over there (in Britain) and because the plugs come at the end, it's not as invasive as Japanese knotweed. Alan and his team - a gang of strong men who are there to be bossed around by Alan, otherwise known as "The Headmaster" and a couple of pretty girls in pretty frocks and gumboots - make over the gardens of deserving people. The gardens are all completely ghastly suburban wastelands at the beginning and stunning oases by the end. I suspect that in a year's time they will have reverted to gardens less stunning, but the people whose gardens they are are suitably moved and grateful. And there are practical tips and tricks even if golden gravel, meant to evoke a beach in the Med, or a garden "pod", a snip at 24,000 quid, is not your cup of tea, or within your budget.