Cook

The whole phenomenon of television cookery is a little baffling; the one thing that isn’t transmitte

Too many cooks spoil the broth; unless it is cook broth.

Poor Gordon Ramsay: His super enlarged face looms from billboards all over town. His image dwarfs him - anyone meeting him from now on cannot help but be subconsciously disappointed that his head isn’t six feet wide. "He seems so small in real life", they’ll say.

Before the billboards impinged upon my eyes I’d only been dimly aware of Gordon Ramsay. He is a celebrity TV chef I believe, famous for swearing. A swearing cook; whatever next? The spitting cook? The shitting cook? Who’d want a meal that required swearing in it’s preparation? I’d like some love in my dinner not fuck.

The whole phenomenon of television cookery is a little baffling; the one thing that isn’t transmitted by TV is taste. A celebrity TV juggler would make sense; you could enjoy the juggling via TV almost as much as you would live - but food?

This is the era of televised cookery, glossy cookbooks - and endless ready meals. In a sense the TV chefs cook so we don’t have to.

I suggest a cookery show called “Unfamiliar Kitchen” in which contestants have a very short time to prepare a meal despite not knowing the whereabouts of any utensils or ingredients and being constantly pestered by the host : "Well what are you going to cook? When will it be ready?" etcetera.

Chefs always use 'the finest ingredients'. Isn’t that cheating? Shouldn’t a great chef be able to create a decent meal out of mediocre ingredients? Where do chefs get off anyway taking the credit for food; they didn’t make it after all - they only heated it up, chopped it and slapped it on a plate. Food behaves according to the simple equation I have devised below:

Food + Food = Food

What a chef creates on a plate is a collage, not art. Then again, writers rarely invent words, and painters seldom manufacture paint, so I’m wrong. Sorry.

The billboard adverts are for Gordon’s gin, and his name’s Gordon. How did they think that one up? Presumably it wasn’t Mr Ramsay that approached the gin makers, but the other way round. Will they pursue the idea and use other famous Gordons? Gordon Brown perhaps - show him sitting in Number 10 glugging from a bottle with the strap line "Why not? It worked for Churchill!".

What products could the other celebrity chefs entwine themselves with? Jamie Oliver could promote olive oil; Antony Worrall Thompson holidays on Merseyside; Gary Rhodes, Rhodesia; Delia Smith, ironmongery.

There are several different versions of the Gordon’s advert - the first I saw bore the strap line "the most offensive word in the English language is AVERAGE". Firstly, it isn’t. Secondly it is offensive to proclaim to the general public that the word average is offensive - the public about whom one can say with certainty it is overall average.

The next one I saw said "I choose my gin far more carefully than I choose my WORDS" which devalues the other adverts as well as itself. If you don’t choose your words with care why should we listen to you? The ad seems to imply Mr Ramsay himself has said this. I’ll wager he didn’t; in which case it is partially true in that in this case he didn’t choose his words at all. Did he choose his gin? Or did it choose him?

There’s another poster showing Marco Pierre White scowling with some sort of jelly in the foreground. The caption reads "To get to heaven you must go through hell" which is a novel revision of thousands of years of theological thought - in one sentence. Previously hell has been seen as a final destination - rot in hell we say - rather than a staging post on the way somewhere else. Presumably the advert wants to imply that to reach the heavenly jelly one must pass the hellish scowls of Monsieur White - but it doesn’t: the jelly is in the foreground so the advert actually implies that one must pass through the hell of jelly to reach the heaven of Monsieur White’s face.

I often cook myself - accidents happen when chopping onions at speed. I never use recipe books; I always cook the same thing: what’s left.

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The SATs strike: why parents are taking their children out of school to protest against exams

Parents are keeping their children away from school to highlight the dangers of “over testing” young pupils.

My heart is beating fast and I feel sick. I force myself to eat some chocolate because someone said it might help. I take a deep breath and open the door…

The hall is silent except for the occasional cough and the shuffling of chairs. The stench of nervous sweat lingers in the air.

“Turn over your papers, you may begin.”

I look at the clock and I am filled with panic. I feel like I might pass out. I pick up my pen but my palms are so sweaty it is hard to grip it properly. I want to cry. I want to scream, and I really need the toilet.

This was how I felt before every GCSE exam I took. I was 16. This was also how I felt before taking my driving test, aged 22, and my journalism training (NCTJ) exams when I was 24.

Being tested makes most of us feel anxious. After all, we have just one chance to get stuff right. To remember everything we have learned in a short space of time. To recall facts and figures under pressure; to avoid failure.

Even the most academic of adults can find being in an exam situation stressful, so it’s not hard to imagine how a young child about to sit their Year 2 SATs must feel.

Today thousands of parents are keeping their kids off school in protest at these tough new national tests. They are risking fines, prosecution and possible jail time for breach of government rules. By yesterday morning, more than 37,000 people had signed a petition backing the Let Our Kids Be Kids campaign and I was one of them.

I have a daughter in reception class who will be just six years old when she sits her SATs. These little ones are barely out of pull-up pants and now they are expected to take formal exams! What next? Babies taught while they are in the womb? Toddlers sitting spelling tests?

Infants have fragile self-esteem. A blow to their confidence at such an impressionable age can affect them way into adulthood. We need to build them up not tear them down. We need to ensure they enjoy school, not dread it. Anxiety and fear are not conducive to learning. It is like throwing books at their heads as a way of teaching them to read. It will not work. They are not machines. They need to want to learn.

When did we stop treating children like children? Maybe David Cameron would be happier if we just stopped reproducing all together. After all, what use to the economy are these pesky kids with their tiny brains and individual emotional needs? Running around all happy and carefree, selfishly enjoying their childhood without any regard to government statistics or national targets.

Year 2 SATs, along with proposals for a longer school day and calls for baseline reception assessments (thankfully now dropped) are just further proof that the government do not have our children’s best interests at heart. It also shows a distinct lack of common sense. It doesn’t take a PhD in education to comprehend that a child is far more likely to thrive in a calm, supportive and enjoyable environment. Learning should be fun. The value in learning through play seems to be largely underestimated.

The UK already has a far lower school starting age than many other countries, and in my opinion, we are already forcing them into a formal learning environment way too soon.

With mental health illness rates among British children already on the rise, it is about time our kids were put first. The government needs to stop “throwing books at heads” and start listening to teachers and parents about what is best for the children.

Emily-Jane Clark is a freelance journalist, mother-of-two and creator of stolensleep.com, a humorous antithesis to baby advice.