Hats off to Hugh Briss, an Amazon reviewer of Heston Blumenthal's In Search of Perfection. Briss actually tried, as the book had recommended, blowtorching a steak and pre-cooking it in the oven for 18 hours on low heat. Alas, he confesses: "This just did not work for me and the steak ended up far too black and chewy." He also got out his vacuum cleaner and a bag, and used them to aerate some chocolate for a Black Forest gateau. The machine is "hard to clean afterwards", Briss cautions. He is a better man than I.
Blumenthal introduces his BBC2 series (which the book accompanies) by saying that he wants us to try his techniques at home. So far, the only one I have tackled is poaching sausages before frying them. It worked fine - but no better than the slow-frying I normally practise. Maybe my water was hotter than the 65°C that Blumenthal specified. I do not have the appropriate thermometer; and even if I did have one, I'm not sure that I would have been able to maintain such a temperature.
I am not knocking Blumenthal. He is an engaging person with an infectious enthusiasm and curiosity. The food at his three-star restaurant, the Fat Duck, is by all accounts a wonderful advertisement for his extraordinary, painstaking techniques. However, his cooking techniques are better suited to his own kitchen and skills than to mine.
What I feel after watching his programme is, albeit to a heightened degree, what I feel when watching all celebrity chefs, or when reading their books or newspaper columns. "That wouldn't work if I tried it . . . That is too elaborate for me . . . I don't have one of those . . . I couldn't afford that . . . Come off it!" They belong to a world with different values from those of the home cook. We want our food to be delicious, of course; but a spirit of compromise, of relish for the rough and ready, informs what we do. Among the current crop of television chefs, only Nigella Lawson - despite the "domestic goddess" persona - conveys this attitude.
That notion, "perfection", is the problem. While it is what we might aim for, it is not necessarily what we most enjoy. I have been lucky enough to eat at several three-star restaurants. I should be thrilled to visit the Fat Duck. But, given a choice of any restaurant to dine at this evening, I would not pick one of those places. I would have a better time at my local tratt and pizzeria, which the Michelin inspectors need not add to their itineraries.
For lunch, I often make myself a soup with an onion, some garlic and spices, a tin of cannellini beans, and an eye-watering quantity of harissa. A food critic would almost certainly pronounce this mélange disgusting. It is one of my favourite things.
I shall not be needing to clean the chocolate from the nozzle of my vacuum cleaner any time soon.