In so much TV, “fat” is a dirty word. What a joy, then, to hear the opening words of Samin Nosrat’s Netflix series Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. “Fat,” Nosrat says proudly. “It’s nothing short of a miracle. Fat is flavour. Fat is texture. Fat makes food delicious.” So begins episode one, a tour of all the ways fat transforms our favourite meals. Nosrat shows us how food cultures are shaped by the fats they cook in: French cuisine’s reliance on butter; southern US food’s heavy use of bacon fat and lard; and, of course, the olive oils that define Italian cooking. Blissfully, she never uses words such as “naughty”, “treat” or “calories” – these pleasures are free from guilt.
This episode mostly takes place in Italy, as Nosrat watches masters make olive oil, Parmesan, pesto and focaccia. She plays close attention to texture and sound: the translucent thinness of properly rolled pasta dough, the specific crumbliness of a 40-month-aged parmesan. Her joy in food is unpretentious and endearing – when a hunk of cheese brings a happy tear to her eye, it’s genuine and lovely.
The show is more ambitious and cinematic than a straightforward, do-it-yourself cooking show, but more accessible than the new genre of showy, macho food documentaries that define the streaming era (Chef’s Table, Ugly Delicious). Instead of being overawed by the technical brilliance that goes into great cooking, you are left marvelling at its simplicity. Suddenly, the idea of getting up before work to make traditional Ligurian focaccia for breakfast feels not preposterous, but breezy and tempting. A better future sparkles on the horizon. All that lies between you and your best culinary life is one bottle of seriously good quality extra virgin olive oil, and the final three episodes of Salt, Fat Acid, Heat. Reach out and touch it.