Monday, August 16, 2010

come dine with me

I know I'm a little late on this, but have you guys watched Come Dine With Me on BBC America? It's a competition where four home cooks take turns throwing three-course dinner parties for each other. Kitchen mishaps ensue, everyone gets awarded points for their efforts, and one person wins a 1,000 pound prize in the end. Needless to say, I love this show. (If you don't have BBC America, there's going to be an American version soon. Which I'm sure will be trashy and awesome.)

If you ever feel nervous about having people over for dinner, Come Dine With Me, like many reality shows, will make you feel immensely better about yourself. On the episode I caught, a truly crazy lady messed up her famous pavlova (pronounced "pava-lova") recipe about ten times, first undercooking it and then burning it. In the end she fished out several failed meringue discs from the trash and smothered them with passion fruit and whipped cream, creating a wobbly "passion fruit volcano." A male contestant made a "Mexican" dinner of chili (with Marmite...shudder), nachos, barbecue ribs, and an ice cream sundae for dessert. Oh, and Sex on the Beach cocktails. He's British, okay?

The most surprising and interesting thing about this show is people's expectations. One woman griped about not being given a hostess gift. Others said that they didn't feel properly "entertained" by other hosts. Entertained? Isn't a meal and good conversation enough? Of course, this is a competition and there is a certain amount of sabotage, mainly in voting. And complaining.
One woman, a pig farmer who lived in a mansion (really), made a rustic meal of homemade pheasant terrine, sausages with apples, and some sort of fancy tart for dessert. Everything she served was homemade, sourced from her own animals and lovingly prepared. Maybe it was a class issue, maybe it was jealousy, maybe the terrine had a little gristle--whatever the reason, she came in last place. I think the other contestants were put off by her enormous old house. Mr. Mexican-Marmite-chili placed first. But he did give everyone a tiny cactus and did card tricks.

Ridiculous as the actual food might be, it was fascinating to watch real people entertaining in real environments--tiny apartment kitchens, oddly decorated living rooms, massive dining tables with candelabras. 

What made the contestents decide to make fusty chicken Kiev, or barbecue ribs, or set a table with red napkins twisted and tucked into Champagne glasses? What made one of them want to turn mackerel and mushrooms into pâté? Was it an idea found in a book or magazine? Was this how their mother set the table for company? Why do we serve the things that we serve, anyway? A dinner party is an expression of self: how we want to appear to others, who we really are, and something in between.

[Images from BBC America] 

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dinner parties are intrinsically stressful just because they are an expression of self. That's why I think you're brave having so many of them.

Judy said...

Didn't mean for that to be anonymous

Casey@Good. Food. Stories. said...

I had no idea this show existed. Finding it on the DVR now...

Kim said...

I saw the casting notice and totally applied to be on it! I haven't heard anything yet, but if I get called I'll invite you over ;)

Sarah from 20somethingcupcakes said...

Right up our alley! I need to find this.

Daniel said...

Don't forget that the crazy lady threw her burnt pavlovas at her guests! She came in second!

Lisa said...

Judy: Thank you. I don't feel brave, mainly because I usually cook for friends. Strangers, that's another story!

Casey: I think you'll like this.

Kim: That is so funny. Yes, invite me if you get picked!

Sarah: Yeah, it is, isn't it?

Daniel: Ah, yes. I forgot to mention she THREW burnt food at her dinner guests. And they seemed to enjoy that. Masochists.

brooklynite said...

I can't believe I've never seen this show.

Tender Branson said...

Dug the food out of the trash? I thought stuff like that only happened in the restaurant industry. Sounds hilariously trashy.

sgrafman said...

Just back from London, where I watched this show with a friend. She's hooked on the spite. I wondered why someone would choose to be on the show. It can't be for the money . . .

Lisa said...

Hi Sarah! Ha, I know...the prize isn't THAT much and like most reality shows, it's not very flattering. Still, though, it's a fun watch, as a viewer.

Emilia said...

Hello,

I live in the UK and this is one of our staple viewing pleasures. Some of the people on it are hilarious. The number of them who have never cooked the dishes before but think they will be able to do it under pressure is unbelievable.

I hope the American version will be available online when it's out so I can watch that too.

Lisa said...

Hi Emilia! I am totally hooked on it now--saw an episode last weekend where a guy (who happened to be a drag queen by profession) made a really nice meal and won. I'm looking forward to the American version as well, but it probably won't be as good, much like Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares--a great show on BBC, but dreadful on FOX in the U.S.

Martha said...

Love, love love this show!

Im also in the UK and so have been familiar with it for a while now.

The prize money is just £1000 (about $1500) and so the show really is about the cooking and the local characters. (Guests are recruited from the same town/ city).

My favourites are the eccentric types- Have you seen CDWM in Preston where the woman served her starter, got terribly drunk and then went up to bed leaving her guests alone in her house to cook their own dinner? It was the BEST episode EVER! Breathlessly funny.

I also love the people who have never cooked but have seen it done on TV and really, how hard could it be? (Cooking skills can be gained through osmosis- ie watching Jamie Oliver or Rachel Ray- dont you know?!) They get into horrendous difficulties timing wise and guests sit amusing themselves well into the night waiting for over cooked steak and underdone potatoes.

I love the cheaters too- getting a chef 'friend' to come over and do the cooking!
Do you know if the US version will be the hour format or the 5 daily half hour shows over the week?

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