Review of Jamie’s American Road Trip Channel 4 TV series
October 7, 2009 § Leave a comment
Watched the final programme in “Jamie’s American Road Trip” last night. He kicked off in Los Angeles for the first programme in the series on 1 September and concluded 6 weeks later on a Navajo reservation in Arizona. There’s a whole host of food programmes on the television at the moment – too many to contemplate watching all of them – I’d rather be cooking than slumped on the sofa! But I picked this series to watch because I’ve developed a healthy respect for American cooking since picking up David Rosengarten’s fantastic book “It’s All American Food”. Previously, I’d assumed American food was all peanut butter and jelly, McDonald’s and Taco Bell. How wrong can you be. I’d gone in search of a recipe for “Real Southern Cornbread” to serve with a Tex Mex chilli for a party – David Rosengarten came up with recipes that worked brilliantly for both in this comprehensive book. It has no photos but the recipes are detailed and they work and the seductive text draws you in and before you know it you’ve journeyed across America from Southern Breakfast Biscuits with Sausage Cream Gravy to Malasadas (Portuguese-Hawaiian Doughnuts) taking in Pho (Vietnamese Beef Soup with Herbs) and Extra-Crispy Potato Latkes along the way.
There is a similar ambition behind Jamie’s American Road Trip I think – an attempt to debunk the myth that American food means junk fund, and to show the diversity of American food brought about by a melding of different immigrant cuisines with that of the indigenous peoples.
The series succeeded up to a point but was a slightly odd mix of travelogue, anthropological study and cookery demo – think Alan Whicker meets meets Desmond Morris meets Fanny Craddock. I must say I found some of the faux inpromptu meetings a little improbable – Jamie receives a supposed off-the cuff invitation to a Mexican family party in Los Angeles (programme 1/6). “That’s Family..!” chunters Jamie for all the world like an extra from East Enders.
And that underground restaurant evening he threw in his New York apartment (programme 3/6). We were led to believe that these were just a few random punters who’d found Jamie’s word-of-mouth invite on the internet. But the crowd who turned up were a group of sleek, self-satisfied incredibly beautiful and well-groomed group of New Yorkers – straight out of central casting I don’t doubt.
Also the closing credits each week listed the cast of thousands supporting Jamie on this apparently solo trip. In particular, there were several food stylists – what on earth is a food stylist and how have I managed without one for so long? So, the picture of a lone traveller in a car was a fiction, but I enjoyed the series anyway. Jamie’s heart is in the right place and his tastebuds are sound.
But if you are really interested in buying a book that gives an insight into American Food, don’t buy Jamie’s glossy coffee table but get hold of a copy of David Rosengarten’s instead.