‘Grow, Cook, Eat’: Putting the ‘cult’ back into cultivation

TV Review: A leaden, worthy food show aimed – squarely – at home owners

Karen O’Donohue and Michael Kelly compare their  day of harvest to the thrill of Christmas morning

Karen O’Donohue and Michael Kelly compare their day of harvest to the thrill of Christmas morning

 

Life is like the earth – you only get out of it what you put into it. In Grow, Cook, Eat (RTÉ One, Wednesday, 7.30pm) – a show that rhapsodises the practice of growing your own vegetables over several months, transforming them into delectable cuisine over several hours and consuming the results over several minutes – the presenters also reap what they sow.

In this case that is an overgrowth of enthusiasm for something so modest, that it actually arouses deep suspicion.

A number of times in the opening episode, devoted to the planting of potatoes, the irrepressible Karen O’Donohoe and the marvellously monotone Michael Kelly compare their anticipated day of harvest to the thrill of Christmas morning.

Watching them pluck out their spuds at the show’s crescendo, ranging from mini salad potatoes to big swollen tubers, you can’t help but feel they must be doing Christmas wrong.

This, however, is how you put the “cult” back into cultivation. They laugh about some of the terms, such as sprouting plants that are “perfectly chitted”: “You have to be careful how you say that,” says Kelly.

Few others would sell gardening with the evangelicism of O’Donohoe, though, who refers to it as “the growing buzz”, heralds the planting as “deliciousness on its way” and, on the subject of composting, comes off like an earnest educator fumbling through the language of a publicity campaign: “We’re going to turn the food waste into that glorious brown gold!” Ewww.

Such a hard sell underlines the leaden worthiness of the programme, sponsored by Bord Bia and Stop Food Waste, an initiative of the Environmental Protection Agency, aimed rather squarely at home owners.

(Good luck if you live in an apartment, where encomiums to the benefits of a brown bin or evenly spaced rows of potatoes is as admirable and inaccessible as the virtues of owning a brand new Tesla.)

The most sceptical party to their plans, though, turns out to be Orla.

This is a blight-resistant variety of Irish potato, which, in an irony worthy of the unsinkable Titanic, succumbs to blight before the end of the show. Early in the programme, Kelly had gone out of his way to criticise the sweet potato, those prátaí-come-lately: “I mean, what is that about?”

That makes this chintzy micro-reminder of the famine taste all the more sour. But it’s hard to suppress a smile when Karen implores us not to go adding these blight-affected plants to the glorious brown gold of her compost. What then? Landfill?

Still, enough spuds survive to allow chef Jessica Murphy to create a Norwegian Lefse, a dish that takes a good 24 hours to set (“perfect for a dinner party”) and asks, in humble addition, for trout, seaweed and caviar, few of which are easy to grow on an allotment. Seriously guys, after all that hard work, you’ve got to be chitting us.

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