Friday, 2 September 2011

There's nobody quite like Keith

I recently bought 3 second hand Keith Floyd cookery books from a well known online book supplier that sounds like a rainforest or a big boned fighty lady. I was particularly pleased with one of them, which cost me the grand total of 70p including postage, especially when it arrived and I found it was signed by Mr Floyd himself-

"to Jo- Jo,  love Floyd xxx" (there's also a little scribble of a wine glass next to it )

Looking at this inscription I felt three things:
  1. Ridiculous and inappropriate excitement  (I may have sqeaked slightly)
  2. A tinge of sadness that he's not here any more, and that something so special could be sold for 2p
  3. Intrigue as to who Jo-Jo is/was, and whether she knew her book was to be posted off to a stranger In Buckinghamshire. Despite the likelihood that it was probably a 2 second meeting at a book signing, I decided that Jo Jo had been a glamorous, tousled, 40 something blonde who talked like she lived in an Agatha Christie novel and met him in a far away bar in the early 80's, where they spent the night dancing, drinking and tasting exotic food. Now, in her 70's, she lay back on silk sheets with a long cigarette and said to her handsome son (who looked remarkably like Keith) "I have no need for this book anymore, the memories of that stolen night will stay with til I die, sell it to someone fabulous who will love it forever"....
And love it I do.

In my humble opinion (and I accept that I'm not exactly an expert in this area) he was the best telly chef there's ever been.  I'm avoiding using the term "celebrity chef" because I remember him saying on Keith Allen's documentary, 'Keith on Keith' that he hated that phrase, and everything it stood for, and the whole idea of celebrity is quite depressing at the moment. But if we're talking about those who've had their own television programmes, it's all about Floyd for me. I really miss him.

There are plenty of others I admire, and whose programmes I enjoy watching- Michel Roux Jr and Raymond Blanc probably my favourites at the moment, but I remember being fascinated by this brilliant, funny, charismatic and slightly bonkers man one cold, boring night in the mid 80s. Flamboyant is a word that gets over used when people talk about Keith Floyd, but with his wonky red bow tie, braces and loud, booming voice it's easy to see why they say it, and I was transfixed by him cooking on a rocking boat in Hong Kong, all flames and shouting and swigging rice wine.

Jo-Jo's donated  book, "Far Flung Floyd" tells the story of that episode in Hong Kong, and his travels around the Far East- Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. Like him, it's funny, informative and makes you want to cook- AND feel like you can create something really impressive. That, for me, was the best thing about him- he spoke of food with passion, but was never elitist about it- he made mistakes and wasn't afraid to show them; he was a human being and his energy and enthusiasm were addictive.

For someone like me,  he's the one telly chef who reminds me what it's all about. Cooking is about love and creativity and fun- I cook because I love it, and even if it goes wrong sometimes, nothing will stop me trying. I'm sure I'll never dish up anything anywhere near as good as he did, but as long as I have the ability to give it a go, I will.

Thanks Jo-Jo, I love it.

1 comment: