The BBC is being pressured to ditch recipes from its website. Of course you realise, this means war.
[UPDATE: Well, shit. They’re actually doing it.]
A thousand years from now when futuristic robo-historians are sifting through the wreckage of 21st century Britain, they’ll wonder at how one of Western Europe’s most powerful nations became an irradiated wasteland.
There’ll be theories as to what caused The Great Collapse – climate change, unregulated capitalism run amok, the alien overlord masquerading as Trump’s toupee – but they’ll be wrong.
Only those who were there at ground zero when The Shard fell and Buckingham Palace burned will know what happened.
The emaciated survivors who huddle around camp fires seeking refuge from the bloodthirsty mutant descendants of UKIP voters and tell their sickly, doomed offspring the tale of how this nightmarish world came to pass:
“It all started when the BBC deleted its recipe pages…”
It’s the end of the world as we know it
Yes, in case you haven’t heard, the BBC is under pressure from the government to axe ‘soft’ content like recipes, kids programming and travel advice because… well… something something austerity, presumably.
It’s unclear if or when this might happen at the moment, but given the current government’s cavalier attitude to frivolous things like free healthcare and not letting people with disabilities die, I’d guess all bets are off.
I can’t help imagining George Osborne sitting on a throne in his mountaintop lair drinking vintage cognac from a human skull while ticking items off a list marked Nice Things I’m Going to Take Away to Teach Them All a Lesson.
While I exaggerate (very) slightly as to the consequences of a move so mean spirited Skeletor would consider it ‘a bit much’, I sincerely hope the powers that be are prepared for a backlash of biblical proportions.
Along with the long-rumoured termination of CBeebies, a move likely to prove as popular with parents as replacing nursery school teachers with rage virus infected baboons, removing recipes from the BBC website seems like a step towards anarchy.
Can’t cook, won’t cook
It also seems massively counterproductive. In a country where a sizeable portion of the population typically only eats food that goes ping or comes out of greasy cardboard box decorated with a slightly racist picture of an Italian chef, surely we need to be encouraging people to cook from scratch in any way we can?
The BBC Food website is a bloody godsend for those of us who don’t have the skills, knowledge or confidence to just wing it in the kitchen.
It’s simple, reliable and easy to navigate, and anyone with the internet can access it. It’s also free to use to all intents and purposes, and contains 11000+ recipes. Contrast that with the cost of a cookbook – admittedly the chunkier ones have added value as anti-burglar devices, but you’re still looking at £15-£30 for a maximum of a couple of dozen dishes.
“But there’s loads of other recipe websites” you might say. It’s true – there are hundreds. Thousands probably. And they are almost universally terrible.
Anything linked to a celebrity chef will spend more time reminding you that you can buy Nigella’s Life Really is Much Nicer Than Yours at all good bookshops than it will explaining why your frittata has bonded to the base of your best pan on a molecular level.
Sites like AllRecipes that allow the public to submit their own ideas are too much of a gamble. Sure, there are user reviews on there that you can use to weed out the worst of the worst, but let’s not forget that it was the public that put Long Haired Lover from Liverpool by Little Jimmy Osmond to number 1 over Bowie’s Jean Genie.
Lost in translation
Then there are food sites from across the pond. I have a lot of love for Americana, but there are three things that our transatlantic cousins are categorically weird about – guns, free healthcare and cooking.
When you get home from work so hungry that next door’s cat starts looking like a roast chicken (complete with little paper socks over the drumsticks), the last thing you feel like doing is translating food.com recipes into The Queen’s English.
The mental gymnastics required to convert cilantro to coriander, broiling to grilling and a zucchini to a courgette are just too taxing for the Excel spreadsheet addled mind of the post-work nine to fiver.
Don’t get me started on their measurements either. I appreciate this is less of an issue for anyone over a certain age, but for those of us who didn’t fight in the Korean War, please know that your world of esoteric antique measurements confuses and scares us.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve found myself squinting at a US recipe on my laptop with a measuring jug in one hand and my phone in the other desperately trying to download a conversion app while the smell of burning cheese billows out of the oven (“How many litres in a bushel? Quick!”).
Take cups. Given the ubiquity of this measurement among Americans, every cup in the United States is apparently the same size. Not so on this side of the Atlantic; I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I’m 33 and I own several cups.
Are we measuring with little old lady cups or those tonking big Sports Direct mugs that everyone has but no-one can remember actually buying? Adding ¼ of one of those bad boys full of chilli powder to your con carne is likely to level your whole street.
As the hard-working Briton’s collective fingertip wavers over the Just Eat app yet again, BBC Food gives the angel perched on our shoulder that little bit of confidence to say “Hey – you got this. They added a banging huevos rancheros recipe from Simon Rimmer the other day. It takes less than half an hour and you’ll only have to wash up one pan.”
Inevitably, given that there’s now a “Change David Attenborough’s Name to Boaty McBoatface” Change.org petition, there’s also a Save BBC Food petition.
I’ll be signing it. The very fate of the UK may depend on it.
Are these proposed BBC Food cuts a recipe for disaster or just desserts? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter at @fuudblog