SUBWAYGuardian’s new podcast, Comfort Eating, where I talk to famous people about their food secrets, is my dream opportunity for an honest chat. Interviewing celebrities is always a bit tricky – they come in almost pointed, with lists of things they don’t want to talk about, or they don’t want to be there at all, or they’ve been prisoners all day. in a hotel suite, repeating boring anecdotes about his latest project.
Often times, the most exciting part of any television interview occurs just before the cameras roll. That’s when the audio person asks, “Okay, quick, just tell me what you had for breakfast.” It is not even a real question; it’s just the worn-out way that audio people push celebrities into making noise so they can fiddle with the sound levels. But it’s the part I love the most, and the part where celebrities are most off guard. “Two cream eggs… I can never stop at one. They remind me of when I was a kid, ”replied a British actor honed in the gym. Or, from the mouth of a sylph-like sex symbol: “Ritz Crackers with Primula Cheese and Branston Pickle. I carry them in my suitcase to keep myself sane. “
Hold on … what?! Let’s talk about this! For me, these are the real questions. Takeout breakfasts, secret snack concoctions, favorite cookies, and your regular Domino’s pizza order details – that’s when you see the real human being. Checking the name of a favorite restaurant tells me very little about a person, but you can tell a lot from what they eat behind closed doors. What we eat, in pajamas, so that we feel comforted, happier, calm or loved is very, very personal. It is also usually a bit embarrassing.
I can’t, for example, eat beans on toast without a big puddle of bright yellow Heinz salad cream, the whole, not the healthiest and “light”; I need my pouring sun in full light. Whenever I start a new relationship, I keep quiet about my salad cream habit. Especially with beans. I mean, some people find it abhorrent. But it goes back to the 1970s, when I wasn’t much more than a little kid, standing in a chair in a kitchen in Carlisle, spreading Heinz sandwich spread, which is essentially just salad cream with chopped carrot chunks and cucumber in it. In a toast and feeling so old It is a flavor that has comforted me all my life. The same goes for Ambrosia’s rice pudding, which is eaten out of the can with a large dollop of strawberry jam. At the end of a long and terrible day, this, on the couch, equates to a long bath and a hug. As for breakfast, whenever I make a hard-boiled egg porridge in a cup with, yes, more salad cream, to keep me through deadlines, I quickly go back to the cold mornings before nursery school with Terry Wogan on Radio 2 and donating teddy bears to the Blue Peter Bring and Buy Sale.
In my weekly podcast, I want to explore exactly these kinds of things: what we eat, how we eat it, and why. I’ve talked to Rafe Spall about his ideal Indian takeout order, and how he takes it straight back to Friday nights in the ’80s with his dad, Timothy. And Russell T. Davies made me the sandwich that helped him write It’s A Sin; I don’t want to spoil it, but Cordon Bleu cuisine certainly isn’t.
In the last few months, I’ve talked to people about their order for Nando, and Nice ‘N’ Spicy Nik Naks, and the whys and whys of the Pizza Hut Ice Cream Factory. Or at least that’s what started the talk: Soon we were talking about school dinners, first loves, bad dates, terrible auditions, messy breakups, sibling rivalry, and hideous house shares. Food, you see, is the backing track to all of these things in life. By appreciating the details of celebrity secret snacks, I have entered the most surprising and emotional places.
For the Comfort Eating photoshoot, I wanted to pay tribute to my latest relaxing snack by filling the bathroom with fried and fried maris pipers. Yes, as a restaurant critic, I spend an inordinate amount of time in fancy restaurants, eating fancy and ornate tasting menus. But a real treat for me is the crispy fries, vinegary with lots of salt and, in full recognition of the Northern England stereotype, lots of sauce. I have tried to put this leaning behind me as I have grown and seemingly wiser, but I just can’t quit. When a cook recently made me canadian poutine at MasterChefIt was a truly emotional moment. In one bite, he was 15 years old and dumb again, eating chips from a styrofoam tray outside a youth club while Blue monday for new order he yelled through the open doors.
Snacks like these connect us to the past and make the present and the future feel less scary. The Comfort Eating podcast is about this. It’s a side of celebrities that you don’t normally see, a path to their heart through their stomach. I, for one, will take a story about Findus’ or Mint Viennetta’s crispy pancakes about his motivation to be an actor at any time.
Comfort Eating with Grace Dent, supported by Ocado, launches Tuesday, June 15. Subscribe now wherever you get your podcasts.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism