Television and Food

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Almost as soon as the BBC began television transmission in Great Britain in 1936, food and cookery entered its portfolio. The restaurateur and writer X. Marcel Boulestin, an expatriate Frenchman, undertook quarter-hour live cookery demonstrations twice monthly from 1937 almost to the outbreak of war in 1939. They were not without incident, but were to act as a model on the resumption of broadcasting in 1946 when the chef and educator Philip Harben presented his series Cookery for five years to 1951. Harben concentrated on telling housewives how to make the most of their ration book allowance and offering a grounding in the science of cooking. Being also live, mistakes sometimes occurred: in a memorable bungling of the device ‘here’s one I prepared earlier’, Harben went to retrieve a dish from the oven and declared, ‘Well, they’re not quite ready yet. Goodbye everybody.’ He proceeded to finish the programme four minutes early—he had forgotten to switch on the oven.