Mumbai (or Bombay, as Rocco called it at least once in a way that betrayed his true underlying lack of interest or basic knowledge of the place) is apparently a ‘city of contrasts’ where one experiences a ‘bombardment of the senses’ (I suspect those are the drains, David…). Che sciocchezza! I nearly choked on my chilli chicken soup when I guffawed at those choice banalities, but soon recovered as I sensed there was fun to be had from the vacuousness still to come.
One of the first allegedly Italo-Indian dishes Rocco cooked up was a ‘vegetarian carbonara’. Now I always thought carbonara was basically bacon ‘n’ eggs spaghetti. In fact, for it to be carbonara, those were the two defining ingredients: the murky origins of this dish are said to lie in the immediate post-war period, when Italians were eating bacon and eggs supplied by occupying American troops. Here, Rocco removed the bacon, and replaced it with, I think (I’m doing this from memory, I’m afraid), slices of fried aubergine. Having un-baconed the carbonara, he ended up inventing eggy eggplant spaghetti. But you can’t really do that. I mean, if I take the ham out of a croque-monsieur, it’s not a vegetarian croque-monsieur: it’s a regulation-issue toasted cheese sandwich.
But my main problem was that the food looked like something I might cook… Now don’t get me wrong, I cook a magnifico veggie pasta, but nobody is signing me up to present a cookery programme any time soon, and with good reason.
There was more lazy cooking when he met Bollywood star Neha Dhupia who said she wanted – sorry, was told by the producer to ask for – ‘simple Italian food’. Good news for Rocco, as simple stuff is as far his talents appear to stretch. He produced a basic and utterly forgettable broccoli pasta (pasta and veg appears to be his strong suit). To make amends, he resorted to sycophancy – ‘My secret dream is to be in a Bollywood movie,’ he lied. Not much of a secret now it’s been revealed on cable TV. One hopes he has a non-speaking part in mind. Anyway, I will give our man some credit: Neha Dhupia is outstandingly beautiful, so bringing her on the screen made a change from the unremitting blandness of everything else on offer.
He gnawed on a Technicolor piece of tandoori chicken. ‘Fantastic!’ he bellowed at the hawker, who reacted only with wide-eyed incomprehension. In cringe-making style, he proceeded to play the Westerner-who-has-never-been-to-a-developing-country-before by commenting, predictably, on the cheapness of the street food. But being unthinking and insensitive, here’s how he phrased it: ’60 rupees? It’s worth at least 160 rupees!’ Translation: ‘This large piece of chicken costs 58p? It should cost £1.55! It’s worth at least 3½ Chicken McNuggets from McDonald’s Cheltenham!’
So the show was a disappointment. A programme that feinted as if interested in Indian food, only to force-feed us with Italian fare that looked utterly without merit. I only know of one established Indo-Italian fusion food … but not once did he make a chicken tikka pizza. Nor was there a single mention of the semantic connection between ciabatta and chapati... Che peccato, no?
https://www.facebook.com/DAVIDR0CC0 - it seems only polite to link to David Rocco’s Facebook page after I slated him on here. I took the photo of him and Neha Dhupia from his page as well.
http://www.aglugofoil.com/2012/05/creamy-spaghetti-alla-carbonara-easy.html - credit for the Spaghetti Carbonara picture with bacon.
http://www.burgerlad.com/2013/01/mcdonalds-menu-items-and-prices-in-uk.html - this is where I got the prices at McDonald’s Cheltenham, UK (as at January 2013). It’s difficult to find prices online for McDonald’s (probably because they aren't consistent from outlet to outlet even within the same country).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Taranto-Aerial_view-1.jpg – credit for the Taranto aerial view by Carlos Delgado.
If you agree or disagree with what I said, why not leave a comment? It would be great to hear from you!