Always use vanilla extract not vanilla essence, which is something created by the Devil in his lab of fake tastes …

— Matt Preston

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Image courtesy of bandrat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apart from his new beard, which makes him look old and somewhat Derryn Hinch¹-ish, I love Matt Preston.

I love him in his role on MasterChef.

I love his god-awful suits, his little idiosyncrasies like the way he twists his wedding ring while he’s waiting for his turn to speak, but above all I love Matt Preston’s way with words.

His repartee with co-hosts, George and Gary (who are ok, but I don’t like them as much) is a joy to listen to. He can engage the guest-chefs and contestants in conversation, but always injects phrases or turns of speech leaving them wondering, ‘Did he mean this … or this?’

And — he knows his food, but is not pretentious or pompous about his knowledge. Facts are facts, nothing more.

I own a couple of Matt Preston’s cook books. They are full of great recipes. One of his books contains a load of hack recipes — cheats for people who don’t wish to spend hours in the kitchen. My favourite is his ice cream bread: two ingredients, ice cream and flour; easy method, mix ’em together; bang them in the oven; done and delicious!

Even if you don’t like cooking, his books are worth a look for the couple of paragraphs prior to each recipe where he might write an entertaining spiel about where he got the recipe from, the person who inspired it, the place it originated from, the long-ago history of the dish or some fascinating information about one of the key ingredients.

Matt Preston knows his stuff and his ability with the pen brings his knowledge to life. He has been a food writer for years; long before MasterChef was even a concept.

Today’s quote came from Cravat-a-licious: an anthology of his best writing, published in newspapers and magazines over the years. Reading that quote instantly brought forward an awesome image of the Devil himself, stirring a huge steaming pot of fake flavours to unleash on the unsuspecting and, dare I say, ignorant human race.

Flavour is everything in a meal. In my opinion, few chefs have mastered flavour sufficiently so as to be able to convert it into non-cheffy recipes for plebs; Jamie Oliver and Adam Liaw are two who spring to mind as having achieved this (and yes, I have all their cook books).

Fake flavours just don’t cut it.

Think — maple-flavoured syrup actual maple syrup; fruit-juice drink 100% juice (or the stuff you squeeze yourself); plastic cheese (you know the shiny stuff that comes wrapped individually in its very own sheet of plastic and can be left sitting in a teacher’s (mine) pigeon-hole for four months before it starts to turn) actual blocks of cheese.

And, of course, vanilla essence (a baking staple in most pantries I suspect, including mine) vanilla extract (which I also have in my fridge and smells divine!)

The list could go on and on …

Cost and time would be factors in favour of the fake-food revolution, but considering these against flavour … it’s almost evil, surely? Devilish even.

I chose this quote as I was eating a hospital meal. If you have ever been subjected to hospital food, you will understand why.

Zucchini and corn fritters with ratatouille sounded divine on the menu. What sort of fool was I? I’m not saying these were of the ‘fake flavour’ class (actually, no flavour would be more accurate), but if I hadn’t ordered them myself, and had the menu sitting in front of me when I popped the lid … well, I would have had no idea what the food was.

IMG_0843 flavour
Zucchini and corn fritters, ratatouille and rice – just in case you couldn’t tell.

But, I digress.

I love Matt Preston’s idea that the Devil has a lab of ‘fake tastes’. I can see it; it lead me to wonder if he also has other ‘fake labs’:

♦ the lab of fake offers — ‘Absolutely! You’re just what we’re looking for … love your ideas …’

♦ the lab of fake beauty — producing make-up, Botox and toupees … and a potion to inspire the desire to wear a comb-over!

♦ the lab of fake endearments — ‘It is so nice to see you again.’ or ‘You haven’t aged a day.’

Take it as it comes. Appreciate the natural things in life. Be who YOU are.

And, try vanilla extract next time you need vanilla … you’ll never use vanilla essence again.

¹For the record, I quite like Derryn Hinch because he isn’t afraid to take a stand and speak out about all the crap that goes on in our world.


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