This morning the news was full of the death of Patrick Swayze. And fair enough; he’s starred in many cult films of the 80s that are backdrops to people’s lives. None of them struck a chord with me though, the news that made me sad was another 80s icon of a very different type passing away. TV chef, bon vivant and wine-guzzler Keith Floyd had died.
I don’t know how well known he was in the US but in the UK everybody knew his name from his distinct cookery shows from the 80s. In fact, many may only know him through mimic Rory Bremner’s bang-on impersonation, showing him staggering from side-to-side as his wine glass was filled over and over. It was an impression I used to copy, and like a second-gen photocopy it wasn’t very good.
As I grew up I began to appreciate the TV shows themselves (often “Floyd On…”). As a contrast to Delia’s staid home-kitchen based show Keith Floyd bounded between peasant kitchens, posh restaurants, country homes, sculleries and beaches. Often he would cook with what was nearby and to hand, with recipes often involving everything being chucked in a pan and left to stew for a bit while he explained something about the area he was in. On repeat today it would go down a storm, as it’s all about local food prepared for the region you’re in, presented very simply and equally important, made accessible. Everything looked dead simple when Keith did it; chuck some of this in here, leave that for a bit, add some more… all simple stuff, celebrating it’s components. His seafood in particular was of note, plenty of clam stews and mussel hot pots. His shows are also infamous for first glimpses of the next wave of TV chefs; Gary Rhodes and Rick Stein got early breaks on these programmes.
My favourite Floyd moment was in a French kitchen; he prepared a dish that the cook of the house tasted. Immediately her face went sour and she tore into the dish piece by piece, and with an avuncular chuckle Keith translated “…not enough salt…not cooked enough…not enough pepper…not enough onion…” and with resignation he admitted she was right but it was a clear demonstration that despite his classic French training he still wasn’t good enough for the proud French housemaiden. The fact that he left this segment in spoke of his self-effacing attitude.
He was a grumpy old man who loved food, and crucially that love came through the screen. Cheers Keith.
“On me now please Clive…”
Image courtesy of keithfloyd.net