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12/02/2020 16:52:17  

From the Naked Chef to Bake Off, cooking shows used to be a treat to savour. But tears, food porn and class rows are turning them sour – and sickening

In the beginning, there was the green pepper and the red tomato. Contestants had a mere £5 to fill a carrier bag with ingredients, then 30 minutes to turn them into sumptuous dishes under the watchful gaze of Fern Britton or Ainsley Harriott. The resulting concoctions included the likes of ready salted crisp cookies, banana syllabub, and rice, with everything. This was Ready Steady Cook, the cooking show staple which ran from 1994 to 2010 and which is set for a comeback later this year. But the world it returns to is lightyears away from the one that it left. In the intervening decade, food TV has gone from the quaintly homespun to reaching an apex of ridiculousness.

Where once there was a fresh-faced, pukka-era Jamie Oliver extolling the virtues of mixing salad with your hands and making this thing called “ravioli”, or a wine-soaked Keith Floyd slow-cooking beef in red wine, chicken in white wine (or just drinking wine), now cooking shows have been edged out of the home kitchen and into the Michelin-starred world of molecular gastronomy. Recipes have stopped being practical and delicious and, instead, food is either an opportunity to shame – like Oliver’s classist comments on “eating well” being only a preserve of the middle classes – or an unattainable food porn fantasy streamed in Ultra HD on shows such as Chef’s Table.

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08/02/2020 14:51:20  

Top two meet with Leipzig looking to put criticism over visit of a celebrity barber on eve of a tame defeat behind them

Ralf Rangnick was not impressed. The day before RB Leipzig’s Bundesliga game against Eintracht Frankfurt on 25 January, the celebrity barber Sheldon Edwards, aka HD Cutz, had been flown in to the team hotel to cut nine of the players’ hair. Leipzig promptly lost 2-0.

Rangnick, who is head of sport and development at Red Bull in New York these days and a former coach of RB Leipzig, was perplexed. “If someone had asked me on Sunday, which of the 12 teams who played on Saturday had flown in a barber I would have put quite a lot of money on it not being RB Leipzig,” he told Bild. “If I am honest I am pretty stunned by this, because from a barber in the team hotel to a gold steak, the step is not too far.”

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12/01/2020 08:45:52  

An eloquent study of five female writers who lived in the same London square illuminates the courage of independent women in the early 20th century

When Dorothy L Sayers’s fictional mystery writer Harriet Vane returns from her adventures in Europe, she takes up residence in a one-bedroom flat in Mecklenburgh Square, an elegant, tucked-away Georgian square in Bloomsbury. Harriet is fiercely independent for a woman in the 1930s – clever, bold and making a tidy income for herself. As Francesca Wade writes, “her address represents the self-sufficiency Harriet prizes so dearly”. Sayers gave her unconventional heroine the same WC1 address as she had when she first moved to London because “it remained a byword in her mind for a life devoted to intellectual endeavour”.

And as Wade discovered when she stumbled by chance upon this small, leafy enclave six years ago, Mecklenburgh Square was home to five radical female writers at various times between the world wars. The modernist poet Hilda Doolittle (known as HD), the maverick classicist Jane Ellen Harrison, the economic historian Eileen Power and the novelist and essayist Virginia Woolf also lived there.

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