Tune in, switch off - Choice cuts from meaty shows

12th June 2009 at 01:00

During The Operation: Surgery Live (Channel 4) in which we gawped at keyhole hernia repair, a Twitterer asked: "Is the yellow stuff fat?" Clearly, they had missed an earlier BBC programme, 10 Things You Need To Know About Losing Weight. In that show, we saw an illuminated depiction of the grease-lined internal organs of medical journalist Michael Mosley (pictured right). The camera never lies: Michael needed to lose weight on the inside, even though he looked slim on the outside.

But help was at hand. Did you know that bigger plates hold more food? Believe me, it's a scientific fact. So tip number one was: eat from smaller plates. Why have I never thought of that? Time to smash some crockery and dig out the dolls' tea set from the loft.

Then it got more scientific. Apparently our stomachs process a cup of water and plate of solids more quickly than the same meal splurged in the blender as soup. The sludge takes ages to go down. Just like the water in my bathroom sink. So I'm definitely buying smaller soup bowls now.

Apparently, my brain can also fool my stomach into thinking it's just had a Christmas dinner, even if the last meal I ate was three days ago, so long as I eat protein. Bring on the steaks.

So it was useful when in Come Dine With Me (Channel 4), amateur chef Sabrina demonstrated how to tell if a steak was properly cooked. You prod it. The greater the bounce, the rarer it is. She demonstrated on her face, jabbing nose and cheeks. No need to stick in a fork to release the juices. Leave that to the surgeons.

But her fellow contestant Greg, representing Everyman and gardeners, horrified effete Hugo - as privileged as the heather-fed lamb on his plate - by eating his protein-packed chop with his bare hands. Fine dining establishments would throw him out, opined Hugo. He used words I'd forgotten existed such as "Titicaca", while Greg could only describe the flavour of his pears and ice cream as "peary and ice creamy". It's another winning reality TV format.

But back to the hernia repair show. It was made up of some unlikely ingredients: an operation, a live audience and questions via Twitter. If watching food programmes is the next best thing to eating, then the same must apply to surgery a thousand times over. Viewers saw robotic claws and beaks chasing the deadly yellow gunge - once soup - around the oesophagus and stomach in search of a nerve.

"What could go wrong?" asked one member of the audience who, unlike me, was daring to look. In the end, everything was trussed up with wire as neatly as a Sunday joint. What would happen if it was done too tight? Simple, she wouldn't be able to eat - even from keyhole-sized plates, presumably. Another dieting opportunity though.

Luckily, the surgeon said he would "fiddle and diddle" to get it perfect. Sounded like Hugo again. But he did reassure me by announcing that, as you become more experienced your hands became steadier. His advice to novice surgeons? Practise in the kitchen.

Ray Tarleton, principal of South Dartmoor Community College, Devon.

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