4 Ingredients + 2 Queenslanders = culinary wasteland

Rachel Bermingham & Kim McCosker and the criminally-designed book that gave rise to it all.

Rachel Bermingham & Kim McCosker and the criminally-designed book that gave rise to it all.

4 Ingredients is, according to the blurb, the number one bestselling book in Australia. It was written by two Queensland mums who hit upon the idea that there are thousands of people who would want a cook book which would reduce all their family meals to just four ingredients. Think of the timesaving! Think of the convenience! Instead of watching Neighbours whilst eating your dinner, you can eat dinner and then watch Neighbours! It will revolutionise your life. Or best of all why not use the time you’ve saved to watch the show of 4 Ingredients which is now showing on Good Food.

A cursory glance at the perpetrators of this culinary snakewater make me immediately suspicious. Motivational speaker, is the only phrase you need to read to get the measure of it’s authors, Rachael Bermingham and Kim McCosker. They are blatantly in it to make money and not because they love food, in fact, you could argue, given their recipes, that they really don’t even like food. The former has even published a new best-seller ‘How to write your own  book & make it a BESTSELLER.’ [please note caps are not an embellishment by me, to emphasise how much I distrust this woman – she did that herself!] Bermingham is also responsible for my favourite TV moment of the year – whilst constructing ravioli with her brother ‘Spud’ she noted that he was sealing the edges with a beaten egg. “Darl, you know how you’ve got people who are egg allergic, can’t use egg, can’t cook with it, can’t have anything to do with it? What would you use in that case?” to which Spud replies “You just substitute that with the water”. At no point does he say what everyone watching the show, is saying “Oi Rachael, what about the 3 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks that you’ve just used, TWO minutes ago, to make the pasta? How thick are you!

If you love food and see it as more than just a fuel, then why would you include jars of sauce as ingredients? Why would you reduce thousands of years of Indian cuisine to recipes such a Rogan Josh; lamb, 1 onion, 1 yellow pepper and a jar of Rogan Josh sauce. That isn’t cooking. Its insulting a country’s heritage. Take a guess to what the ingredients of Beef Stroganoff are? Beef, mushrooms, cream cheese and a stroganoff packet mix out of a packet – you know, the ones with the recipe printed on the back of the packet! Risotto reduced to Arborio rice, peas and stock cube. I realise that there isn’t a great deal more to risotto but where’s the gently sweated shallot? The pecorino or Parmesan? Even an opulent spoonful of marscapone? Where’s the love? Anything to show the care and passion that this classically simple should command. The more simple the foods the more care and love needs to be afforded to them.

I understand the catchy title, and even the money making potential that lay behind it, but what you are doing by getting people to miss out ingredients – replacing them with processed foods, is stunting peoples ability to cook and destroying their ability to enjoy food as an event.

By reducing food to an inconvenience you reduce your own humanity.

I’m reminded of the phrase ‘If you give a man a fish, he can eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish he can eat for a lifetime’. They are certainly not teaching anyone to fish, in fact, they’re not even giving you a fish, they’re tying you down and force-feeding you crabsticks!


8 comments on “4 Ingredients + 2 Queenslanders = culinary wasteland”

  1. Charlotte's comment - added on 16th of September, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Totally know where you are coming from. I actually started making a 4 Ingredients Thai Butternut Squash Soup at the weekend. Only I felt the need to add about an extra 4 ingredients to make it better!

  2. rhys's comment - added on 16th of September, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    queensland, the state that rejected daylight saving due to curtain fading and the confusion it causes dairy cows. Now this.

  3. Tom Eagle's comment - added on 16th of September, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    I got confused. fishfingers + bread + ketchup + cheese (optional) = cultural wasteland. Was that the message?


  4. benD's comment - added on 16th of September, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Ah Tom, I see what you’ve done there. Trying to get a reaction out of me… well I’m not going to give you the satisfaction!

    Although, whilst I’m here, I will point out that I have no problems with food with only four ingredients, a great deal of Italian, Greek, Spanish or French dishes have minimal constituents – real bread has only 2 ingredients, three if you include water!
    No, my problem is the deceit that they are making ‘meals’ out of pre-prepared ingredients and selling it as cooking revolution, when most British people do exactly the same and they are castigated for it. Seriously though, since when did cooked macaroni combined with a tin of tomato soup and baked, make for food?

    And it was culinary wasteland, not cultural!

  5. Tom Eagle's comment - added on 16th of September, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    AH! Now I get it! So it’s not the “four ingredients” per se, it’s when one of them is a processed, orange-breadcrumbed travesty?

    Come on Ben… react! react!

    Srsly though, I agree – the book sounds like something that should never have got past the idea stage in their own heads. Like, “hey! we could… erm, no, never mind.”

  6. StevieR's comment - added on 20th of September, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Great post. Loved the highly controlled venting of spleen…

  7. PinkPatentMaryJanes's comment - added on 30th of September, 2009 at 12:45 am

    Ooooooooh, you’ve found my personal bugbear and articulated it beautifully. They also have a “cooking programme” which is now screened on Lifestyle FOOD in Aus. Diabolical. My nine-year-old daughter was incredulous the first time she saw it, “Oooooh, boil some pasta, fry some chorizo, add a jar of pasta sauce to the cooked pasta, and grate some cheese over the top? That’s not a recipe!” And yes, the stroganoff recipe saw my jaw drop and smash through to the earth’s core.

    And hey, with the fishfinger sarnie – you’re not putting it out there that you’re the first one who came up with a culinary creation – just sharing the best of what you’ve discovered. Huge diff. Although, you’d look fabbo with the Hollywood Smiles the book sales have bought those two…

  8. lolly's comment - added on 21st of December, 2011 at 11:25 am

    bahahahahahaha this made my day !! thank you ben !!

    i love my sunshine state, but what a disgrace, honestly