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A New Approach to Cooking

Popular TV presenter and journalist James May shares his unusual ideas on eating habits with readers.

For some time, I've been campaigning for a new departure in airline food.

The gist of it is this. The problem with airline food is that they try to do something a bit posh, with several courses drizzled with extra words, but then give it all to you on a tray the size of a mouse mat. Even at the pointy end of the aeroplane it's a bit of an elbows-in affair, but if you want to butter a bread roll in the cheap seats your neighbours will have to get up and stand in the aisle.

So what I'd like to see is healthy, balanced and nutritious food that can be eaten one-handed from one item of crockery. Every nation on earth can provide a 'signature dish' for its own airline: stews, hot-pots, casseroles, stir-fries, pasta, bowls of noodles, wraps and the cheeseburger are a few that spring to mind.

Everybody benefits from this scheme. The food is simpler to eat, and, above all, it's more straightforward to prepare and serve. There's more space on the little table for drink, and less packaging to fall on the floor. As there's less equipment involved, there can be more actual food, and clearing up will take no time at all.

But now I wonder if I haven't been, as usual, a bit unambitious.

How often do most people fly? Twice a year maybe, perhaps less. My mate Cookie has never been abroad, and is relatively unfamiliar with the pressurised carton of UHT milk. The idea needs wider social application for it to work. Now, as I have argued in previous articles, the reason cooking has become so popular, especially amongst blokes, is because the kitchen is the new workshop. Deprived of the requirement to hone his innate craft skills in wood or metal, the modern man turns to the formica worktop instead - previously this was more likely to be the woman's domain - and makes an intricate prawn cocktail. It involves tools, process and planning, and satisfies a natural desire to produce something.

I like fooling about in the kitchen, to be honest. I know you like it, too, because by far the biggest forum response I've ever had to a column (apart from the time you all fell out) was when I instigated a debate about the best way to make cheese sauce. The trouble, though, is that I'm really not very good at it. Last night, spurred on by too many visits to over-priced restaurants where I've eaten over-intellectualised dinners, I tried to do something a bit clever with liver, a selection of vegetables and some clever chemistry involving oils, herbs and spices. It was all right, I suppose. I mean, my guest and I both ate it, but in a slightly ashen-faced and awkward sort of way. It was all a bit brown.

More to the point, it took hours and hours that could have been better spent on something more constructive, such as mending the cooker, the door of which has dropped off. There are also three dead motorcycles in the garage, and they're not going to repair themselves. I have therefore revised my original scheme and yoked it to a new mantra in a "Strength Through Simplicity" style: one burner, one utensil, one implement. And the new arena of culinary progress shall be the garage.

I'm hoping to incorporate the notion of garage cooking in a forthcoming TV series and, as usual, would welcome any suggestions; anything suitable for consumption by a man who has one reasonably clean hand and one coated with something so toxic he'd rather not put it near his face. This is not, in fact, without precedent. I've been in a die-casting factory in India where the blokes baked exotic breads on the tops of hot machines, and they somehow tasted better for being a by­product of industrial endeavour. In former times, the foundry or the footplate of the steam locomotive afforded working men the opportunity to cook with the heat from the raging furnaces they attended. There is a great legacy of one-course, one-handed meals for us to draw on.

I imagine the garage cafe experiment would be very appealing to production engineers in car companies. It might also dispel the myth of men's inability to multi-task. What's the point of waiting for something to boil? In the garage, you can be stripping something down while that's going on. This way, the artificial division between the kitchen and the garage – both workshops, after all - will be demolished, although ‘hег in the main bit of the house' might not be so keen on the idea. I've made a start already. Tonight I've had an oil and filter change with a side of chain adjustment accompanied by beans ‘n’ sausages.

1. The writer's main objection to airline food is that it

A. does not taste as good as it should.

В. is described in over-complicated language.

С. comes in too small portions.

D. is presented in an inappropriate way.

2. The writer's main argument for his airline food suggestion is that

A. airlines could serve food typical of their own country.

В. airline meals would be better for passengers' health

С. it would make things easier for the crew.

D. there would be benefits for the environment.

3. The writer argues that men are increasingly interested in cooking because

A. they find it more enjoyable than making things with wood or metal.

В. they have fewer opportunities to create things than used to be the case.

С. it is now more socially acceptable for men to spend time in the kitchen.

D. women are generally spending less time cooking than they used to.

4. What do we learn about the meal the writer prepared?

A. He used a recipe for a dish he had eaten in an expensive restaurant.

В. His meals are usually much more successful than this one was.

С. It looked considerably better than it tasted.

D. It was a waste of time that he could have spent more usefully.

5. Why does the writer refer to 'Strength through Simplicity'?

A. It is the principle he intends to apply to cooking.

В. It suggests a masculine approach to cookery.

С. It reflects the simplicity and strength of his ingredients.

D. It is the name of his future TV series.

6. The writer uses the example from India to illustrate that

A. skills learnt in a factory can be applied to cooking a meal.

В. meals have previously been prepared in unusual workplace settings.

С. food cooked in this way tastes as delicious as that from a kitchen.

D. his inspiration came from a country well-known for its tasty food.

7. One reason why the writer says he likes his idea of garage cooking is that it will

A. show that men can do two things at the same time.

В. please his wife that he is helping with the cooking.

С. give him opportunities to improve his cooking skills.

D. enable him to spend more time in his garage.

Exercise 5.You are going to read a newspaper article. For questions 1-7,choose the answer , В, С or D) which you think fits best according to the text.


A visit to the zoo is one of the defining day trips of childhood, but the fascination tends to fade during teenage years. However, the 'Keeper for the Day' schemes currently being offered by several British zoos are proving a surprising hit among adolescents.

Peter Maltby, 16, has travelled from his home to be a keeper for the day at Colchester Zoo. The trip is a present from his parents, who are accompanying him. 'We used to take Peter and his sister to the zoo as children and it gave them both a love of wildlife,' says his mother. Peter heard about the scheme from a school friend. 'He raved about how good it was,' he says. The zoo offers two options, and while his school friend chose the carnivores (white tiger, snow leopard and lions), fed red pandas, penguins and seals, and visited the iguana incubation room, Peter chose the 'primates, birds of prey, small mammals and elephants' option. His first session involves feeding lemurs and rare gelada baboons and, as he dispenses bananas, some sit on his head. Then it is on to the Falconry Centre, where, gingerly at first but with growing confidence, he handles several fearsome-looking birds of prey, including hawks, falcons and vultures.

Colchester Zoo's business manager, Alex Burr, says the scheme has become extremely popular. Elsewhere, it is a similar story. Geoff Worden of Blackpool Zoo says their scheme has really taken off. The days do not come cheap, but they do provide essential funds for conservation and endangered species programmes for the zoos. 'They also offer a unique opportunity for participants to learn a lot about how a zoo works and to spend time with everything from birds, reptiles and sea lions to gibbons, tigers and zebras,' says Worden. 'Naturally, we get youngsters who are thinking of a career with animals or in a zoo, but its appeal is broader than that. Afterwards, everyone realises just what hard work it is looking after animals. They lose any idea that it's a cushy job and come away impressed with the care and dedication of zookeepers who might spend a full night with a sick animal - and realise that there are some things that are not about money, which can be very refreshing.'

At Paignton Zoo, keepers for the day are also expected to 'muck in' and 'muck out'. 'This is not just a chance to meet some of the animals close up, this is real work,' says the Zoo's Phil Knowling. 'We get our share of youngsters on the scheme, some budding vets included, and everyone gets something different out of it. Not surprisingly, some are a bit wary of the reptiles and it can be unnerving to go into an enclosure full of hanging, twittering bats, but they gain a lot from their day.'

Some lucky participants in these schemes experience the drama of an animal birth, or are present at the introduction of a new species to the zoo, but although the reality is likely to be less dramatic, most seem entranced by the experience. 'From feeding giant tortoises, stroking the belly of a pregnant tapir, to holding out live locusts for the excitable lemurs, I had a fantastic day,' one participant wrote to Bristol Zoo. T can't actually remember the last time I was in such a rush to get up in the morning. It was a great day. I left full of information and experience that I would never normally have come across,' another reported back.


1. The writer says in the first paragraph that many young people

A. are unaware of the 'Keeper for the Day' schemes.

B. don't like being taken to zoos when they are very young.

C. tend to lose interest in zoos as they get older.

D. only become interested in zoos when they are teenagers.


2. We are told that when Peter Maltby took part in the scheme,

A. his parents went with him because he was nervous.

B. his school friend's advice was of little help to him.

C. he chose the option he thought would be the easiest.

D. he began to feel better as one of the sessions went on.

3. What does Geoff Worden say about the scheme at his zoo?

A. It is not exactly the same as schemes at other zoos.

B. All kinds of young people take part in it.

C. It is particularly useful for people considering a career with animals.

D. His zoo has to charge more for it than other zoos charge.

4. What is meant by 'cushy' in the third paragraph?

A. easy

B. boring

C. dangerous

D. glamorous


5. What does Phil Knowling say about the scheme at his zoo?

A. A few people regret taking part in it.

B. He has made changes to it since it started.

C. It involves more contact with animals than some other schemes.

D. Not all the people who take part in it are young.


6. In the final paragraph, the writer says that taking part in one of the schemes

A. often includes experiencing dramatic events.

B. can be a more exciting experience at some zoos than at others.

C. may change people's views of what happens in zoos.

D. is usually a very enjoyable experience.

7. One of the participants who wrote after taking part in a scheme mentioned

A. a feeling of great excitement before the event.

B. a feeling of surprise at the variety of activities involved.

C. overcoming their fear when dealing with creatures.

D. learning about creatures they had not previously heard of.


Exercise 1.You are going to read an extract from a magazine article. Six paragraphs have been removed from the extract. Choose from the paragraphs A-G the one which fits each gap (1-6). There is one extra paragraph which you do not need to use.

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