Heston’s Mission Impossible: The Navy Lark

I find it fascinating that Heston Blumenthal admits to once having had a serious problem with anger, because I keep witnessing him demonstrating the patience of saint in the current Mission Impossible series. This three Michelin starred chef, whose Fat Duck establishment has been voted ‘best restaurant in the world’, has taken on a series of challenges that seem frankly insane (hence the title), and put him in situations where he repeatedly gets bitch-slapped by ignorant, arrogant fools. I have vowed never to step over the door of Cineworld after watching how vilely money-grabbing and unpleasant their management team seemed to be. The British Airways one was more interesting, but it left me wondering why it took his presence for them to realise that food tastes different in the air than on the ground. He’s a smart chap, Heston. Excellent little grey cells under that self-inflicted bald head (he shaves it so no hairs get into his cooking). Undoubtedly eccentric, but also a brilliant national treasure as far as I’m concerned.

This week he went down on the aptly named HMS Turbulent, a submarine that usually goes on 90 day missions, during which time the fresh food runs out rapidly, and the men are left eating three vast, carbohydrate and fat drenched meals from tins or the freezer. Now I know the job of cooking for 100 men three times a day in a tiny galley with no fresh air must be bloody hellish. My heart went out to the hard-working cooks. It was the officers I wanted to slap round the face with a cod’s head (which Heston actually deep-fried into ‘scampi’ one lunchtime). And the entire management of the Armed Forces come to that. Why did it take Heston to question why men who are doing no physical exercise, but are required to have huge mental focus at all times in their work, are eating a diet not unlike Homer Simpson? And the budget per person is pitiful – the same amount of money per day as a prisoner (£2.35 since you ask).

Why do we spend a fortune on developing and maintaining new weaponry and high-tech equipment and jack shit on taking care of the men (and women) whose skills are required to make the damned equipment work properly? I was genuinely shocked by this. I can see that 3 months under the sea leaves a crew in need of routine and comfort, but why that should equal a fried breakfast plus massive, heavy lunches and dinners I cannot imagine. And these are men surrounded by fish, but apparently they’ll only eat them dipped in batter and fried with chips.

Down the hatch comes Heston, who has turned to old Navy recipes and added blueberries to quinoa and deep-fried eel bones (‘like pork scratchings in Japan’) to soup to help improve brain efficiency. The men looked horrified and quite sulky. They were clearly not wanting anything to change, and certainly not to something ‘weird’. And their officers were hardly leading them to being a bit more open minded. If anything, they were worse than the crew.

So Heston turned to the massive problem of storing food in such limited space, and tried his sou-vide (gentle boil in a bag) technique, which keeps everything fresh, juicy and nutritious and means the food takes up much less space. He blind tested the results on the Navy WAGS, who loved it, as did everyone else. Now the Navy and the Army are considering taking these findings on board. Well jolly well done Heston for being such a clever chap. But can anyone explain why it has never occurred to anyone in the Armed Forces to consider the importance of diet and nutrition, and why no-one had applied their military intelligence to the food storage issue before now? Didn’t leave me filled with confidence.

Posted by Inkface

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