Sad news this morning from all quarters. Lost this day are two good men: Patrick Swayze of snake-hipped Johnny Castle fame and Keith Floyd, the eccentric and irreplaceable television cook and chef.
If asked to pin Keith Floyd down and describe what his niche was, I would attempt to classify him as an adventure cook and nomad, fearless and intrepid. His programs were essentially culinary travelogues, and he roamed the world, seeking inspiration from different lands, their peoples and their ingredients. Then, working shoulder-to-shoulder with the natives, he would present his own interpretations of the regional cuisines. A more flamboyant personality at the helm of a cooking program you’d be hard pressed to name these days.
I was first introduced to the charms of Keith Floyd by Him Indoors, who was gobsmacked that I’d never heard of him. Not know the national treasure Floyd?? Why, that was tantamount to an admission of an inability to pick an elephant out of a line up of plums! …It wasn’t an auspicious start to my relationship with Floydie. For one, I preferred my cooking programs to be structured and informative, my television chefs to be serious and staid. The slightly sozzled and irreverent eccentric on our television screen, a glass of red wine ever present in hand, had me flummoxed and disapproving. But H.I. would continue to tune into Floyd’s programs, and I’d be curious enough to watch, eyes narrowed and suspicious, if only to see what sort of gaffes the white-suited conquering colonial would pull whilst abroad. And yet, no matter how many orders he would bark at the uncomprehending audiences clustered around his open air stoves, he was always tolerated with good natured humour. He could, it seemed, get away with anything.
So, slowly I was indoctrinated into the cult of Floyd. The turning point for me, my irrevocable conversion, came about during an episode of Floydie’s French adventure. It was the sight of Keith on a cycling tour, with a nice bottle of red wine, obviously purchased for a length of old rope at the vineyard just down the lane, tucked up in his bike’s water bottle carrier. Although a tiny bit piqued that I hadn’t thought to do that myself, I had to respect the ingenuity of the man.
Sadly, I’ve only ever been a voyeur into the delights of Floydian cooking as I’ve done something for which I am very sorry. When H.I. and I first merged our lives together, I came across a selection of rather nice cookery books by Floyd on his shelves, which provided a study in striking contrasts in the otherwise spartan kitchen. Although he denied it, I rather suspected that the books had been gifts to H.I. from a former partner, so, at first opportunity, I ruthlessly excised all traces of them, and Floyd, from our kitchen. I know, it was a cruel act, born out of insecurity, and I REGRET it, okay? I did at least ensure that they went to good, appreciative homes…
Whilst the papers might focus on aspects of his admittedly tumultuous personal life, I prefer to remember Keith Floyd as the larger-than-life personality that I was bullied into loving. Fearless and outspoken, he had a deep and abiding passion for his craft. He inspired curiosity, not only in the strangers clustered around his bubbling cauldrons in the various countries his travelling cookshow visited, but in the viewers who were disarmed by his charming insouciance.
Cheeky to the last, in Floyd’s last television appearance, his interviewer, none other than Keith Allen, inquired about the wildlife at his rural retreat in France. “Do you get foxes here?” Allen asked.
Without batting a lash, Floyd quipped, “No, but I’m going to.”
You’ve got to love the man.
Rest peacefully, Floydie.