My obsession with River Cottage and, indeed it's creator, Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall, is fast approaching it's tenth year. Embarrassing though it may be to admit to spending the majority of my youth fawning over a man living off the 'Fatt'o'the'land', I have nothing but deep love for Hugh and his pastoral lifestyle.
In honour of said obsession, I have devised A River Cottage drinking game that might just engage the youth of today with important issue's of conservation. However, before we get to the fun and frills of my potentially Viral parlour game, allow me to explain why River Cottage holds a place in my bitter, suburban heart.
Escape is the main reason; the undulating hills of the Dorset downs and soothing ripples of winding rivers were enough to make a young boy in a decaying seaside town yearn for more. I saw Hugh's smallholding experiment as the perfect way to live the life I was yet to begin, though only recently have I seen the show for what it is; unobtainable fiction.
In River Cottage land, if you run out of food all one has to do is amble by the riverside and pluck a crayfish from the shallows. If you need some handy work doing, you just give them a jar of chutney or offer re-wax their Barbour jacket.
In one episode, A pair of tree surgeons spend an entire day neatly folding a sycamore into a organic fence. Hugh voids their understandably extortionate daily fee by cooking them beans on toast. Is this how business is carried out beyond the grey walls of city life?
Not to mention that half of his recipes begin with the sentence 'Firstly, go and pick the largest pumpkin in your patch'.
Unfortunately for Fearnley, my patch is nothing but a slab of concrete that once belonged to a shed, that in turn once belonged to a homeless man who had taken to bedding down in my London garden. Even he is closer to the River Cottage dream than I am!
It's a socialist, utopian dream that would make Jeremy Corbyn burst from his already unbuttoned shirt- and all of it plays out like a Beatrix Potter, complete with jangling banjo vibes and torrents of innuendo between friends.
The politics of what Whittingstall preaches is, of course, completely on point: we do need to devote more time, money and pressure to the reconstruction of our food providers and the way in which we consume produce. However -like many of the country's favourite villains- Hugh went to Eton. He was a contemporary of Cameron (I could make a pig joke here but it's not the River Cottage way) and Boris Johnson. This is where the great man let himself down, though I assume he had no say in the matter. People will never respect anyone who went to Eton, despite how well intentioned they are. Yes, we will elect them- but never will we respect them.
This leads me neatly to the finest drinking game since the one with the rotating bottle. I present, The River Cottage Drinking Game.
Drink responsibly, how Hugh would have wanted it.
Firstly prepare your beverage of choice (I personally like an organic cider from a local producer)
Then, on a second platter, prepare a roulette of shot's (I personally use a organic celeriac vodka).
Take one sip if...
-Hugh Alliterates in a piece to camera.
-If you can correctly shout the name of one of his chums before he does (E.g Michael Micho, the polytunnel expert)
-If Hugh cooks a wholesome meal for a group of likely lads/bumpkins.
-If Hugh uses Mace in a recipe.
Take a 'Guzzle' if....
-Hugh brilliantly seduces a female.
-Hugh ends up being the Butt of a local joke/embarrasses himself for the sake of the shows narrative.
-Hugh vastly underestimates the price of a local service by paying them with brunch.
Take a shot from the Roulette if....
-Ray the Butcher comes on screen.
-Hugh personifies one of his animal's
-The show ends in a massive party in which all of the 'Characters' from the series appear (Extra sips if you can announce their names before Hugh does)
Finally (and I hope you have been brewing an organic glass of mixed dregs) Down the dregs's if....
-Hugh ever leaves the countryside.
Take this game with you into the annals of your unfurnished lives. Perhaps your children will play it, and their children, and their children's children. All of which means the River Cottage message will live on.