Friday, May 27, 2011

Inspirations from the Big and Little Screen: The River Cottage Series

This week's video pick is again from our friends across the pond. Having been a big fan of British programming since I was a wee one watching reruns of The Young Ones on MTV, I continue to turn to the mother island for my entertainment and/or informational needs. Let's face it, the BBC kicks the American media's ass in all ways, news and otherwise. Though today's video is not BBC produced rather a product of Channel 4, it still lives up to the higher standards of British television in my opinion. Maybe it's the Brit accent. I've always been a sucker for it.

In a recent post, I introduced you all to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and The River Cottage Meat Book. Aside from being an author of 19 books on food and food preparation, he is also a journalist, celebrity chef, and television personality having starred in several series on discovering what it takes to go back-to-the-land to provide for one's self. As a consequence of his television shows, Hugh has become a popular spokesman for self-reliance, free-range animal husbandry, and organics. When I first picked up his meat book, I imagined him to be a proper, reserved, maybe even uptight sort of Englishman. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hugh is an affable, slightly strange, food nerd hippy hybrid who pulls stunts in his River Cottage television series like inviting psychics to come help him with his mice problems or find the right kind of wood in the forest. There are scenes of him lying naked (no graphic images) in his tomato poly tunnel (hoop house) and taking a bubble bath with a rubber duckie. The man is a goofball, but a loveable one.

Aside from his awkward antics, he has much information to share for the person interested in homesteading topics. He raises his own animals, grows his own veg, enters jam and veg growing competitions at the local fair, sells homegrown food at the local farmers market, invites knowledgeable neighbors over to help with his various projects of culling, butchering, animal husbandry, preserving, sausage making, foraging, cider brewing - you name it, he does it. I have learned so much from his programs and have been inspired to try things that I would have formerly shied away from thinking they were too complicated, like hanging a pork leg for several months to make prosciutto. He doesn't make things look easy, except the cooking part which is a genius at, but does make it accessible as he bumbles his way through various adventures. I love witnessing the raw, authentic emotion in his enterprises, such as seeing him weep when his first lamb was being born, hearing the disappointment in his voice when he finds out his cow is not in calf after having been bred, and observing the matter of fact attitude he develops toward animal loss on his small holding.

There are many series of River Cottage goodness, each containing 4-6 episodes: Escape to River Cottage, Return to River Cottage, River Cottage Forever, Beyond River Cottage, The View from River Cottage, The River Cottage Road Trip, The River Cottage Treatment, River Cottage: Gone Fishing, River Cottage Spring, River Cottage Autumn, River Cottage - Winter's on the Way, and River Cottage Everyday. If you read my blog, I know you will love these videos. Well that should keep you plenty busy until the next installment of Itty Bitty's Inspirations from the Big and Little Screens.

(By the way, let me know if you are enjoying these video reviews or if you'd rather I skip this stuff and get back to urban farming haps. I'd appreciate the input.)


  1. I've loved River Cottage for years, and have actually been drafting up a similar post myself. I love the approach to food and really appreciate the shows and the cookbooks not only for the information, but also for inspiration - it all seems quite lovely.

  2. This is my feel-good show right now. I watch it when I want to be happy.

  3. Oh my god, The Young Ones, I loved that show. I do believe it was Neil who had me rolling around on the ground laughing, trying not to pee my pants. Awesome reference!

  4. Yep, River Cottage is my all-time favourite for indulgent escapism! It's such an enjoyable show, no stress, it doesn't demand anything of you. You can just put it on, sit back with a cuppa, and relax.

    I was a huge Young Ones fan in the 80s, too :-).

    Oh, and I am enjoying going through your video reviews. I watch a lot of stuff on YouTube and other video sites, so I'm always glad to be referred to good stuff.

  5. This was my first time seeing it. I expanded to fill the screen. I laughed out loud. I had to pause and explain my laughter to hubby at his computer. I loved the "cinematography" (camera angle), and I loved the music. And, of course, I loved the message. More, More!


  6. Thanks for the heads up; I am always looking for quality online programming, especially about farming and homesteading topics. It was how I found out about Victorian Farm, another BBC win. I can't wait to get addicted to this new show!

  7. I admit I was rather embarrassed after watching all the River Cottage episodes I could get my hands on last year. Having lived in California my whole life, there was NO reason I couldn't be growing my own food here in suburbia! Hugh has also inspired me and my neighbors to raise chickens and hopefully our own beef someday. I do draw the line at cooking up "roadkill", however! I am a producer, and I would LOVE to produce an American version of this series.