Snakes alive: cookery show discovers hidden talents

Well that was a surprise.

Sarah Marie Palmer: hidden depths. And a python in her bedroom

The trouble with formulaic TV shows is that, well, they conform to a formula, and rarely depart much from their tried and trusted recipe – unlike the contestants on reality cookery shows.

And it has been so far so dull in the week of Channel 4’s Come Dine With Me programmes from Croydon, which Inside Croydon has been watching so that you don’t need to.

Tonight’s surprise was not the appearance of Princess, a Python, nor the fact that the snake was not amusingly called “Monty”, but the fact that the serpent’s owner, Sarah Marie Palmer, defied her arrogance and bluster of the opening show, and proved that she is actually not a bad cook and a pretty decent hostess.

Yes, there was a bit of televisual conceit – this time, to suggest that Palmer “walks” her snake to the shops three times a week, as she took Princess with her to the Green Shop on the Brighton Road near South End. Might someone have noticed that by now if it really did happen regularly?

But there was nothing phony about her cooking – the pumpkin and butternut squash soup looked terrific, with or without chicken; and the Thai green fish curry main was also presented to restaurant standard, even for the veggies who had to endure a tofu and aubergine version.

Palmer’s previous abrasiveness seemed to be turned to good effect in this episode. “He will be getting the vegetarian option… which is disgusting,” she said of Robert Preston, the meat-eating “veggie”.

As for the “Shamon!” merchant Keith Preddie, whose fussiness around his food has become a burden for his hosts this week, Palmer was having none of it: “It’s not my fault he can’t handle a spice or flavour.”

Ooo look: it matches her handbag

How would you know this was Croydon? There were a couple of loving location shots from the Selsdon Park Hotel – clearly the TV venue of choice this autumn, after the X Factor staged its Boot Camp orgy there.

Other than that, besides the exotic pet in the one-bed flat, there was the poledancer’s pole in the living room, and Palmer’s essential piece of kitchen equipment: “It’s like a microwave and a mirror, so I can look at myself in the kitchen.”

Sometimes, Essex has nuffink on Croydon.

The combination of the pole and the snake did prompt the thought of what young Palmer might have in mind as career ambitions, but setting that aside and concentrating on the matter in hand, she delivered a very respectable meal.

The ultimate compliment came from Preddie. “I really like it,” said the Michael Jackson “impersonator” whose pickiness had seen him go home hungry the two previous nights.

So successful was Palmer’s dinner party, she was scored 31 out of 40 by her guests, going into the joint lead with Wednesday’s hostess, Vanessa D’Souza. Now if Preston manages to outdo that on Friday, that will be a surprise.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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