Pasta and cornflakes? A half-baked but highly entertaining recipe | Rebecca Nicholson

The actor’s lockdown cooking lifted our spirits, however unpalatable the results

The internet has lost its marbles over a new culinary star, in the unlikely shape of Robert Pattinson, a man so often referred to as “reluctant heart-throb Robert Pattinson” that he might as well have it printed on his driving licence. In a cover story for GQ magazine, undertaken during lockdown and featuring a photoshoot done by himself, of himself, the actor staged a cooking segment for his interviewer, because all the FaceTime talking was tiring him out.

It turned out to be so much like one of Shia LaBeouf’s performance art pieces that I would not be surprised if it somehow turns out to be a Shia LaBeouf performance art piece. Alternatively, although I am not implying that anything untoward was consumed during the cooking or conception of Pattinson’s pasta, it would not be a great shock if something like it turned up on Cooked With Cannabis, the, er, high-spirited Netflix food series.

Pattinson’s microwaved pasta, cheese, sugar and cornflakes
A dish fit for…: Pattinson’s microwaved pasta, cheese, sugar and cornflakes. Photograph: Max Benwell/The Guardian

The Masterchef-from-hell interlude is described in exquisite detail in GQ, but to boil it down to its essence, Pattinson had an idea for fast-food pasta, but pasta that could be held in the hand. Forgoing the idea of simply “putting it in a container”, he tried to demonstrate his prototype by microwaving penne, together with processed cheese, sugar, cornflakes and sauce, in a foil wrapper, which he put into the microwave, which then blew up.

If I called a friend and proceeded to show off my pasta pillow foil invention, which then made microwave go bang-bang as I collapsed in giggles on the floor, I suspect there would be questions. Yet, if ever there was a time for culinary experimentation, it is now. Many have mocked the cornflakes, but that makes me think Pattinson actually knows his onions, so to speak: there are worse crunchy toppings than that, and I say this as someone who recently turned to Hula Hoops for croutons.

In a bleak week of confusion and lingering turmoil, Pattinson’s kitchen antics offered us a light distraction, as well as a potential new reality show. Say what you will about actorly pretensions, his approach of simply shoving everything he could think of in to what he assumed was an oven and hoping for the best is not even the worst attempt at a strategy I’ve heard in the past week.

Monty Don: mourning Nigel, his faithful pal

Monty Don on a garden bench, with Nigel, his golden retriever.
Monty Don and Nigel, his much-missed golden retriever. Photograph: @TheMontyDon

Despite spending most of my adult life in city flats without a hint of a patio, I love watching Gardeners’ World, although it’s possible that is exactly why I like watching it so much. Last week, the presenter Monty Don announced that his golden retriever Nigel, the inarguable star of the show, had died after a sudden illness. “Rest now old friend,” he wrote on Instagram. “See you in the sweet bye and bye.”

In a moving interview, Don told the Today programme that tens of thousands of people had offered their condolences. “Wherever I went in the world people would say, where’s Nigel?” he recalled. It reminded me of a phone interview I did a couple of years ago with Adriene Mishler, of Yoga With Adriene YouTube fame. “They all want to know about Benji,” she said, of her fans’ love for her Australian cattle dog, who often makes sleepy appearances in her videos.

Discussing how Nigel helped him during periods of depression, Don said that “having a dog that needs food and water and a walk and attention and who just loves you is extraordinary”. He made the point that in the kind of collective anxiety we are suffering at the moment a dog is a steadying presence. Certainly, during lockdown, I’ve felt that way about my own, along with a deep gratitude for being able to simply walk her outside every day.

My partner is from a family of dog people, and when we got ours, she gently told me that I could never be ready for what it feels like to lose one. (She’s fun at parties, at least.) But in the great balancing act, that inevitable loss should be a fair price to pay for the magnitude of what has been gained.

Eleanor Catton’s gold-rush saga is a nugget of good news on TV

Eleanor Catton
Eleanor Catton: adapted her own novel, The Luminaries. Photograph: David Levenson/Getty Images

I suppose it helps that it was filmed last year, but it has been announced that the long-awaited adaptation of Eleanor Catton’s Booker-winning novel The Luminaries will now move from BBC2 to BBC1. It stars Eva Green and Himesh Patel, and I can’t wait to see how such a hefty and ambitious story has been reimagined by Catton (who adapted it herself) to fit it into six episodes. The huge novel is set against the backdrop of the 1860s gold rush in New Zealand. It came out in 2013, but it took several house moves and a pointed leaving-it-on-the-side for me to get stuck in to it, and I’m eternally glad that I did. It is a breathtaking, all-time-favourite kind of read.

This promises to be a strong year for literary adaptations on TV. Normal People has been such a smash that its stars are sending themselves up on US talk shows (search for their “chemistry read” on James Corden’s show, which is a hoot) and I’m crossing my fingers for The Plot Against America to finally make its way over here. A good year for bookish television, then, if not a good year for literally anything else.

• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist


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Rebecca Nicholson

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