An ice-cream is a complex composition. It’s an emulsion of ice crystals, fat, sweeteners, some other solids and air; solidified at a sub-zero temperature and often served in an edible cone. It’s a calorie dense, fat-rich food with a unique semi-solid texture, sweet taste and low satiation factor and nutritional value. But is that how you describe ice-cream to someone who, due to a gross misfortune conspired by a malignant fate, never had the opportunity to taste it for himself? There’s nothing wrong with the definition per say, but somehow you’ve taken one of the most ingenious palatable recipe of ecstasy devised by man and killed its character. That is what is wrong with Matt LeBlanc and Chris Evans’ season of ‘Top Gear‘ aired a couple of nights earlier.
‘Top Gear’, which reached its 23rd season this year, has been the most revered auto-show to be aired (until now). The new season, however, seems to have lost two of the most fundamental appeals of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May’s seasons.
One, the unexpected unusualness of reviews which combined testing a perfectly good vehicle under extremely unusual circumstances. Where other auto shows would come up with some conventional tests to challenge the mettle of a well-crafted automobile, ‘Top Gear’ would go further. Like the one review which stands as testimony to the strength of a Toyota Hilux where they proved that it was indestructible by crashing it into a tree, sinking it in the sea, putting it atop a building being demolished and setting it on fire.
The other was the heartfelt, awe-inspiring choice of words the hosts used to describe automotive marvels – cars. They built characters in cars. Like when the Lexus LFA was on the show, sure Clarkson could have raved about the intricate details of engineering feats that Lexus managed to achieve with the LFA or the volume of air-fuel mixture firing the pistons of its 4.8 litre V10. But you would get that anywhere! What made them unique was the way he built the image of the car, lent character to it and described the experience in the cockpit, behind the wheels of a more than half million a dollars’ automotive craftsmanship, which is what made the narrative so gripping. It was the closest you could get to experience something exotic without having the good fortune to actually experience it.
And sometimes they taught you to admire a car in a manner you would otherwise not have. The LFA was not just an oriental super-car. It was, as Clarkson described, “a tech fest. A howling, thrusting, tyre-squealing arrowhead of industrial-grade showing off. It belongs in a collector’s climate-controlled garage, as an example of the moment. It is emphatically not a car you are actually going to buy and use. Because, for just a few quid, you could buy a picture to hang over your mantelpiece. It might even be quite nice. But that doesn’t stop you dreaming about owning Turner’s priceless Rain, Steam and Speed.”
Or when they picked the Alfa Romeo Touring Disco Volante, a 450 horsepower, rear-wheeled coupé that could do 0 to 100 km/h in a little over four seconds and could reach a top speed of 290 km/h. They put it on a pedestal where you would admire its beauty, try to appreciate the melody in its exhaust note and behold this masterpiece that’s a product of four thousand hours of the handiwork of Italian craftsmen. And once you have heard Clarkson describe the Disco Volante, it was no longer just a red car. “A Maserati heart, an Alfa Romeo badge, exhausts made out of Otis Redding…and a handcrafted body to die for,” this Alfa was ‘Baby Jesus’.
For the old trio, an ice-cream is not just an emulsion of complex composition. It is a combination of flavours placed on your tongue to evoke multiple ecstatic sensations simultaneously. It’s solid, but soft. And the contrast of temperatures that you feel as the cold creamy texture melts in the warmth of your mouth, the sense of effortlessness as it moves in your mouth and slides down your throat ever so slowly just to give you enough time to savour its taste. The old trio weren’t petrolheads pouring out information about cars. They appeared to fall in love with cars and describe their feelings as they did, in a manner that made you empathetic.
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