Thursday, February 21, 2008

Food Network

Do I like the food network? That's a question I get a lot. The answer is not really.

My opinion however, has been sculpted by some of the people most notorious for "dissing" the food network. Having read his book, Anthony Bourdain is the most notable, however among most chefs, despising the food network seems like the cool thing to do (wow that's kinda like despising your parents in high school). These chefs are not without reason. For professionals who take much pride in their craft, seeing someone such as Sandra Lee dumb it down so much, is highly insulting.

I will say however, that I would watch the Food Network over Date My Mom, or My Super Sweet Sixteen on MTV anyday. Actually, now that I think about it, perhaps the Food Network isn't so bad, its just the message that some of the shows send. Maybe it's not even the message they send, maybe it's just that I'm looking at this through a chef's point of view, and my pleasure comes not from putting a meal on the table in 30 minutes, but from pushing myself to make the best food possible, regardless of time. A working mom, would likely prefer the Food Network point of view.

But no. I'm not siding with the Food Network that easily. Though my view is quite subjective, as a cook, I have a duty to constantly be in defense of food. I could go on and on, about how the only good that will come out of watching Sandra Lee is how to defrost pre cooked french fries, but I don't want to talk about what she, or any other "food network star" is making. Telling people that squrting cheese whiz on tater tots and calling it dinner is wrong, isn't news to anyone. I would much rather talk about their principles.

Everyone always talks about the grandmothers, and how it always tastes better when they make it, and so on. Then you ask her "Grandma, Grandma, what your secret ingredient?" She responds "But of course dear, it's love." You say "Grandma really, what the secret?" She says "Love. Dont believe me? Ask the dishes. They can sing they can dance after all this is France." Sorry. Back on topic. Maybe granny has a point. What's great about her cooking, and what grandma's are renowned for is making legit, authentic, 100% home made food. You never hear "Semi-Homemade."

When I see Sandra Lee using pre chopped celery, my heart drops. It takes a certain amount of care and devotion and love of food to do the little things. Caring about, and perfecting the little things affects your finished product not only in the sense that it will likely be better if you do it yourself, but also that you will care more about ensuring that it turns out good. What do I mean? If you take your time doing the little things, you will not let the precious time you used to complete these tasks go to waste, and you will ensure that your hard work becomes a satisfying finished product. How can you put Ms. Lee on TV when her appreciation for food clearly runs just skin deep.

That said, I will watch Emeril Live (though there are no new episodes being made), and Giada too, depending on her outfit. I used to watch Iron Chef America before I saw this,302520,302520,1.html . My favorite however is Good Eats with Alton Brown. Now that is a great show. One of my favorite on TV. There hasn't been an episode that hasn't taught me at least 10 new things.

In conclusion...

Forget it, I don't like conclusions. I'll save it for English class when I have to write one.


Jeremy said...

"Caring about, and perfecting the little things affects your finished product not only in the sense that it will likely be better if you do it yourself, but also that you will care more about ensuring that it turns out good."

With that you have nailed completly nailed a concept that took me a few years to put into the right words. I wish I had figured that you and your age and started spending serious time in a kitchen then.

seafoamgreen said...

The Food Network is not for people who like to cook; it's for people who kind of like to cook and kind of like to eat. It's a way to bring decent-tasting food to soccer moms and college students who want something that's a step above frozen entrees. It's not meant to drive one's passion for food. There are some gems among the stars: namely Ina Garten (my favorite), who makes dishes not meant for a quick fix anytime meal but for those who truly love to cook.

I'm not sure if you watch PBS; they have some really fantastic cooking shows. One comes from the CIA with professors showing complex dishes to students.

I too am glad that you have figured this out so early. It will make you a better chef when you do become one. I'm not too much older than you and have just begun to figure stuff like this out too.

Cara said...

Let me start by saying I just discovered your blog today and am fascinated by your love of food and cooking and quite impressed with your captivating writing.

However, I feel compelled to offer a dissenting opinion of Food Network.

Nearly four years ago I lost my job. While searching for a new one, I found myself with a lot of free time on my hands during the day. I stumbled across the end of a 30-minute Meals episode. Rachael Ray was just presenting what I can only imagine was some chicken and vegetable meal that looked delicious. She seemed to have an entertaining style, so I stuck around for the next 30 minutes when another episode came on. Her next meal was Meatloaf Muffins with barbecue sauce with green beans and smashed potatoes. I watched with fascination as Rachael cooked with ingredients I had heard of and used cookware and utensils that I owned but rarely used. She made meatloaf look delicious... and I don't even like meatloaf! I promptly visited, printed off her recipes, and cooked my first real meal in quite some time. My husband wasn't quite sure what to make of my odd behavior, but we both enjoyed a home-cooked meal that was easy for a rookie to prepare and didn't take the entire day. Fortunately, it wasn't long before I was working again, so my days of sitting around watching TV were limited. However, I had watched enough episodes with Rachael Ray to become interested in cooking. And that is the benefit of Food Network.

Cooking is intimidating to many people. There are skills and interests that come naturally to people - in your case, that would be cooking. But for the rest of us, it takes time, patience, a spark of interest, and a teacher who doesn't make me feel stupid for not knowing what a shallot is, much less where to find one in the grocery store! Rachael Ray, Alton Brown, Guy Fieri, and Tyler Florence educate viewers and provide decent - sometimes great - recipes while making cooking seem fun and possible. They make cooking accessible and interesting.

People cook for different reasons and with varying levels of commitment and passion. You are on one end of the spectrum while many of us are closer to the other end. However, just because I don't buy my meat at a butcher's shop, eat at restaurants like Per Se, or spend hours in the kitchen doesn't mean I don't care about my cooking. I also want the food I serve my friends and family to look nice and taste great. Please don't look down upon those of us who don't make food and cooking our life's work or knock the tools (or television shows!) we use to develop our own skills and interests.

I don't watch Food Network much anymore mainly because I don't have the time, but it gave me a solid foundation for the cooking skills I've tried to improve upon these past four years. While it's true you'll never find me preparing foie gras or cooking with quail eggs, I do look forward to spending an enjoyable, and in my opinion, reasonable hour in the kitchen preparing dinner for my husband and myself so we can sit at the kitchen table each night and have great conversation over good food. I have Food Network to thank for that.

PS. I don't like Sandra Lee's cooking show either but that's because her recipes aren't good, not because she takes short cuts.

=cristina mfzb= said...

i barely discovered your blog today and while i don't have a lot of time right now to tell you everything i like about it, i just thought i'd say i really like this entry and it's changed my views on some things (in a good way) and i will definately be putting more effort into everything i cook from now on.

Norah said...

I know this isn't the most recent post in your blog, but I wanted to comment on it because I really liked it.

I've never quite liked Sandra Lee's show either, although that was more due to the fact that I didn't find her interesting to watch than the fact that she seems to be, like you said, dumbing cooking down.

That article about Iron Chef America was really interesting (although I only made it through 2 of the 4 pages because it's 10:30pm here and I'm about to go to sleep). I liked Iron Chef the original series, but now I'm wondering if it was as fake as Iron Chef America seems to be. Thanks for posting that link!

I'm glad you like Alton Brown. I find him to be pretty awesome. He's more of a scientist and a teacher than a chef, and with his charm and charisma, he's created a wonderful show on tv.

Anyway, this was a really long comment and I apologize for that, but I mostly just wanted to say hello and that I find your blog very interesting. I'm 16 years old as well, although I merely dabble in cooking on random occasions. I'll be checking back here for sure!


Anonymous said...

i just discovered your blog, and i have to say i have a huge amount of respect for you. we have a lot in common. i've been a foodie since elementary school. i was one of those kids who appreciated difference between macaroni and cheese made from gouda and fontina and asiago rather than the blue box.

the foodie side of me totally understands what you mean about food network. i love to cook, and i have no problem taking hours and hours preparing complicated dishes. unfortunately i don't always have the time. after working a twelve hour day on my feet (i'm a nurse) and then being expected to prepare dinner for my hubby when i get home, the last thing i have the energy to do is spend hours in the kitchen. so the tired wife side of me has come to appreciate the food network. semi-homemade is a stretch, but a lot of the shows have given me some great recipes that allow me to prepare something other than spaghetti every night.

ina garten (aka the barefoot contessa) and giada de laurentiis are my go-to people for recipes when i want something quick to prepare, but also want to satisfy my foodie palate.