Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Food Shows Today


Is it just me, or is food in pop culture getting kind of boring? It feels like it's all the same. It isn't evolving. It isn't expanding even as the public grows accustomed to what's on television. I used to really enjoy watching Barefoot Contessa and Everyday Italian and others (actually now that I think about it I do still enjoy watching Everyday Italian, but not for the food) but now they're just boring.

I mean every show is kinda the same. Giada boils pasta then tosses it with pesto then makes some wonderful biscotti, "which means twice baked in Italian," Paula Dean makes "good ol southern fried chicken" for dinner and butter for dessert.  It's funny how well I can sum up their shows with two dishes. After watching these shows for years they're getting kinda dull. They seldom offer information to help me elevate my cooking and I don't really learn anything new by watching them.

This isn't true for everybody I'm sure and I would think that, for instance, my mom disagrees. She probably learns a lot from each episode of Rachel Ray or Everyday Italian. A lot of people do. A lot of people are fascinated by what the hosts do on these shows, and I argue that that is because the viewers have little background in technique. They understand how to read recipes, but don't comprehend processes.

And who can blame anyone for that? Food culture these days is based around recipes. On every food show, a recipe is offered, hardly does a show zero in on a technique that will alllow you to create a recipe over and over again with different ingredients. Why would they? Then you wouldn't need to watch their show.

You should buy Ruhlman's Ratio and learn the basic methods that govern the creation of everyday dishes. Then, every new show may be entertaining, but it certainly won't be revolutionary and over time, the individual shows will begin to blend together as you realize that all the mainstream food shows use a series of basic techniques with different ingredients and some flourishes added on.

12 comments:

Jodie said...

I like some of the cooking shows on PBS like America's Test Kitchen and the old Julia and Jacques show. Fun to watch and informative! The food network is definitely geared toward housewives who want to cook gourmet food but don't have time to so they need to fool everyone with faux-gourmet.

Also, check out food network humor, a blog where they hilariously make fun of everything on the channel!

Tags said...

Kwanzaa Cake.

Now THAT's exciting.

James said...

Food entertainment. It's not like anyone is going to cook something they see on a cookery show - far to complicated. Don't you think recipes are like the caffeine or nicotine of food shows? Easy to be blinded by the damage they're doing to you.

Jumper said...

I agree. Have noticed WAY too many near-sadistic competitions and not enough variety in the shows. Since when is cooking ALL about BEATING SOMEONE? I'm all for a contest now and then, but really.

Where are the vegan recipes? Why Alton Brown's sometimes hostility to the concept of vegetarian cooking? I'm neither, but some vegans can COOK, man. Although Alton does teach a lot; so he is one of best ones.

Daniel King said...

I agree wholeheartedly. I still love and watch Barefoot Contessa. She at least varies her menu and tackles some out-of-the-ordinary items/recipes/ideas with class and taste in check.

The shows I love best now are on the cooking channel. Shows about restaurants that serve a GLT (roasted chicken skin in place of bacon) sandwich and shows about people that make their own wood-burning oven.

I will say, it's hard to beat Alton Brown. Even after the many years Good Eats has been on the air, I never get tired of learning...

PlaysWithKnives said...

I think you're spot on about the state of the food network. It's really what got me interested in cooking, but that was almost 15 years ago, and it was more foodie-oriented then, rather than irritating hosts making pretty standard recipes, and as you said, not focusing on any technique. It does serve it's purpose though, I think, by getting people back in the kitchen. Even if it's paint-by-numbers style cooking - it's still cooking. But Ratio is a FANTASTIC resource.

Ruth said...

It has gone so far downhill..food network. so far...and it is doing what cookbooks back in the day did: dumbing down cooking, which does not have to be high art, but which can at least be good! (Weenies on toothpicks anyone?)..thank god for Alton..and you little foodie, and you.

Ruth said...

..ahem...and 'Jodie' (comment) about the 'faux gourmet'...I am a 'housewife', well, mother, who believes that really good food does not necessarily require a huge amount of time (see Ruhlman's blog post on fast food)..Food Network is doing a disservice to 'housewives', it is as if they are patting 'us' on the head like truculant little children and saying, 'oh, so you want to cook? well, here ya go!'. They have become condescending if nothing else.

DrKoob said...

Nick,
Just a note about the end of your post about getting ratios right and learning how to use different ingredients to do the same recipe. Have you ever seen the Fine Cooking website or read their magazine. Their best series of articles is "Cooking without Recipes." Check it out here: http://www.finecooking.com/articles/cyor/potato-salad.aspx

That's just one of them. They have a bunch from frittatas to stir fry.

Anonymous said...

realizing this is what sets you apart as a chef, and not just a cook. it's annoying how now everyone thinks they can just quit their day jobs and become chefs because they have learned to follow a recipe thanks to the food network. once you learn technique, you have understanding as to why and how to create dishes.

nutellacube said...

you should look into gourmet raw veganism.

joonjoon said...

It's time to start watching America's test kitchen and reading Cook's Illustrated.