Friday is “Rant and Rave Day” during the Merry Month of NaBloPoMo. I was going to be nice and just “rave” about something wonderful today, but I am unable to rid myself of the annoyance I feel about the programming decisions made by The Food Network.
I have only two source for foodie TV; one is The Food Network, and the other is the cooking lineup on PBS’ “Create.” I gave up on the former and pledged eternal devotion to the latter when I discovered that PBS could offer me Lidia Bastianich, Mark Bittman and Chris Kimball instead of Rachael Ray, Emeril and Guy Fieri, but our local PBS station recently decided that there wasn’t sufficient viewer support for “Create” during the evening, so it now ends at 6:00 p.m.. I am now back to The Food Network, and frustration. (Note: some of the rapier-sharp among you may be tempted to point out that I do not, in fact, have to watch anything on TV. At all. I could take a walk, make popsicle-stick crafts with my kid, or read improving literature. I get that, really I do, but sometimes I want to watch someone torch a creme brulee.)
Here are the shows I enjoy on The Food Network (or would enjoy if I could find them):
- Nigella Lawson Biting, Expressing or Feasting
- Tyler’s Ultimate
- Good Eats
- The Barefoot Contessa
- Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello
- Molto Mario
- Iron Chef America
- Everyday Italian
- Anthony Bourdain doing anything
- 2 Dudes Catering
- Feasting on Asphalt
- Sara’s Secrets
- Giada’s Weekend Getaways
- Dinner Impossible
Here are the shows (and types of shows) I do not enjoy or want to see:
- Rachael Ray cooking, travelling or conducting interviews
- Emeril Lagasse
- Sandra Lee
- Contests involving Disney Princess cakes, ice sculptures, or desserts embodying the spirit of Las Vegas
- Guy Fieri eating the same food at 75 different “Diners, Dives and Drive-Ins” distinguishable only by the location of the deep fryer in the kitchen
- Paula’s Party (I’m neutral on Paula’s Homemade)
- “The Secret Life of” anything
- Shows about gadgets
- Shows about kitchen remodeling
- Shows that have aired more than 5 times during the previous week, usually during the same time slot
This is entirely subjective and unreasonable. I enjoy watching Giada di Laurentis travel and sample new dishes, I am enthralled by Alton Brown’s travels across the country, but I am bored to tears by Guy Fieri doing the same thing. I am open to Tyler Florence creating a feast, but cringe at Emeril doing the same thing with his band, his garlic-obsessed audience and his over-the-top, well, everything.
If there is a rubric, it is very idiosyncratic: I choose substance over style, not cute over cute, not gimmicky over gimmicky, subtle over flashy, instructive over merely entertaining, and classic over current. Most of all, I like pretty smart over a wee bit dumb. If I am watching TV about food and cooking, I want to see people cooking who are making things I’d like to make, and who are good enough at it that I can learn from them. I happen to know that Nigella Lawson, in addition to being stunning and funny, is an extraordinarily smart woman and a fine writer. I have used Tyler Florence’s, Sara Moulton’s and Ina Garten’s recipes for years, and love them for their sophistication and vision. Alton Brown is another smart, funny, mince-no-words type from whom I have learned much, as is Anthony Bourdain. I enjoy Iron Chef America because, while it is unlikely that I will ever be required to cook five dishes including swordfish or mangoes as the main ingredient, it is an inspiration to me to see first-rate chefs at the top of their game.
Then there are the Italians: Michael Chiarello is just an elegant human being, and a pleasure to watch, Mario is funny and feisty and respected by his peers, and Giada is offering clear, attainable versions of Italian classics. 2 Dudes Catering and Kitchen Impossible are just for fun, although I do learn a great deal about menu planning and grace under pressure from both. Plus, I heart Robert Irvine.
I do not watch television during the day unless I am sick, so my viewing hours tend to be between 7:00 and 12:00 p.m.. Tonight, I can watch:
- “Iron Chef America: The Thanksgiving Battle” for the 32d time this week
- “Emeril Live”
- “Gotta Get It: Gadget Gifts” (Selling gadgets)
- “Gotta Get It”: Entertaining” (See #3, above)
- “Gotta Get It: On the Go” (Id).
- “Gotta Get It: Breakfast” (Id).
- “Iron Chef America: The Thanksgiving Battle” for the 33d time this week
Lest you should think that this is a problem limited to holiday weekends, I wish to point out that next Monday’s offerings between 7:00 and 12:00 include 1 hour of Emeril, 2 hours of Food Network Specials, and 30 minutes each of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” “The Secret Life Of,” “Good Eats,” and “Unwrapped.” That gives me 30 minutes of “might-see TV” with Alton.
I’m done ranting, and I have to make our own, actual food in my real kitchen before there is a mutiny. In closing, I am not obsessed with TV. I see “The Food Network” as a great opportunity which, at this point, is being squandered. I am hip to the fact that networks program based on what sells ads, and this must be what the majority wants to see. I wish them joy of it, but I don’t get it. In the mean time, I will ferret out the bizarre times when I might catch Nigella, Ina, Tyler or Michael (they’ve banished Mario), and try to be happy. I do, after all, have more time free for making crafts out of popsicle sticks….