We’ve been writing a lot lately about food and television, so what better topic to cover for this week’s edition of Love/Hate than the Food Network? Read on…
1) Ina Garten—Barefoot Contessa. You know what I love about Ina? She’s all about the food. She encourages you to buy good vanilla, good olive oil, and good balsamic vinegar. I mean, I don’t, because I don’t live in the Hamptons and I shop on a budget, but I still appreciate it. You can tell that she’s all about the food, too, because she used to be thin and now she’s… well… bigger. No disrespect to Ina, I love food and I’m sure that I will follow in her plump footsteps one day. I also love that she talks to you about the ingredients as she’s cooking instead of telling you pointless anecdotes like so many other Food Network chefs. And, more than anything, I love her food. We own Barefoot Contessa Family Style and each and every recipe that we’ve made is simply delicious. Pretentious or not, this woman knows her food.
2) Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives (The Food and Locales). Whose mouth doesn’t salivate every time that they watch this show? The food looks simply delicious… and terrible for you. I love random, hole-in-the-wall places that serve the best food in town. And that’s why this past summer during a road trip, my husband and I mapped out all of the Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives along our way and ate at as many as we could. Sure, I gained a few pounds but it was well worth it. A few highlights: the Marietta Diner and their giant slabs of cake, The Highlander and their Jamaican Jerk Chili, The Silver Skillet and their red-eye gravy, and the Smokey Valley Truck Stop and their down-home eats.
3) Alton Brown—Good Eats. AB has described his show as part Julia Child, part Mr. Wizard, and part Monty Python. I can’t come up with a better description. When I first started watching Good Eats, I was kinda bothered by his science-y explanations of everything but it really does help to understand the ingredients that you’re working with. Granted, AB does cook things that you don’t really need to cook and could just buy at the grocery store like marshmallows and tortilla chips but at least he’s really entertaining while he’s doing it.
4) Throwdown with Bobby Flay. I love that Bobby Flay thinks that he can compete with chefs that have been cooking specific food like sushi or matzo ball soup or BBQ for their entire lives. Actually, he usually doesn’t even compete; he usually just loses because he takes something simple like fish and chips and makes them Bobby Flay-vinized with poblano peppers and chipotle mayo. Except for this one time when he competed with America’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese queen, Delilah Winder. This woman’s mac ‘n’ cheese was voted best in the nation and was even featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show. There’s no way that she could lose to Bobby Flay! Except she did, and it was the most depressing episode ever. Wah wah.
5) Foodnetwork.com. Visit www.foodnetwork.com and visit it often. This site houses some of the best recipes in the world for free. When I need a recipe for anything, I go there, and you should, too. Love it.
1) Select Food Network Hosts and their gimmicks. Sometimes Food Network hosts are all about the food, sometimes they are all about being loud and obnoxious. Case in point, The Neelys. I can’t even enjoy the food on that show because this husband and wife team is too busy talking all sexual to each other and to the food that they are cooking. And then you have Paula Deen, who, aside from her recipes of butter and mayonnaise, was pretty adorable when she first emerged on the Food Network scene. Now she has this Paula’s Party show where she just makes out with audience members and seductively tastes her food. Listen Neelys and Ms. Deen, if that’s your thing, take that food into the bedroom and close the door. Don’t put it on my TV.
2) Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives (Guy Fieri). Speaking of Food Network hosts and their gimmicks, Guy Fieri is one big gimmick from his annoying abbreviation of his own show title (Triple D), to his annoying catch phrases (“That’s money!” “Killer, man” “That’s a trip to Flavortown right there!”), and his 90s Sugar Ray/Smash Mouth combo look. Above all, Guy just plain grosses me out. The way he makes out with the food simply turns my stomach.
3) Any show that revolves around cakes. Why is the Food Network obsessed with cake? Every time I turn on that channel, I see Ace of Cakes or some Food Network Challenge that involves Disney cakes, haunted cakes, cupcake cakes. Cake overload. Now, I love cake, but I don’t love when you muck it all up tasteless fondant until the cake becomes dry and crumbly. I like my cake moist, fluffy, and covered in velvety frosting. I could care less if cakes look like Yankee stadium or a skyscraper, I care how they taste, and I’m sure those taste gross.
4) Rachael Ray and her 30 Minute Meals. I could have easily roped Ms. Ray into Hate #1 with all of her catch phrases, (“Stoup, it’s like a stew and a soup!” “I just took a little help from the store here, kids.”) but this woman deserves her very own hate. First of all, I’ve made some of her meals and while some are delicious (namely Middle Eastern Chicken Pot and Butternut Cous Cous and Butternut Squash Risotto), they cannot be made in 30 minutes, the show is a complete farce. Second of all, maybe I’d try more of her recipes except she only cooks chicken and pasta dishes and I can’t eat those every day. And finally, the catchphrases. They are annoying but they are made even more annoying when she uses the abbreviation and then immediately explains them (“EVOO, extra virgin olive oil,” “GB, garbage bowl”). Honey, if you’re going to abbreviate, you only need to explain once and then move on.
5) Giada De Laurentiis and her disappearing, reappearing Italian accent. Giada is Italian and sometimes she likes to remind us of this by saying words like gnocchi or ricotta with an Italian accent. And then sometimes, she forgets that she’s trying to impress us by being Italian and she doesn’t use her accent to pronounce other Italian words like orecchiette or parmesan. Make up your mind, you either have an accent or you don’t. Your food is delicious either way, I’m not impressed by the accent.