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The Food Network Ramblings

DarkPinstripeSuits&OTCs

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I have a love/hate relationship with this network. My favorite show overall is "Barefoot Contessa"; I love Ina Garten's approach to cuisine and presentation. She is the only personality on the network right now who gives props to French cuisine, in considerable doses. "Everyday Italian" with Giada DeLaurentiis is my next favorite show, but I am beginning to realize that Giada has a one-track mind with Italian cooking, in which she uses so much Nutella, mascarpone and prosciutto you would think these were the only essentials in Italian cuisine. Contrasting this is "Lidia's Family Table", which runs on public stations. This show isn't on enough, and luckily I can now watch on WLIW Create (Ch. 133 on NJ Cablevision). On a recent episode, Lidia made a strudel with butternut squash and cranberries and rabbit cacciatore. I doubt one will ever see Giada make dishes like these. Does she even know there is life in Italy to the far northeast? Then there's the infamous "Semi-Homemade With Sandra Lee". I watch this to get a good laugh. "Easy Entertaining" with Michael Chiarello is another one I watch often, but his shows can be hit-or-miss quite frequently. "Paula's Home Cooking" is one that I rarely watch, only because her food doesn't look all that appealing (unless you have a butter fetish). I did like one show she did with breakfast food, but it was spoiled in the end when she was cavorting under the sheets with that thing she calls her husband. Right about now, I'd say you will be better educated with cuisine on the public television cooking shows as opposed to what is on Food Network. With the exception of "Barefoot Contessa".
 

crazyquik

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I only ask this because you mentioned public television. What do you think of "America's Test Kitchen"?

 

DarkPinstripeSuits&OTCs

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I've never seen this show. I wish public television would form a network based entirely on cooking and cuisine.
 

crazyquik

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It is apparently "public television's most watched cooking show."

I think a normal episode features one main dish. Then they will do a comparison test of six kinds of electric can openers or cookbook racks or cast iron skillets (picking the best, and the best value). They also often compare several types of a basic ingredient (what is the best white bread, best canned tomato, best soy sause, etc).

You have to register (free) on their site to see the content though.

http://www.americastestkitchen.com/episodelist.asp

Equipment Ratings
http://www.americastestkitchen.com/testinglist.asp


Best Ingredients
http://www.americastestkitchen.com/tastinglist.asp
 

Joffrey

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Originally Posted by crazyquik
I only ask this because you mentioned public television. What do you think of "America's Test Kitchen"?



Big fan. I haven't seen it in a while though.
 

RatherAnOddball

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I'm not a big fan of the standard "rambling host in kitchen" cooking shows, though I too like the Food Network. I think the absolute best program on it, at least in terms of being useful to an amateur chef, is Alton Brown's "Good Eats." You simply can't beat that program in terms of useful cooking info, even if the recipes themselves are quite tame; the point is obviously, instead, to really learn something about the "hardware and software." As a result, you need no longer follow recipes precisely, since you'll have the knowledge needed to improvise or invent.

I can't stand Emeril. Oh, you used garlic, that's mind-blowing, wow.
 

Odd Morsel

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Originally Posted by DarkPinstripeSuits&OTCs
I have a love/hate relationship with this network. My favorite show overall is "Barefoot Contessa"; I love Ina Garten's approach to cuisine and presentation. She is the only personality on the network right now who gives props to French cuisine, in considerable doses. "Everyday Italian" with Giada DeLaurentiis is my next favorite show, but I am beginning to realize that Giada has a one-track mind with Italian cooking, in which she uses so much Nutella, mascarpone and prosciutto you would think these were the only essentials in Italian cuisine. Contrasting this is "Lidia's Family Table", which runs on public stations. This show isn't on enough, and luckily I can now watch on WLIW Create (Ch. 133 on NJ Cablevision). On a recent episode, Lidia made a strudel with butternut squash and cranberries and rabbit cacciatore. I doubt one will ever see Giada make dishes like these. Does she even know there is life in Italy to the far northeast? Then there's the infamous "Semi-Homemade With Sandra Lee". I watch this to get a good laugh. "Easy Entertaining" with Michael Chiarello is another one I watch often, but his shows can be hit-or-miss quite frequently. "Paula's Home Cooking" is one that I rarely watch, only because her food doesn't look all that appealing (unless you have a butter fetish). I did like one show she did with breakfast food, but it was spoiled in the end when she was cavorting under the sheets with that thing she calls her husband. Right about now, I'd say you will be better educated with cuisine on the public television cooking shows as opposed to what is on Food Network. With the exception of "Barefoot Contessa".

Lidia is definitely a wealth of knowledge, and a joy to watch. I mentioned your Giada comment to my girl (who worked restaurants), and she laughed and agreed. We're fans of Barefoot Contessa (though her voice puts me to sleep), too, but don't get us started on Rachel Ray


Even though he's not on Food Network, I'm a huge Bourdain fan. Ming Tsai, too.
 

DocHolliday

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Originally Posted by RatherAnOddball
I'm not a big fan of the standard "rambling host in kitchen" cooking shows, though I too like the Food Network. I think the absolute best program on it, at least in terms of being useful to an amateur chef, is Alton Brown's "Good Eats." You simply can't beat that program in terms of useful cooking info, even if the recipes themselves are quite tame; the point is obviously, instead, to really learn something about the "hardware and software." As a result, you need no longer follow recipes precisely, since you'll have the knowledge needed to improvise or invent.
I love Alton -- his is one of the only shows on Food that I still really like. (And even he seems to be revisiting topics already touched on in early eps.) Overall, Food Net's hit quite a slump. Poor Paula Deen apparently ran out of Southern recipes and now must spend her days making sushi and pad thai. Wha? Sandra Lee, meanwhile, is decorating her "tablescapes" with statues of Ganesh, though she doesn't appear to have any clue about Ganesh and calls the statue a "cute elephant figurine" or somesuch. Nice use of religious iconography, Sandra. The worst has to be the Next Food Network Star. Why can't they find decent talent? They need to add in a little Jeff Smith-style reassuring expertise. Only without the touching of small children. Allegedly.
 

DarkPinstripeSuits&OTCs

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I think the problem with The Food Network is that, as far as their shows go, they want to cram as much into an episode as they possibly can, making it faster for the hosts to run out of new ideas and themes.

Your thoughts on Sandra Lee are hysterical. It's really amazing how she can bastardize the concept of cooking with shortcuts. Paula Deen cooking pad thai and sushi is nothing compared to her attempts to cook Italian. I remember on one show she did, she put an entire stick of butter in a skillet with olive oil.
 

DocHolliday

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Originally Posted by DarkPinstripeSuits&OTCs
I think the problem with The Food Network is that, as far as their shows go, they want to cram as much into an episode as they possibly can, making it faster for the hosts to run out of new ideas and themes.
True. And I'd guess it's natural for a new host to want to overegg the pudding. With Alton, I suspect he was excited about what he was teaching and, at the same time, nervous about the size of his potential audience. The early Good Eats cover a lot of ground. Hard to convey that same zeal when focused on a much narrower topic.
Your thoughts on Sandra Lee are hysterical. It's really amazing how she can bastardize the concept of cooking with shortcuts.
The way she matches her mixer to her clothes in each episode ...
I guess what I'd like is more programs on the mechanics of cooking, with less emphasis on personalities and vicarious lifestyle thrills. Sandra Lee and Barefoot Contessa are good examples of this. I like Ina Garten well enough, but her show is really about how nice it is to have a house in the Hamptons and fly to France on the weekends. I'd prefer more nuts-'n'-bolts cooking information, a la "America's Test Kitchen" or a televised cooking school like "La Varenne Pratique." But maybe I'm not representative of Food's target demographic. I wouldn't mind the focus on personalities so much if only Food could find hosts with better ones. I gave up on "The Next Food Network Star" because so many of the contestants were just totally out of their league. It was like "Top Design" on Bravo, which welcomes contestants with little understanding of design and even less taste. Why should I watch these people fumble about? To me, "TNFNS" only highlights how much trouble Food is having coming up with the next Food Network star. In fairness, I guess it's extremely difficult to pull off a cooking show. But I don't understand how Food managed to find so many decent hosts, yet now seems incapable of adding to the stable.
Paula Deen cooking pad thai and sushi is nothing compared to her attempts to cook Italian. I remember on one show she did, she put an entire stick of butter in a skillet with olive oil.
But it's the butter that makes the olive oil taste good!
 

DarkPinstripeSuits&OTCs

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I agree with a lot of your sentiments. Yes, I too would like to live in the Hamptons and fly to France on a weekend, but sadly, I have to be content with living in a storefront apartment near New York State and deal with the realities of not having much money. Still, Ina gives plenty of inspiration.

I don't even bother to watch TNFNS anymore. Nothing is more painful than to watch FN bigwigs Susie and Bob tell hopeful contestants that they don't have "chops" and that they need to represent "the brand". In all honesty, they can care less about those who have any sort of classical or respectable training and would rather go for those who have more in common with TGI Friday's than a traditional restaurant (Guy Fieri, anyone?).

As it stands, I find myself enjoying "Lidia's Family Table" on public TV more so now than anything else. At last--Italian food that doesn't seem Americanized. Back to FN, though, you just don't see a class program on there anymore, but I understand their main demographic are the soccer and hockey moms so they need to feed that group as much as they can.
 

RatherAnOddball

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Also, I'm a bit ticked that when Food Network began producing "Iron Chef America," they stopped showing the original. If the new one were as good as the old, I wouldn't mind - but they just don't have the same kind of spontaneous fun, absurd exaggeration and warm camaraderie that the Japanese original did.

But the most unwatchable thing on FoodNetwork has got to be Rachel Ray. Her voice is so grating - like a chain-smoking parrot. Though I can't stand the "useless sugar-art monstrosity competition" shows that are so constantly shown now, either.

And while I don't watch it too much since I'm not big on "how they make it" types-of-shows, it was fun to see Marc Summers on TV again in "Unwrapped," as I was a big Double Dare fan when I was a boy.

I'm not sure if it's on FoodNetwork or Travel, but there's also a show about a man that looks like a giant pink pear who goes around calling exotic foods "weird" or gross as he scarfs them down, having awkward conversations with foreigners who seem to be more than a little uncomfortable with his effeminate mannerisms, saying nothing of interest or value, all while making puns so horrendously unfunny that I can't imagine why none of the savage tribes he's taken advantage of haven't sewn his lips shut. It's like Bourdain's mirror image doppleganger - the same, but all wrong and backwards.
 

DarkPinstripeSuits&OTCs

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Oh, I know who you're referring to--that's Andrew Zimmern. I really don't know the point of shows like that. It's no different than what Bourdain does. I think Americans have a sense that what people eat in non-Western countries is something they wouldn't exactly want to put in their own mouths. Guess it's basically for shock value.

I used to watch the original "Iron Chef" all the time years ago; in fact, that was how I was first exposed to FN. Then they take it off and replace it with "Iron Chef America", which pales in comparison with the original.

Yes, how interesting it is to see Marc Summers on FN. I too remember him when he hosted "Double Dare" on Nickelodoen back in the day. I was in grammar school when I watched that!
 

Hazad

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I can't stand Giada. Her mouth more closely resembles a great white shark rather than a person and her personality is so fake its painful. At least Rachel Ray is a real person - kitschy and a little dumb, but she's real. Giada is more of a manufactured person who tries her best to appear perfect but fails miserably. Everything she says is completely inauthentic.
 

kwilkinson

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Originally Posted by crazyquik
I only ask this because you mentioned public television. What do you think of "America's Test Kitchen"?



I just picked up "Cooking at home with ATK." Pretty impressive. I didn't realize it was run by Cook's Illustrated. I am thinking about getting this magazine after reading this book. Anybody here have it? Is it worth the $27/yr for 6?
 

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