Subtitled: A Contender for The Longest Blog Post I've Ever Written Award
Do you watch cooking shows? I ask you this because I am shamelessly addicted to more than one of these TV goodies. The first cooking show I watched with any interest and semi-regularity was the BBC-aired Two Fat Ladies. Do you remember them? In spite of their ingredient list that was totally unlike anything I would ever consider cooking with, I adored their personalities, rapport and general presence. After that it was Iron Chef. The original. I was enthralled by the pressure, the creativity, the not-infrequent grossness of the secret ingredient...and the exquisite presentation of the final products. Fast forward to now and I've inexplicably developed a full-blown addiction to Cooking TV. Not just the Food Network, which naturally carries a veritable plethora of options for foodies of all types, but other channels' offerings frequently suck me in, too.
A couple of months back, there was a marathon of last season's Top Chef running on Bravo, a marketing ploy to garner viewers of the about-to-be-televised Miami Season 3. Their ploy worked on me. Not only did I stay up past 1 on a night before I was expected to be in the office at 8 the next morning, I've been watching it almost religiously ever since. One of the judges on this show is Ted Allen, whom I first adored on Queer Eye. I used to love when he'd go into these glorious specialty gourmet shops in search of this or that random culinary item I've Never Once In My Entire Life seen in my local supermarket. After which time he'd work his patootie off trying to teach some schmo to prepare some unpronouncable culinary treat when all said schmo really wanted for dinner was beer and wings. (Not that there's anything wrong with beer and wings for dinner, of course.)
I'm fuzzy about what came next but I want to think it was the discovery that there's now an Iron Chef America. But if I understand correctly, it's different from the original, as there are currently 4 "Iron Chefs" against whom the challengers might compete on any given week. Maybe they'll get to choose their competition and maybe that chef will be chosen for them - I've seen both situations and am still unclear as to what circumstances dictate the standoffs. Either way, as with the original, I continue to be enthralled by so many elements of the show. And, I was giddy to discover one night recently, a former (executive, I believe,) chef at Cafe Campagne in Seattle, where one of my friends works, was a contestant on the show! How cool is that???
Now. To better understand the chaotic tapestry that colors my addiction to cooking television shows, you have to know about Paula Deen and Paula's Home Cooking. Apparently I'm one of the few remaining Southern Girls - barely able to hold my head up when I say this - who didn't know who Ms. Deen was until November when then-roomie and I happened upon her show. As Atlanta friend described her when I admitted my until-recent oversight, "Paula Deen is everyone's favorite aunt!" And she's right. I had seen - and loved her character on - Elizabethtown, not long after it came out, (a movie, by the way, which boasts one of the best road trip soundtracks you'll ever find, and if you follow the link, then click on "music," you'll get to hear for yourself just what I'm talking about,) and it wasn't until just a few weeks back that I realized this glorious character was the same woman who calls us viewers "Ya'll" with such affection. So fast-forward to now and I kept coming upon her show and fell more and more in love with her warmth and humor. On a "wide-open" day she reminds me of my grandmother (the kooky, er, colorful one, Sally, who was no doubt responsible for so many of my own current personality flaws but whom I adored nonetheless,) on one of Sally's good days, but most days Paula calls to mind one or other of the women preparing food at most of the church potlucks I attended throughout my life.
Of course this is how I came to discover that she also has two sons and how I came to have my first "Bobby Crush." Her sons Bobby and Jamie have a show called Road Tasted and they totally crack me up. Something about their Southern Frat Boy personalities, sibling banter, appreciation of food and their Mama, and the grins hooked me completely. Bobby's "the single one" and I think my crush was complete the day I saw Paula's show and she said to him, "Take a walk on the edge!" and he replied, "I'm on the edge of this rib right now!" Killed me. Yesterday I watched them again while I was designing a necklace I'll be taking to The Marshall Art Gallery for our upcoming show, and it occurred to me how excellent it would be to design a necklace exclusively for Paula Deen and see her wear it on her show! Wouldn't that be so cool?? Not that I'll do it - it seems a little mercenary, somehow - but you never know since what some would refer to as "mercenary" others would call "smart marketing." Of course, there are no diamonds in my jewelry designs, and I'll have to watch more closely but I seem to think her accessories tend to feature a lot of the sparkly-shiny. "Bling" if you will. But more of the Southern Lady sort, and less of the Hollywood sort.
Whether I ever do design her a necklace or not, their restaurant, The Lady and Sons, in Savannah, a town I adore and can't wait to visit again, is now on my list of dining establishments I must visit one day. I understand from a friend now living in Colorado with whom I've just reconnected after several years, who was in Savannah a few weeks ago, that the food is to die for. And apparently they manage the hoardes and hoardes of people filling the restaurant with finesse and precision and magnificent efficiency. Which is good to know because can you imagine the chaos surrounding any one of the restaurants owned or managed by any of these Cooking TV Personalities? Craziness, I have no doubt.
Anyway, I'm trying to cover an entire media genre in a single blog post and frankly I don't have all day, although you'd think I did the way this has started off. So I'll make a bulletted list of other random thoughts related to my utter fixation on cooking TV:
- It might have been In Style magazine where I first saw a photo of Mariska Hargitay's off-the-hook wedding cake (she, of course, plays "Olivia" on Law & Order: SVU, one of my former TV addictions - Lord, you'd start to think all I do is watch TV if you didn't know me better!) although I can't remember for sure now. Regardless, before then, I didn't understand how many light years ahead the wedding cake industry had leapt from when I last took a look at a selection of such cakes. It was an image of one of these sorts of outrageous cakes that caught my attention and so I stopped to peek at Ace of Cakes. Host Duff Goldman owns Charm City Cakes, and hired a bunch of his friends to work in his business. He's somebody you know would be a total riot to hang out with. Watching the show is just plain fun.
- On a fairly different culinary path, I used to hear people mention Bobby Flay and had no clue who they meant. Of course now I have a sort of tiny little crush on this other Bobby, too, who has something like 4 shows and a few restaurants of his own, too. I especially love watching his Throwdown in which he challenges people who've been declared The Best In The Whole Entire Universe At Preparing Your Favorite Mac & Cheese or Some Such Other Classic Favorite, to see if he can't oust them from their pedestal, but he's totally charming and humble when he shows up to surprise them, and it's a hoot to watch. I've seen him win and lose these challenges, which makes the show that much more appealing somehow. Actually I've only seen a handful of episodes, but those were worth recommending so I will.
- Bobby Flay is an Iron Chef, too, and was also one of the judges on the recently-wrapped-up shows I was utterly addicted to (yes, now I have my Sunday nights back for less couch-potato-esque activities,) The Next Food Network Star, and I realized what a Food World Deity he was when I saw the faces of these contestants when they first saw him enter a room.
- Speaking of judges on this show, I can't figure out completely how I feel about Alton Brown. You need to know that first I'm confused by his name, because that place in my memory is taken by a childhood minister. Yes, "Alton Brown" was actually a preacher at a church we attended when I was a kid. But this dude isn't at all "preacherly," but rather a totally campy, bizzaro-humored kinda' goofball of a chef who is a complete ocean of information if you want to actually know what's what and why and how this came to be. Brilliant, I think. And my sister totally loves him; in fact, I do believe the first time I saw his name it was on a cookbook in her house. His show, by the way, which sure is on a lot (far more than Road Tasted I'm sorry to say,) is called Good Eats.
- And once more, speakin' of the Next Food Network Star, Anthony Bourdain's post on Michael Ruhlman's blog concerning the final episode, was pee-your-pants funny. Much as I enjoyed the show and watched every moment of the finale, he was dead on far more often than not. (Anthony Bourdain scares me, by the way. But I still like watching him on occasion.)
- It kind of freaks me out to watch either of the shows by Giada De Laurentiis because she looks almost exactly like Susan who was my best friend in college when I was 18. No kidding... But you can learn a ton on Everyday Italian and the vistas on Giada's Weekend Getaways are exactly what you'd want on a show about weekend getaways.
- Certainly not least of all these is Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, about whose show I've blogged before, on another rambly day, here. In addition to her cooking is her glorious home and garden and its amazing setting.
- It should probably be mentioned, if you see someone's photo in the I Totally Stole These Shots For My Blog Without Asking Permission But I'm Giving Them Links So Maybe They Won't Care Collage, but I haven't mentioned them here, I've watched their show and enjoyed it, at least a time or two. And if you don't see someone in this collage and think "how could she forget him/her???" you might assume I've just overlooked them in my attempt to cover so much Food TV Fan Territory but don't be so sure. There are quite a few highly popular shows that just don't hold my attention. Really, truly popular ones. I'm not into blatant dissing of other people's products 'cause everybody works so hard and has something to offer. Just not my cup o' tea.
- I've discovered that I can be just as enamored of a show if its star went to culinary school and if its star(s) didn't go to culinary school. Each kind of show brings something to the table. As it were...
Meanwhile, I've gained all these new culinary ideas and yet at this moment I'm slow cooking a highly-seasoned pot of black beans. Same as I have for going on 20 years. Go figure.
And that, my darlings, is my unveiled secret shame. I'm completely and utterly hooked on Food TV. Good thing a huge part of my job allows me to multi-task, eh? And speakin'o'which, I canNOT design jewelry and blog at the same time, so I'll bid you a Very Fine Tuesday, and get back to the wire and beads and clay pendants. Before joining a friend for a thank me lunch at Lucky 32, one of my favorite local restaurants where, no doubt, I'll enjoy the food just a bit differently than the last time I dined there.