A while back, South Park aired a very funny episode in which one of the boys’ fathers becomes hooked on cooking shows. I can sympathize; I should be standing in front of a self-help group and declaring, “My name is John, and I am a cooking show addict.”
I think it began a few years ago when I started to do all my own cooking in an effort to lose weight. So to find new, low-carb possibilities, I started tuning in to the Food Network and its sister station, the Cooking Channel.
So far, no harm done. But for reasons I don’t fully understand, I started compulsively recording shows, editing out the commercials, and then dubbing them onto discs. Let me say upfront that I do realize how ridiculous that is, since virtually all of the shows can be viewed online. But being of a certain age, I find myself more comfortable with something solid I can actually hold—or stash away in a file box.
Not that I simply record everything indiscriminately. A show has to include something I would actually consider making someday, or be a variation on one of my favorite foods (I have more than 20 shows about making fried chicken), and I avoid recipes that require equipment I don’t have or feature an ingredient I hate (no blue cheese, please). But even these criteria don’t narrow the field down significantly.
How bad is my addiction? By editing out the commercials, I am able to fit six shows on a disc. And just recently I filled disc number 139. You do the math.
During this whole process, I found myself developing specific preferences among the various show hosts—a number of whom will be coming to Ravinia for a special “Food Network in Concert” event that will take place at Ravinia on September 20. (Note: this is a private event, so tickets are not available through Ravinia but rather through www.foodnetworkinconcert.com).
Some of my favorites will be here—among them Sunny Anderson (Cooking for Real), Anne Burrell (Secrets of a Restaurant Chef) and Alex Guarnaschelli (Alex’s Day Off). I first got acquainted with Guarnaschelli in her role as a judge on Chopped, which is definitely the best of the cooking competition shows. At first she came across as difficult to please and rather nasty, but continued viewing revealed that her criticisms were always valid—she would explain exactly why she did or didn’t like something, so that the competing chefs would benefit from her comments; and she wasn’t afraid to speak out and say she really loved something even if the other judges were picking it apart on technical grounds.
If I could meet her, I would have one question about her show: Do professional chefs really look forward to cooking for their friends on their day off? I would think they’d prefer to call for pizza delivery or pick up Chinese take-out.
And if she does that on one of her shows, I’ll probably record it.
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