Sunday, December 11, 2011

Put It In Ya Mouth

I remember watching cooking shows on PBS when I was 7 years old. Something about them fascinated me. All the different pastas and sauces and meats, stuff that we didn't see, didn't buy and mostly, in 1980's Augusta/North Philly, couldn't. I was a big fan of fantasy and sci-fi, and watching Jeff Smith cook couscous was along the same lines as watching Doctor Who. Minus K-9.

Also, knives.     

Back then, cooking shows had a kind of dry, distant innocence. They were mostly low budget, stand-talk-cook affairs that were directed at upper income housewives. There was a lot of wine, a lot of sauces and talk, talk, talk. But mostly it was about food. French food, Cajun food, Austrian food, whatever. But even Julia Child's shows were less about her than the food. Her brand of craziness just happened to catch on.

Those were good times for a slightly chubby kid with nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon. Blackstarr and Thundarr were gone until next week My older brother and cousin out of the house, off somewhere with their friends. The TV was mine, all mine. Good times.

Ain't we lucky we got 'em. Not pictued: Me.

Then, some time in the '90's, came the Food Network. And I didn't mind. I was even kinda happy about it. All food shows, all day with no pledge drive? Sign me up! And by the mid 2000's (00's?), it transitioned to food porn. Hot, salty cooking all the time. What's not to love?! How was I to know how bad it would get...

Wait for it...
The first chef (BAM!) that really (BAM!!) made him(BAM!!)self a household name was Emeril LaGasse. He had some BAM catchphrase that caught on like an internet meme in real life. Don't remember what it was now, though... I didn't mind Emeril so much. He actually cooked in what was purported to be real-time, and his plating was terrible. It was like watching a home cook, that just happened to always be sprinkling some random "essence" all over everything like a culinary Peter North.

All over your face. Also, BAM!
Then the next thing you know, he's got like 23 shows, on all hours of the day. He's on GMA. He's on Today. Times Square is covered in layers of essence unseen since the Regan years. It's like one of those horror movies where you run and run from the killer/monster, turn a corner and BAM there he is.(See what I did there? Huh? See?) Two words: overkill. Wait, that's like one word right? Well, over kill then, that's better, Anyhoo (thanks, and yes I laugh every time I say it too) it didn't take long for me to hop off of the Lagasse bandwagon, although I do like that he was able to move on from his initial gimmick and continue to be a presence, albeit a much quieter one, on Food TV.

After, Emeril there was Rachael Ray. And I know that a lot of people hate her, even some chefs hate her. Hell even I hate her from time to time.
And sometimes I don't....
She's cute and bubbly and says things like "delish" and "evoo", which annoy me and somehow seem to fit right in on FoodPorn TV. I hear that she can be a handful in person, but hey what a handful! Sorry. Plus if you had the kind of work going on that she does, would you have time to be nice to EVERYBODY that wanted a minute of your time? Hell, most people can't take time out to say hi to people they know on a regular basis. And that's without 3 tv shows, a magazine, a spouse (bastard) and whatever else she does. Probably something wholesome like clubbing baby seals.

But, say what you will, her 30 minute show is in "real-time", plus commercials, and that appeals to me as a home cook. And you can't knock her hustle. Taken in small doses, I like her. Just don't tell the wife.....
There's just something about that Jokeresque smile. 
Just to recap, the innocent days of just reciting recipes to eager housewives are gone, replaced by Giada's bobblehead, the Neely's extended foerplay and Paula Deen's butter-coated, GMILFish double entendres.

Who got next?!
This actually started to be about how cooking show have changed since I was a kid. About the slick production values, the rise of the CelebuChef and what I think may have been lost along the way. Then somehow, food porn got in. Blame the testosterone. Plus, the the obvious differences between Jacques Pepin and Nigella Lawson really say it all.
With a throaty British accent.
I am not a chef. I don't have the training, haven't paid the dues and neither smoke nor drink to excess. That is in the job description right?

But what I am is a GREAT home cook. I can make anything that I've seen (almost) made on TV or in a cookbook. I think that the influx of personality and sensuality into the food business actually serves to show that most good home cooks are really only a few technical classes away from the most arrogant, esoteric 3 star hash-slinger.

I think that that's what the so called "food porn" is about. Emeril is very personable on TV, had a very commercial (BAM) hook, and that catchphrase, whatever it was. Rachael Ray is all about cooking like people at home cook, but with maybe different ingredients. Even Anthony Bourdain, Mr. black and white up there, for all of his pooh-poohing about Paula and Rachael's temerity to talk food without benefit of formal training, spends a great deal of his time on his various shows eating in people's homes, backyards, street corners and jungles.
Not pictured: Bobby Flay
I guess what it boils down to for me is that the luscious pictures of food prep is almost the home cook's price of admission to the Great Food Guild. If we can reproduce it then we've made it. Cooking shows, and those on them, have gone from telling us about exotic dishes to showing us how to make them, from giving information to teaching. From the Haves to the masses. From literature to porn, if you can dig it.

Oh yeah, baby. I knew you could.

1 comment:

  1. I would definitely have to agree with you about Emerald his platting really SUCKED!! I also must say that I got over watching him really quick! Now Rachel one word annoying but I do have to say her 30 minute meals are definitely something working people enjoy because you can have a beautifully prepared meal without the hours of slavery. Paula! Paula! Paula! She is a mess! I love her and her food. She is the only person who will get me in the kitchen to try a recipe!! So anyone that knows me knows it is almost like creating the 8th wonder of the world if you can inspire me to go into the kitchen voluntarily.