I watch a lot of daytime Food Network, so let’s get that little admission out of the way before I progress. There are shows that I simply, absolutely cannot watch at all, the primary example of these being Down Home with the Neelys. Watching Gina Neely try to pick food up without letting it touch her manicure makes my scalp bleed, and this is before Pat and Gina start their profoundly awkward and honestly kind of inappropriate-for-food PDA routine.
Most other shows I watch with a combination of terror and delight.
You might think I hate Rachel Ray the same way some people hate root canals, but I just don’t. I don’t feel much of anything about her, to be honest – I find her mannerisms and speech to be occasionally abrasive, but her food seems pretty normal to me. Er, I guess with the caveat of: of the two recipes of hers that I’ve tried, neither were anything I’d care to repeat. One was an apple cider beef stew that was almost inedibly sweet, and the other was some kind of potato dish that I only recall as being unnecessarily greasy.
Recently, I became madly infuriated with Giada De Laurentiis.
I started out sort of liking her – all I knew was that she was a professionally trained chef, her crazy bobble-head made me laugh, and she seemed to really eat on TV (unlike Ina Garten – more on that later). And then all those things turned bad. Her bobble-head still makes me laugh, but is it just me or does her giant head amplify sound? Because each time she takes a bite of something and frantically chews it, all I can notice is the damp, loud SMACKSMACKSMACK of her eating. Then everything went downhill.
The first problem was an episode called “California Sushi” wherein she declares that she’s inviting her girlfriends over for a sushi-making party. Step 1? Stopping off at Hamasaku (where sushi rolls cost about $20 each) to buy the pre-made sushi rice. PRE MADE. There are so many things about this that are weird, not the least of which is that sushi rice is easy to make.
I can’t find anything to back this up, but there was an episode where she made buttercream frosting and thinned it with water. WATER. Oh my god water.
And then, the Le Cordon Bleu episode. In an episode titled “Cooking School Made Easy”, Giada sets out to make her three favorite things learned from her time at school. The first, pavlovas, are constructed without drama. The second I sort of cringed at: a chocolate and cheese danish, made from frozen puff pastry and mini chocolate chips. I mean, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, and while I agree that making puff pastry from scratch is a foolish endeavor for a home cook when frozen is so high quality and readily available, something about the mini chip filling rubbed me the wrong way. Perhaps because if reminiscing about Paris, shouldn’t we be using Pierre Hermé or Valrhona?
And then she made madelines from cake mix. Oh haayl no. Here’s hoping that Le Cordon Bleu Paris just deleted her graduation record from the computers, because bitch, you did not just make a classic French cookie from motherfucking Betty Crocker.
I’m going to calm down a little bit and talk about Ina Garten. Garten was under fire recently for refusing – twice! – a Make-a-Wish child’s request to cook lunch with her. As hilariously Cruella de Vil¹ as it is, it’s not what bothers me about her.
The first is a purely cook thing – she cuts her food into pieces far, far too large. For example, she makes a watermelon and feta salad, and advises cutting both the melon and the cheese into 1-inch cubes; the recipe online instructs to cut the feta to 1/2-inch, but I assure you that on the program she says to cut them both to 1-inch and reinforces it by saying that she loves how the big pieces look. I can assure you that this is an essentially inedible salad. Even if you could get a bite each of feta and watermelon into your mouth, the ratio is still insane. Feta is a strong cheese! This sort of madness is repeated recipe after recipe – broccoli florets left whole for an Asian salad, the pieces so large they wouldn’t even fit in your mouth – her famous chicken curry salad she cuts into massive cubes, easily larger than 1-inch square, and brags at the luxuriousness of it.
This brings me to the part where she appears to loathe tasting food on television. It’s such a snarling, swearing pet peeve of mine that I admit to enjoying it. She barely takes a bite of food, literally as little as she can get away with, and she absolutely will not chew it. She does this strange sort of lipping to get it into her mouth – she will not open her mouth very wide (oh, hello Giada) and appears to be keeping her lips pulled taught in an effort to keep her teeth from showing. Through this prissy slit-mouth she’ll take a microbite and then tell you it is delicious. I’m pretty sure I ate just like this when I had my wisdom teeth removed and my jaw muscles were swollen nearly shut.
Phew. And I didn’t even get to Paula Deen or Sandra Lee.
¹ I think she’s a real iron cunt at her core (I can just tell by the way she pops her shirt collars) but if it makes you feel better she’s famously pro-gay marriage, and has steadfastly always refused to do fundraising in conjunction with the Food Network. I think that if someone doesn’t want to do a Make-a-Wish, they shouldn’t have to and shouldn’t be hunted by the media as a result – there is quite possibly an understandable reason for her not wanting to participate. She claims she didn’t even know about the request. Or she may just hate children. Either way.