Why do people make cooking so complicated? I went into my pantry the other evening, pulled out a couple jars of imported oven roasted tomatoes and crushed tomatoes and made a sauce for the Italian sausage ravioli I had in the freezer. Maybe it’s because I know how to cook, and cook for a living, that I can make a pantry raid into a successful dinner. It should not be all that hard for the average home cook. By doing a little research into how to keep a well stocked pantry and larder, anyone can provide their family with good food prepared with quality ingredients. Food TV is an excellent place for home cooks to find inspiration, and many people would never be in the kitchen were it not for Ina, Giada or Bobby. Though I find there are far better televised food resources such as Jacques Pepin, Lidia Bastianich, Eric Ripert
and America’s Test Kitchen on PBS, if folks are shopping for and
cooking with real ingredients because of “celebrity” chefs, I am happy. (Full Disclosure - I love Ina, I own all the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks and use her recipes repeatedly. But don't get me started on Bobby Flay!)
|Yes, Chef Eric is easy on the eyes and|
he knows how to cook!
Photo from PBS.org
What really chaps my hide are shows like “Chopped”, which is broadcast on The Food Network. I’m not a big TV viewer, but occasionally, when I need a guilty pleasure, I’ll pause on “Chopped” as I channel surf. I watch it with both hope and disdain.
I get nervous as the TV chefs scramble for real ingredients that will make the ridiculousness in that basket somewhat palatable. I root for them; in a strange way, I want them to succeed. These chefs are really going to concoct something out of Stinky Tofu, Shad Row Sack, Marmite and Astronaut Ice Cream. Yes, those ingredients have all been in that ridiculous basket, perhaps not at the same time, but just the same. I begin to wonder what I would do with those ingredients and then I slap myself. This is reality TV not real cooking! The chefs are so earnest in their pursuit of greatness. They look into the camera and speak of how their Marmite-Shad Roe Frittata with Astronaut Ice Cream Foam will have the judges swooning. Oops, left out the Stinky Tofu. Geoffrey will not be happy.
|Chopped judge Geoffrey Zakarian.|
He knows what he's doing!
Photo from The Food Network
Here’s where I move into disdain mode: You can hold your hands up to the TV and feel the warmth of these chefs’ sincerity as they speak about their love of cooking, how they learned to cook from their mother/grandmother/dying frat brother, and how the potential win of $10K will allow them to expand their 20 seat diner/help offset their high interest loan on said diner/lead to a gig on The Food Network. They then proceed to diss and degrade their fellow competitors. It gets really nasty, and we all now know that that is exactly what the producers of “reality” food TV want – blood and guts and Avocado Crème Brulee. This is my big sticking point with shows like “Chopped” – COMPETITION!
Cooking is not about competition. Cooking is about love. Cooking is about sharing one of the most fundamental elements a human can share. We cannot breathe for one another, but we can provide nourishment for one another. We celebrate and mourn with food; we charm and court with food; we impress with food and we humbly offer it when we have little else to offer. Food is love.
Cooking for friends and family is one of life’s simplest and purest pleasures. If you need some encouragement, use resources such as cookbooks, online blogs and video tutorials, and watch food TV (PBS preferred). Purchase quality ingredients from farmers’ markets and trusted grocers. Cook those ingredients well. You have dinner. It’s not complicated.