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Archive for the ‘Food Shows’ Category

Man can cook

My friend ze Fraulein asked me last night over dinner whether I read Michael Pollan’s article about how no one cooks anymore but only watches shows about cooking, which I noticed was up yesterday afternoon on the New York Times website. I had seen it but hadn’t read it, I told her, feeling a little sheepish because I actually subscribe to his site feed and probably received an e-mail alert about it. But I cracked open the magazine at 10a.m. this morning and literally sucked it all in like a plate of soba noodles. I was so happy to read his thoughts about “dump-and-stir” shows on the Food Network, the questionable appeal of watching Guy Fieri eat (just the sight of his bleached, spiked hair gives me acid reflux), and how a half-assed assembly of pouring pre-made tomato sauce over pasta sadly counts as cooking in the U.S.  (I once dated a person who, after seeing that I couldn’t finish a plate of pasta he “made” when I got too full, asked, “What. You don’t like my cooking?”)

Ironically, as my freelance/underemployed days come to an end and my life as a pastry slave (or “dough ho”) begins in a kitchen overseen by a figure whose presence looms big in one of the TV shows Pollan mentions, I will become among the set of women who will have no time to cook, let alone be home for dinner most nights. And when I am home, I will most likely be too tired to cook and will probably want to opt for take-out, and this saddens and confuses me greatly as a woman who would prefer not to sacrifice work-life balance over career ambitions. Before I moved in with the bf, it was a treat to meet and eat out, but now, it’s routine to stay in and have a simple but nourishing homemade dinner together. And it’s nourishing nutritionally—no stick of butter per dish if I can help it—and emotionally for the mere fact that it’s a ritual and time shared. I guess I’m lucky I don’t have a kid yet, but you see my point.

The article also reminded me of something I’d read/heard somewhere, that women cook to feed, and men cook to impress. It’s quite bittersweet that I’ve scored a job in a place where (mostly male) cooks and chefs do their very best to impress, as I will try to impress, too, as a cog in the wheel, but I will just long for the days when I can be home to feed my love. It’s like the twisted reverse-reverse of what “The Feminine Mystique” was stating, that cooking is a form of oppression for women. Well, Ms. Friedan, you were right.

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Barefoot Contessa” is the only show I can watch these days on the Food Network. I can take only so much of Giada’s cleavage and teeth; Sandra, who conjures up for me a Stepford wife; and Alton, who seems so, howdoyousay, earnest, so eager to make a pun. Enough being catty, though. Years ago when I was full-time at a magazine, watching BC was an escape—I loved the lighting (a sun-lit kitchen, so rare here!), the laid-back East Hampton living (well, I’m really just concerned with Dreesen’s Donuts and the beach), the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants story of how she got started in the food world, and the esthetic—simple, elegant food. Not to mention I want to hug Jeffrey because he reminds me of Bilbo Baggins.

The show’s still an inspiration, and here are some tips I’ve picked up that she’s drilled into my head via reruns:
* Start all dishes with five pounds of butter. (I kid! I kid!)
* It’s ok to leave out butter overnight. (I did pass the SafeServ exam, mind you.)
* Crack eggs into a bowl separate from your work bowl; “You never know when you’re going to get a bad egg.”
* Coffee brings out the flavor in chocolate.

And other pearls of wisdom that I’ve memorized and makes me feel a little bit like a stalker: use homemade chicken stock, flat-leaf parsley has more flavor than curly, and use frozen peas and pearl onions lest you go bananas trying to make soup/paella/etc.

Post-school, however, I’ve decided that I disagree with her on these points. Earth-shattering news, indeed. Ina, please don’t cry.
* Buying frozen puff-pastry: Blech. It takes all day, yes, but make it yourself. It’s worth it.
* Putting a starch in creme anglaise: In school, they took great pains to tell you the differences between starch-bound custards (like pastry cream) vs. stirred custards (creme anglaise, lemon curd, etc.) so watching her do this was a little bit of a shock. As long as you keep the flame low, there shouldn’t be any problems.

Is it 5pm yet? [Cue the upbeat, synth-y music intro.]

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