Pollan Rips the Food Network a New One
Have I mentioned how much disdain and utter hatred I harbor for the Food Network? I’ve repeatedly mentioned how they’re not about cooking anymore (I believe they once were, years ago when the network first started broadcasting, with folks like Batali, Kerr, Tsai etc.), but simply about personalities. You don’t watch the Food Network to learn how to cook, you watch it to be entertained while you figure out which take-out place to order dinner from, as long as you’re not motion sick from the epileptic camera work.
The Food Network dumbs down cooking. Just look at Sandra Lee and Rachel Ray. Sandra Lee shouldn’t take much explaining…I once saw her make
“fajitas” in a crock pot, with a package of fajita seasoning. “If you had to buy all of these spices and herbs separately, think of how much that would cost!” Because apparently home cooks have no other need for cumin, salt or chili powder.
And Rachel Ray. The giggly idiot I can’t stop watching because who doesn’t love seeing a giant firestorm of a trainwreck? All she does is dumb things down. She uses penne rigate, but she dismisses the real name in favor of “that just means tubes with lines”. Lines? Since when did someone draw on the pasta? Is your desperate housewife audience so dumb that they can’t learn “penne rigate” and know the purpose of ridges in pasta? She’s got nine recipes on Food Network’s website that use hot dogs. I counted once. If she were an alcoholic, she and Sandra Lee would get along great.
Apparently, though not surprisingly, Michael Pollan, the ultrapopular author who has become the superhero of foodies everywhere lately, shares some of my disdain for the Food Network. In his recent New York Times piece, he examines the dismal state of home cooking in the U.S., largely due to the bad influence the Food Network has become. Here’s a few of my favorite quotes:
“Erica Gruen, the cable executive often credited with putting the Food Network on the map in the late ’90s, recognized early on that, as she told a journalist, “people don’t watch television to learn things.” So she shifted the network’s target audience from people who love to cook to people who love to eat, a considerably larger universe…”
Oh, that’s nice, now I know whom to blame. I’m sure Ms. Gruen is a very rich woman, but I wonder if she herself cooks at all, or if she knows exactly how her decision has contributed to this country’s sad state of cooking affairs. I’d bet not. And even if she did, I’d bet she wouldn’t give a damn anyway. Either way, I bet PBS stations across the country can thank her for the continued popularity of cooking shows for people who actually want to learn cooking!
“I spent an enlightening if somewhat depressing hour on the phone with a veteran food-marketing researcher, Harry Balzer, who explained that ‘people call things ‘cooking’ today that would roll their grandmother in her grave — heating up a can of soup or microwaving a frozen pizza.’”
Yeah, I’d have to agree with that. Just today I saw a blog post in which someone offered recipes they served at a party, so that guests could make and enjoy the same things. The “recipes”? Pulled pork: Pork shoulder, jar of BBQ sauce. BBQ turkey: Ground turkey, jar of BBQ sauce. Shrimp dip: cream cheese, can of shrimp soup. Is this really what people think is cooking, let
alone GOOD cooking???? Thank you, Sandra Lee!
“Buying, not making, is what cooking shows are mostly now about — that and, increasingly, cooking shows themselves: the whole self-perpetuating spectacle of competition, success and celebrity that, with “The Next Food Network Star,” appears to have entered its baroque phase. The Food Network has figured out that we care much less about what’s cooking than who’s cooking.”
Gee, that sounds vaguely familiar. Oh yeah, that’s because I’ve been saying that for years! Maybe now that Pollan is saying it, some of the Rachel Rayers and Guy Fierians will realize that there’s a whole lot more to food and cooking than their catchphrase-ridden talking heads let on. I’m hoping, but I won’t keep my fingers crossed.