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

I know it's bad but please just eat it

I know it's bad but please just eat it

“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.

I am the fairy princess of boob jobs and tablescapes

I am the fairy princess of boob jobs and tablescapes

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

That's money!

That's money!

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.

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3 thoughts on Pollan Rips the Food Network a New One

  1. I couldn’t agree more. I must say I enjoy Paula Deen and her boys, and my husband enjoys looking at Giada’s cleavage on Everyday Italian. I agree that these shows are really not about food anymore. I find much better information online these days than on those shows. There are so many good blogs out there by people who really love food and know how to prepare it and can teach me! There’s just no reason to watch the Food Network, really. Good for Pollan.

    And, Rachel Ray has got to be the most annoying personality on television. One day she was making something I genuinely thought I wanted to make and within 30 seconds (no way can I go 30 minutes with her) I was so disgusted by her crazy stupid movements and vocabulary that I turned the TV off and just looked up the recipe online.

  2. LOVED this post. I was nodding in agreement with most of it, and chuckling at the Sandra Lee / Rachael Ray comments. I’ll admit right up front I’ve performed my share of hacks (muffins and bread from a cake mix, a can of soup in a casserole) but they tend to be the occasional short cut rather than a lifestyle. When I first began watching the Food Network, I remember leaving it on virtually all weekend as I went about my business. I’d look up from a vacuum any time I saw something particularly interesting — Mario Batali *IN* Italy, for instance, showing up an Italian housewife would pour out the polenta on a table and leave it overnight, and you’d slice it cold in the morning for a fried polenta breakfast, and five different ways to use it. Do you see anything like that now? No. Now you see Rachael Ray on vacation and where she buys her gelato, as if I could give a rat’s ass where she gets gelato. I turned off the Food Network when I realized it became the equivalent of the National Enquirer at the newstand. It isn’t news, it’s capitalizing on celebrities and entertainment news and creating it when they have neither. I would never pick it up or buy it, but, I may browse with a “harumph” if I found it in the seatback of an airplane, or next to me in the laundermat. Using that exception, a few nights ago I stumbled on a show from the Food Network and the braised pork looked delicious enough for me to make it that same weekend, and it occurred to me that’s the first time I’ve watched a program, and actually cooked a dish from it, in about 2 years, at least. Anyway, I’m droning on. Great post! Glad I found you on TasteStopping.

  3. I 100% agree. I am sure you have noticed that all the food getting cooked on the food network is the same thing, over and over and over again. At this point as a home cook, I already know how to peel, smash, and chop garlic. Then you put it in a hot pan with olive oil – OK I got that already. Can we move on to more techniques? No, because the talent won’t give you more than that.

    If you already know how to turn on a slow-cooker, chop garlic, put things in a food processor, put things in a Kitchen Aid, use a hand blender, turn on a grill, and use a microplane, then you’ve pretty much mastered the level of cooking that seems to be the foundation of all recipes on the shows. Furthermore, I am tired of the Food Network thinking I am some kind of sap who’s going to rush out a buy cookware just a personality put their name on it. Just because these folks claim to be able to put together a burger from the grill doesn’t mean they know a darn thing about making cookware.

    Where’s the new techniques? Where’s the regional cuisine? Teach me about food for goodness sake! Its all just the same show with a different face.

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