The Food Network can go kiss my grits. I find myself watching the channel all the time, tuning into the numerous cooking shows and their celebrity chefs with catchy monikers. I sit transfixed with feelings of inadequacy as roasts and stews and an array of gourmet delights are chopped and cut and cubed and peeled and heated and cooked right before my very eyes.
I just wish they'd get real. If I were truly ever up for the challenge of actually making one of these dishes so eloquently, yet easily presented, it would take me a half day of schlepping to the grocery store, butcher, the local fish monger and fresh produce market. Like that's ever going to happen. Then, I'd have to beg friends for or borrow from my neighbors: a Cuisinart, a set of Calphalon pots and pans, an array of proper knives and cooking utensils and cheesecloth (I think?) as it seems to be a staple for most accomplished chefs. Whatever.
Back to my menu planning and dinner guests showing up in 30 minutes. If Rachael Ray and her '30 Minute Meals' can whip something up in that amount of time, so can I -- gosh dang it! Although I live in a New York City apartment the size of Rachael's kitchen, she continues to inspire me. And even though Ina Garten's spice pantry is larger than my bedroom, I remain undaunted.
You see, I come from an era when Campbell's soups were hip and flavored our favorite dinner dishes and we looked forward to mom's special meatloaf smothered in ketchup. Now that's what I'm talking about. Mmm mmm good! Yet, in these times, thanks to the likes of Bobby Flay and Molto Mario Batali, moms and men all across America can't possibly size up to these titans in the kitchen. And a guy like me, a mere mortal with underdeveloped taste buds, winds up with a culinary inferiority complex.
Don't get me wrong. I adore the likes of Giada De Laurentiis and her show Everyday Italian. Despite the reality that not *every* Italian has a famous Hollywood director for a granddad, dear Giada strives to reach out to the little people in the dark and teach us her little tricks... like rolling lemons before squeezing and crushing garlic for an easy peel. Audience members, I'm sure, delight in all this insider info.
And who can not love Paula Deen and her 'Home Cooking.' That lady sure does love her butter... although it's been banned in this country since back in the '80s. Paula even adds butter to her butter dishes. I love it, as she winks at the camera with a look that instructs us to do as I say, not do as I do. Yes, she has tamed her ways since being diagnosed with diabetes but her reruns from way back when remain are permanently embedded in my sugar plum dreams.
A close female friend of mine loves watching hunky Tyler Florence, though she admits, it's more about his looks than any cooking expertise. As audiences flock to watch Tyler slice bread, or instruct others to do so, ratings seem to score along with his seductive cooking tips.
If it's true that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, than I must be a heartsick voyeur. And I'm not the only one. I wonder, in this country, what our collective fascination with food is -- and with cooking it? Food, after all, is big business and there's a lot of dough to be made here. Scripps Networks Interactive, which owns the network, reports a healthy stream of ad revenue each month with a distribution to more than 90 million U.S. households and 7 million website users. The company states that it ranks first among ad-supported cable networks on year-to year subscriber growth and first among food websites. And that's not counting book deals or personal appearances!
As we sit back on the proverbial sofa and watch Rachael Ray everywhere, season after season, she has become a true cross-over star. I'm not sure how much cooking she really does anymore despite her skillet being smoking hot. And as I use to be enamored by the 'Essence of Emeril' and his staff of thousands, I'm left with my own gastronomic shortcomings having watched him poke, prod and prick a piece of chicken fillet with adept finesse. And now it's self made heir apparent Guy Fieri endorsing the benefits of overindulgence and clearly just eating way too much junk food across this great big country of ours. But yes, I have Emeril envy and Guy fury!
Well, my guests are soon to arrive. My cupboards are bare and my counter filled with a bevy of take-out menus. In a moment of sheer weakness and panic I choose the menu from my favorite Thai place nearby and call to order enough for four. I'm told by the voice at the other end of the phone that my food will be delivered in 20 minutes. Heck, that beats Rachel, et al, and leaves me feeling relieved with enough time to watch another cooking show before dinner and guests arrive.