Food Channel Pet Peeves
I have to admit it; I love the Food Channel. I watch cooking shows the way football fans have watched super-bowls: "No!! You IDIOT!! Not the cream-of-tarter this soon! . . . Oh! Just give it up!! . . ."
I have a pretty good background in cooking. My mom didn't like cooking at all. Comfort food from my mom consisted of Weenie Stew: Blackened chunks of sliced Oscar Mayer's simmered in tomato sauce and served over Minute Rice. (To this day, I still love Weenie Stew)
Her mom, my grandmother "Budgie" didn't provide much in the way of grandmother-ey cooking either. Budgie loved being around people way too much to be spending time in the kitchen. Before church, she'd just shove a big pan in the oven at 300 degrees that contained a big shoulder of beef, lots of potatoes, onions and carrots. She'd take as many grandchildren that happened to be around to her Sunday School class, followed by Sunday services. Once we'd arrive home, the whole house would be filled with the aroma of Budgie's Sunday Dinner. She would always have it timed perfectly. She'd just plop everything in their cooking pots right on top of the stove and everyone would happily fill their plates. A staunch Southern Baptist she'd always invite any new pastor and his family over for Sunday dinner with the following warning and a laugh: "If you preach too long, you'll get a burnt offering. If your sermon's too short, then there'll be a blood sacrifice!" It never mattered. Budgie could serve anything and the only thing that any dinner guests would ever notice would be how much they enoyed being around Budgie! Exquisite grandmother-ey food was never part of of her existence, nor should it have been.
So, along the way, I learned to cook pretty well, mainly as a means of self-defense from Weenie Stew. So here are my pet peeves toward cooking shows - - -
Fresh Ground Pepper: Yes, fresh ground pepper does taste better, but the amount that comes out after five vigorous turns of any pepper-mill is probably 1/64th of a teaspoon or one-grillionth of a gram. Don't bother!! Please!
Salt & Pepper These are two completely different seasonings. Why do they always have to go in tandem?
Bay Leaves They have absolutely no taste. For once I'd love to see a chef to be able to distinguish a sauce that had a contained a dried bay leaf from one that didn't.
Washing Mushrooms I've always heard that we should NEVER wash mushrooms, but I've never heard why. Ever! I think it has something to do with diluting the flavor of the mushroom with water (But aren't any chopped mushrooms going into a heavy tomato sauce anyway?) Instead, we should brush them off with a mushroom brush. Have you EVER seen any TV cook brush off a pound of mushrooms? And aren't mushrooms spawned in animal dung anyway? Pardon me, but I'd much rather jeopardize the integrity of my mushrooms by thoroughly washing them as opposed to leaving some cow poo in my moo-goo.
Dicing Onions These fancy chefs take themselves waayyy to seriously by cutting an onion in half, laying it on it's side, making several dramatic inward slices, flipping it around, then making some inward slices, then dicing it across. . . . Stop!! God made our onions lots of separations already built in. Just cut in in half, make a few vertical and horizontal slices. Boom! Diced onion. Same goes for shallots.
Lemon Zest: Okay, WE KNOW by now. Don't include the white part because it can be bitter. Every time some TV chef grates some lemon zest, they always mention not to include the white part because it can be bitter. WE KNOW. Just get on with it, Pierre.
They don't do what they say: Have you ever noticed how often the chefs put in way more than what they call for? "Now drizzle in two tablespoons of olive oil. . . " glug-glug-glug-glug. In goes half a cup. "Now, add just a splash of white wine. . . " In goes half the bottle.
Touching the food: Here is my biggest pet peeve: Chefs who constantly handle the food with their fingers while arranging it on the plate. If they pawed all over the food like this at tableside in front of the patrons, no one would ever eat it!! Don't they know this? In such fancy cuisine, it's all about the chef, never about the food. When I see food arriving at the table that's arranged all symmetrical and balanced high in the air, my first thought is, "My gosh, just how much did that chef have to manhandle my food?"
My Favorite Chefs:
1. Nigella Lawson - An English woman who has an extensive background as a food writer. Her programs are very appealing to watch because of this experience; her way with words make for extremely entertaining viewing. For example, she was about to flatten some lamb chops: "You can use a meat tenderizer, but I haven't one about so I use this big rolling pin. It works just as well, and let's face it, the comedic potential is much greater this way." She just prattles on like that and it's wonderful. Also, her philosophy is "maximum enjoyment with minimal effort." Her recipes are creative, astonishingly simple, and just about the most tasty things you've ever eaten. At 44 years old, she's drop-dead gorgeous too.
2. Julia Child Need I say more? But here's another reason I find her so amazing. She didn't begin cooking until she was well over forty. Prior to that, she was a spy with the CIA stationed in India where she met her husband. They later moved to China and then to Norway for seven years. (She's fluent in Norwegian by the way). They then moved to Paris where Julia began cooking. She stood 6'2" and her sister, Dort, is 6'5". A reporter once asked what her favorite comfort food was. After thinking a while, she replied, "Red meat and gin."
And Julia never touched the food while arranging on the plate. When once asked what she thought about Nouvelle cuisine, she trilled, "Well, it just doesn't look very food-ey to me!"