LOST may be over until January (what a GREAT season finale - thank you Damon & Carlton!), but one of my many tv guilty pleasures is back - The Next Food Network Star. I simultaneously love and hate this show. I love it for several reasons; mostly because it's just like every other reality show I like - it's a trainwreck. Get all these people together in a room who, for whatever reason, think they can cook, and think they have cool personalities, and think that they are the next Rachael Ray, and watch them flounder as they get put in their places by Mr. Attitude himself Bobby Flay, as Alton raises his eyebrows at their antics, as Giada tries to smile through their miserable attempts at cooking and acting, and as Susie and Bob blatantly remind them just how much they suck.
But I hate it for a very specific reason. TNFNS is part of what is going wrong with Food Network. Lindsey analogized Food Network to MTV, and she's exactly right. Remember how MTV used to play music videos? Remember how once upon a time, Food Network only aired shows featuring people who actually knew what they were doing in the kitchen and it didn't really matter what they looked like as long as they cooked good food (Mario Batali, Sara Moulton)? Remember how you could sit down in front of the tv from 10-7 every day and get actual recipes and techniques that you could theoretically put into rotation or practice that night for supper? Remember how Food Network used to teach us how to cook rather than show us where hot dogs come from, or how to make elaborate cakes, or how to fight with food (or, shall I say, the overt and unnecessary masculinization of the kitchen... Justin Wilson never had to "throwdown" with another Cajun cook to prove his worth)? Unfortunately, Food Network is losing its edge. Don't get me wrong - Emeril, Giada, Tyler, Rachael, Paula, Ina, Michael, Alton, and even Elie and Robin are amazing; they're just not getting the screen time they deserve. They should get ALL of the screen time. They have street cred, and they either went to culinary school or were forced to learn how to cook in order to feed themselves or their families. If you fall into one of these categories, you're cool with me. Get rid of the posers! Food Network should be a network devoted to education - culinary education - and most of their daytime programming now does not fit that mission. Seriously people. If you're going to give Mary Nolan a cooking show, you may as well turn it over to LBDelicious, or anyone who's ever set foot in a kitchen and cooked a meal. I love the Neelys, and appreciate Food Network's "commitment to diversity" by finally putting someone on the screen who is not white (just as they've also done with Sunny Anderson and Ingrid Hoffman), but they're just not working. All their "diverse" shows somehow still reek of hegemonic discourse, communicating one singular message: "real" cooking is for people of privilege. It's for people who have the time, and money, to spend time thoughtfully considering what kind of table linens would work best with their themed meal. It's like they've taken chefs who are not white, and put them in a white woman's kitchen. Am I out of line on this? If Food Network truly wanted to show diverse cooking perspectives, then they should follow the lead of Alton's "Feasting on Asphalt" and talk to the old black women who've made biscuits every morning at the diner on the corner for 25 years. Take your camera back to the kitchen of the local meat & 3 restaurant that is ugly on the outside and is greasy on the inside, but has the best collard greens, macaroni and cornbread this side of the Mississippi. I want to see how those women are cooking. Visit kitchens that aren't shiny and pretty, ones where cooks may not have the money for All-Clad but have recipes that would run circles around the semi-homemade crap that Sandra Lee dishes out day after day. That, Food Network, is "cooking for real." Have fun with your Next Food Network Star, but please, for the love of Julia and all that is beautiful about learning the art and science of cooking in order to provide nourishment for yourself and your family, bring back real chefs who can show us how to be better cooks, and better eaters.
Last night, still on my "I'm not going to the grocery store until I absolutely have to" stubborn streak, I came up with this meal. I had frozen chicken, buns leftover in the fridge from last week's hamburgers, and half a can each of black beans and corn, from the taco pie expedition. I threw together:
Chicken Teriyaki Sandiwches
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, split in half
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 Tablespoon olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
a few pineapple wedges or slices
1 bun or 2 slices of bread
Preheat oven to 350. Combine soy sauce, sugar, oil, ginger, salt, and pepper in a baking dish; add chicken and marinate for 15 minutes, turning once. Bake for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, toast the bread. Spread with mayo (or leave out if you're healthy). Top bread with chicken, then top with cheese and pineapples. Serve with:
Black Bean and Corn Salsa
1/2 can leftover black beans
1/2 can leftover corn
1 tsp EVOO
salt & pepper to taste
dash of cumin
dash of chili powder
zest and juice of 1/2 lime
Combine together, chill until ready to eat.
This was a nice, healthy, refreshing dinner that I am looking forward to enjoying again tonight. I will be glad when Dave gets back from Orlando so I can rant out loud to him and don't have to bottle it all up inside until I have the chance to blog it out.