From TV Set To Countertop

Why has there been a shift from creating in the kitchen to “consuming” food though cooking shows. Whether it be on the Food Network or the Cooking Channel, why is it that we view these shows and aspire to attain an unrealistic lifestyle portrayed through a certain chef? From Giada to Rachel, media influences us to purchase certain things and use certain foods but it takes away from the motivation of getting ones hands dirty and crafting our own masterpieces in the kitchen. “But here’s what I don’t get: How is it that we are so eager to watch other people browning beef cubes on screen but so much less eager to brown them ourselves?” writes Michael Pollan in his article “Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch”. Is food media the reason we are consuming more via TV programming rather than cooking in the kitchen? Have we just become lazy as we gaze at the numerous lifestyles portraying a perfection we cannot achieve? “The popularity of cooking shows — or perhaps I should say food shows — has spread beyond the precincts of public or cable television to the broadcast networks” says Pollan. I think many fingers could be pointed but I think food media plays I big role in this shift leaving the kitchen empty.

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Why is it take out and pre-made rather than cooked at home and homemade? Why do we stylize our kitchens with state if the art appliances if we never turn them on and use them. What happened to trial by error and imperfection being the social norm just as Julia Child would show through her cooking. We watch this programming and try to embody something that seems perfect yet perfection means crafty TV magic and cinematography. We’ve begun to believe that a delicious pot roast is as easy as one, two, three, just as Ida says but when it comes out wrong we feel like failure has crept into the kitchen. My friends, it’s time to make the movement from TV to kitchen. It’s time to get back to the Julia Child stage where “TV magic” was seeing the steamy meal at the end without pre-chopped veggies, commercial breaks or “30 minutes”.

Is food media causing a shift from kitchen to TV? Why is it that we have lost our courage as home cooks and shifted towards paying someone to cook for us. Whether it be fast food or a 5-star restaurant, we’ve hung up the apron and have lost a tradition that is now seen more as a profession rather than an everyday delight. How has food media changed our ideology of cooking in the kitchen? “Julia Child upgraded the culture of food in America” yet we now sit on the couch watching new programming afraid to light the grill and try out our skills, afraid to miss the mark and ruin the recipe. I think food media has challenged our thinking when it comes to quintessential cooking. What once was a celebrated activity is now a specialized lifestyle broken into many demographics using “proper ingredients”, “restricted time” and “certain personalities”. I challenge everyone to get of the couch and get back into the kitchen. Take back the Julia Child style and spill, drop, flip and flop food, making mistakes but perfecting them along the way.

Keepin` it Julia Child ~J

WP 5/7

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Food Personality

Thinking about my next piece for this week I realized that its time to talk about Ina. But first I thought, what is a “barefoot contessa” and why is her show known by such a name? When searching for the answers, her blog says that “Barefoot contessa is the name of a classic movie from the 1950’s with Humphrey Bogart and Ava Gardner. When I bought the store in 1978, it was called Barefoot contessa. The former owner is Italian and her family called her that name when she was young. It’s about being elegant and earthy which is what we’re about.”  Now with the restaurant closed and a show created labeled after the same name, what makes Ina the “barefoot contessa”? Is it her ability to host fabulous parties, show us tips or her ability to cook? Or is it once again a catchy name to draw is into the aura of cooking and lifestyle created by Ina Garten as she resides in the Hamptons?

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Between her Easy Desserts, Brunch Bunch and Training Day Dinners is this her attempt to live on the legacy of her prized restaurant or an attempt to embody what a “barefoot contessa” is? Do we see this as viewers and all try to become the ideal chef that she is when we see her cook at home and entertain guest almost every show? I think it’s important to embody some sort of characteristic or ideal when cooking. Whether it’s the “barefoot contessa” or cooking through the ideals and style just as your grandmother did, it’s important to carry some sort of “personality” when you cook in the kitchen.

Do we all try to be someone else when we throw on the apron and fire up the stove? Or do we take little bits and pieces of certain people and twist it into or own style when we create in the kitchen? I think Ina can teach us something about having a style or even a “niche” per say when it comes to food and preparation. Although I don’t know if she hits the mark of being the “barefoot contessa” or not but I think we can all use this as inspiration to be individualized in our cooking, preparation and food selection. Does the Food Network purposefully make these different cooking “personalities” to shape our cooking? To be honest, I don’t watch Ina and try to embody every single thing she does when she’s making food but maybe there are some characteristics she exudes that I do bring to the kitchen when it’s time for me to make another meal. All I am saying is don’t be afraid to stray away and become your own chef. Hey, you may even be the next “barefoot contessa”.

Inspire, create and be your own “barefoot contessa” ~J

NP 4/30

Not So ‘Real’ Occasion

Why do we think of food when it comes to a majority of everyday occasions? Well according to the show Nadia G’s Bitchin’ Kitchen “Chef-comedienne Nadia G. looks at the funny side of everyday situations and turns then into occasions worth celebrating-with food! From ‘Recession Recipes’ and ‘Impressing the In-laws’ to ‘Break-up Brunches’, Nadia G. rocks the kitchen with her tasty techniques and stiletto-sharp wit.” Now I know food is appropriate for certain occasions such as Christmas and Thanksgiving but why would we turn a rescission or a break-up into an occasion worth celebrating? You can have one “bitchin’ kitchen” but that’s not gonna make me cook food and celebrate over a not-so-average occasion like the recession. I probably don’t even have enough money to get every ingredient never mind celebrating over it.

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I feel as though people turn to food for many instances happy or sad, but why make another television show celebrating this fact. There are plenty of other things to do besides cook that could help overcome an atypical everyday occasion. Cooking everyday should be to celebrate cooking and sharing recipes with others. I think this show creates a whole new meaning when it comes to celebrating with food. Why is it that we have to use these “new” occasions as an excuse to dust off the pots and pans and create something in order to celebrate?

I don’t think a Creamy Gorgonzola and Portobello Mushroom Risotto or a Crispy Puttanesca Panzarottis could actually celebrate my recent break up but it sure could fill me up. Although decadent looking, the food cooked by Nadia G. unfortunately won’t help me celebrate an occasion not really worth celebrating. Granted being around food and others could put smiles on our faces, I think there’s a disconnect between what’s worth celebrating and just needing a big pint of Ben and Jerry’s after our partners say adieu. Does this inspire you to cook? Shouldn’t everyday cooking be a celebration on its own rather than paying tribute to some impromptu occasion that pops into mind?

So whether you’re down in the dumps or just trying to impress the in-laws, cook for the enjoyment of yourself rather than concocting an everyday event that may push you to celebrate something not really worth celebrating. Hey, even if the food comes out burnt, flat, raw or undercooked, at least you are in the kitchen trying to make a masterpiece. And one more thing, if your going through a break-up, grab the ice cream, throw on the sweatpants and turn on the Netflix.

Stay sane and celebrate the real occasions in your life ~J

NP 4/23

#FoodNetwork

To add variety this week I figured I would hold off on another cooking show post and see what the Food Network was doing on the social media front. Social media plays a big role when it comes time to promoting anything so I was intrigued to see how it did with food. I instantly went on Twitter and sure enough I followed @FoodNetwork. With 1.6 million followers deep and following 19.6 thousand, I was instantly curious as to what they doing that made people so interested. From tweets about diet conscious dinners served by Bobby Flay to hosting a dinner party without breaking the bank, Food Network had a collage of different topics to choose from and read more about just by clicking the link at the end of the 140 character “mini message”. I felt as though I was back in front of the TV watching the numerous lifestyles and culinary of the infamous Food Network chefs.

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Diving into the numerous tweets, I found that each one had more information the further you clicked. Clicks lead to recipes, which lead to chef information and more. When a recipe was involved, more followers “retweeted” and “liked” what was being presented. I think this shows another aspect of how the Food Network promotes its specific lifestyles they create. Whether it’s a dinner party or eating healthy, Food Network is drafting these messages to numerous demographics of its consumer base. Just as the TV shows claim their certain niche, these tweets claim certain follows in the hopes of retweeting or clicking the link to go further into the mass amount of information they can provide. “Brands today need to act as media companies and invite people to share content says Sarah Hofstetter, president, 360i Foods as quoted in the article “100 years of Oreo: How the iconic cookie brand is using social media”. The Food Network wants its followers to share the recipes and share the hip trends of food when they are presented on Twitter.

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I will say though, with 1.6 million followers, the Food Network is definitely doing something right. Are followers the only measure of success when it comes to social media? I think that when it comes to social media in general, it is key to start and continue a conversation with users. Twitter sets the bar for what’s trending. I was surprised to see that the Food Network was reaching out and tagging followers, shooting out answers and asking thought-provoking questions. In an article written by Jessica Edmondson titled “4 Steps to build a Social Media Food Marketing Strategy” it says “Twitter is all about what’s hot right now. Timely and to the point, it’s a breathless buzz generator.” So whether it’s the newest mexican themed cuisine or Rachel Ray with a new 30-minute-meal, Twitter gives the Food Network the opportunity to tell everyone whats “hot” followed by a link to learn more. It’s a full circle when it comes to social media, you just have to pick you your smart phone and “follow” along.

Tweet it up and find what’s trendy ~J

WP 4/19

 

A Little Less Guilt

I decided to change it up today and found a hidden treasure from the Cooking Channel. Not My Mama’s Meals staring Bobby Deen sets out to recreate meals made by his mama Paula Deen that are high in fat and calories changing them into healthy low-cal variations. Using the recipe idea for the basis, he substitutes certain ingredients to make a heathy reproduction that we can make at home with little guilt. “Bobby’s taken his favorite dishes from home and reworked them to be lighter, leaner and just as delicious.” About time huh? I wonder what Paula thinks of this. You took out the 4 sticks of butter? I think that’s a sin in Paula’s world. Why is it that few shows choose to make healthy meals cutting out the cholesterol and reducing the fat? I thought it was interesting that Food Network has been reluctant to jump on the band wagon. Shouldn’t the show itself be a message? There is a whole show dedicated to making Paul’s best dishes “less-bad” for you. Hello, that’s a red flag.

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It’s crazy how cooking TV production makes these themes surrounded by certain food styles and TV personalities. Paula cooks with all the fat yet Bobby tries to make the same thing but take all the fat out. I actually appreciate this attempt on the Cooking Channels part and making a shift from the typical down home comfort food to fresh delicious low-cal meals. I think the traditional food programming whether it be on the Cooking Channel or the Food Network makes us believe that real cooking has to be high in fat and calories. Whether it be a pie baked by Paula or a fried pizza by Guy, we see these programs regularly and assume everyday cooking constitutes as these recipes. I think this show represents a niche everyone is beginning to aspire to. Healthy cooking is better for you and sometimes even better tasting. Just because it isn’t covered in a hollandaise sauce doesn’t mean it isn’t any less appetizing. You’ll definitely save yourself from a heart attack at age 35 if you start cooking Bobby’s way.

Alright, for all you fat lovers out there, this isn’t the end of the world. Healthy food does taste good. Coming from experience, substituting apple sauce and egg whites to make a cake mix actually makes a moister cake. Don’t believe me? Try it. I think it’s time to have a better variety of programming when it comes to cooking. It’s not all about the best burger, the chicken and waffles or the grasshopper pie. Sometimes it’s about the Sausage, Egg and Cheese Strata or the Butternut Squash with Quinoa, Spinach and Walnuts, both meals considered Bobby Deen’s “Comfort Food Makeovers”. Don’t get me wrong, there are times to let go of the guilt and indulge in that good ol` fashioned comfort food but there are more times where you have to bite the bullet and have a something without the infamous Paula Deen 4-stick-butter-rule. Let this inspire you to eat healthy and to create meals that are fun, delicious and good for you.

Eat healthy, stay healthy and be healthy ~J

NP 4/16

Such a Big Bite

Star of Guy’s Big Bite and Divers Drive-In’s and Dives Guy Fieri is a fan of “eating big”. This week I watched an episode of Guy’s Big Bite called Chicken in Waffles where he makes his version of the infamous dish. I thought Chicken and Stuffed Waffles and Creamy Crispy Coleslaw with Pecans, that’s simple and easy right? Waffles, fried chicken and presto! Not for Guy. His recipe included putting chicken and peppers in the waffles, more fried chicken on top, and a mixture of syrup, homemade gravy and hot sauce. Don’t get me wrong it looked un-real but holy heart attack. I only wish I could eat as much as him and not gain one single pound. My first question is how does he stay the same size when he’s always eating out at diners and then cooking from home? I will tell you, he definitely knows how to make a “big bite”.

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I think people watch this gluttony and believe that this lifestyle is heathy. I don’t know about you but chicken and waffles isn’t the best for you never mind stuffed waffles with the trifecta of sauces. When we watch these programs we don’t worry about heath, wellness or caloric properties. We just see some damn good food and water at the mouths hoping guy would pop into the kitchen and make us a “big bite”. Why couldn’t the Food Network make a show called “Guys Small Bite”, focused on healthy low-cal meals? I think the best part of watching this show is seeing Guy take the first bite. It was a big one indeed. At one point he goes “eenie, meenie” to pick his piece of friend chicken of course selected the biggest one. Shocking right? It wouldn’t be Guy’s Big Bite without Guy taking a giant mouthful when presenting his crafted concoction. The show description even says so: “Guy Fieri’s food is as fun, fearless and fundamental as his larger-than-life personality. We hope you’re hungry because this Guy’s imagination knows no limits”. Larger then life? No limits? I’d say any person would be if they ate everyday like Guy did.

Some of his meals amaze me that they even exist. Crispy Deep-Fried Pizza? Granted there are many personalities on the Food Network but how about changing it up and having Guy make some sort of healthy salad next time. Don’t get me wrong, I love everything fried, crispy, salty and sweet but I know how to balance it out. This show represents a lifestyle that is un-healthy. Especially when Guy’s sister show is going around all over the world to eat at 100’s of diner’s, drive-in’s and dives. I think this show inaccurately represents common meals that should be cooked at home. They look amazing but should not be in a normal diet. I think people watch these shows on TV and create a menu for themselves on what they want to make and eat from home. On occasion we have to indulge. Ok.. maybe a little bit more than that but it is important to understand what we are eating, have a healthy diet and of course throw in those over-the-top, down right delicious dishes.

Stay balanced but make your cake and eat it too ~J

NP 4/9

A Little Experiment

It’s crazy to think how what we eat out of can determine our perception of how much is in it. Watching all these Food Network shows made me begin to think: why do portions on some dishes look so much bigger than others? According to the article Food Illusions written by Brian Winsink, “if you show very young kids somthing tall and skinny, they think it holds more than somthing that’s short and wide”. What about size and shape about bowl, glasses, etc. could be a cue to make us consume more? I chuckled a bit as I read that because I always choose the glass that I think “has more”. Is this just a misconception I have that is leading me to consume more just because somthing is shaped differently? I decided to do some research of my own. Using a tall but thin glass and a short but wide glass, I poured 1 oz of juice into both and compared the two to see if the shape of certain things made a difference in the perception of quantity.

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Do we see this when we watch food programming and indirectly consume more? Whether it’s Sandra Lee’s cocktail time or Paula Dean scooping up a bowl of mash potatoes, are we effected by the use of certain shapes in food presentation? Do we take these cues from different food vehicles and eat more? Does media form food in TV programming in such a way that it cues us to consume more?

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I think this speaks to the problem of over consumption. Whether it’s watching a ton of food programming and consuming more due to the desire created by the programming or a shape of a glass that makes us believe there is “more” to consume, it is important to control what we eat. Don’t get me wrong, if someone can create a tall but thin pie dish which will make us eat more pie, let me know (haha). Over consumption is causing us to consume more calories than needed on a daily basis which is not a positive thing. Regardless of cues in our society that trigger us to consume more, it’s important to familiar ourselves with these cues and put them aside when it comes to having that next bite.

Eat less, enjoy more and use whatever shaped glass you’d like ~J

WP 4/7

Any Less Homemade

Answer me this. What categorizes something as “semi homemade”? Well, according to the Food Network show Semi Homemade with Sandra Lee it’s “combining fresh ingredients with specially selected store-bought items”. The results: “mouth-watering meals and desserts, prepared in minutes, that taste like they were made from scratch”. Now what is a specially selected store-bought item? What proportion of ingredients need to be store-bought in order for it to be semi homemade? I’m slightly confused. Isn’t everything store-bought whether it’s homemade or semi homemade? Does that mean if I make a custard, whip the cream but use a store-bought pie crust that it’s semi homemade? I don’t know about you but if I made everything besides the crust I’d consider it homemade.

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I think this a way for the Food Network to show how cooking can be fast and easy but still look homemade by buying a few specially selected ingredients. In today’s world that is something people find attractive. People see the phrase “prepared in minutes” and are instantly drawn in. But doesn’t that take away from the creativity of making something from the start to the finish? No short-cuts, no pre-made, just straight up cooking from the ground up. Why make something semi homemade? Where is the line drawn between the two categories. Is semi homemade 50% store-bought 50% from scratch or is it 80/20? Semi means “half” so I’m guessing half of your pie needs to be “store-bought”. Why would we want to “half-ass” our cooking when in the long run something homemade, to me, tastes better? I think whether or not our crafting in the kitchen is homemade or not should be up to us. Just because I used a Pillsbury pie crust rather than taking another two hours to make one from scratch should not make my dish any less homemade.

Here’s my next question: Don’t store-bought ingredients have more sugar, are high in sodium and filled with preservatives? Granted those things are in many foods we buy but doesn’t that give some evidence that quick and semi homemade isn’t always better? When it comes to Sandra Lee showing the “fresh” ingredients she throws into a recipe it’s mainly a few veggies, some fruit or a few fresh herbs. To be honest I think Sandra Lee cares about the table scape and her “cocktail time” rather than if her food tastes good or not, but that’s just my opinion.

So I challenge you all to spend a little more time in the kitchen and shift from quick and semi homemade to a little more how Grandma used to make things. Cook for the enjoyment of yourself rather than make a dish in a snap. Even if time prevents you from doing so, using a pre-made pie crust won’t make your dish any less homemade.

Cook, create and keep it homemade ~J

NP 4/2

Not So 30 Minute Meals

According to Rachel Ray, in the time it takes me to watch this television show she will have made a great meal, from start to finish, in less than 30 minutes. Anyone ever wonder if it actually takes 30 minutes? 30 minutes to boil pasta, chop onions, bake chicken or peel potatoes? I’m a little skeptical. I decided to do a little research myself and looked up a few recipes she creates on her show 30 Minute Meals. The actual cooking time for numerous recipes were not-so-30-minutes. Mac and Cheddar Cheese with Chicken and Broccoli took 35 minutes and Chipotle Cashew Chicken with Brown Rice took 40 minutes.

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So why is the show called 30 Minute Meals if the recipes aren’t actually 30 minutes? Hey, give me some pre-chopped vegetables, instant boiling water and some TV magic and I can make anything in 30 minutes. Any human on this planet could cook a great meal in 30 minutes if we had real-life commercial breaks. Let me just swap this out, throw that in and boom, I great meal prepared in less than 30 minutes. I think the food network creates an unrealistic expectation when it comes to this show. Viewers watch this and think something can be recreated in the same time frame but get disappointed when it goes over the “time limit”. Granted we are no Rachel Ray but I bet a majority of the recipes she creates aren’t 30 minutes when re-created by an average person. Who could blame us for watching this show and attempting to recreate this impossible mastery? In today’s world, people spend more time in the office and less time in the kitchen. 30 minute meals are an attraction to people who have less time to cook and want something fast an easy. Fast and easy? 30 minute meals would be a great name for a fast food joint that delivers. “30 Minute Meals: Fast, easy and a great meal in less than 30 minutes”. I beg to differ…

Let’s break this ideology down that meals need to be made in 30 minutes. Let’s get back to cooking for the fulfillment of ourselves rather than trying to compete with a television show that is unrealistic. Let’s become our own critic and take as long as we want in the kitchen in order to make something the right way in “real-time”. No TV magic, no commercial breaks and no pre-chopped vegetables switched out when we aren’t looking. Cooking on the Food Network is made to seem like a perfection that well all aspire to attain. Nothing is perfect when it comes to an average person’s kitchen so why even reach for perfect. Let’s just cook! Now in the time it took you to read this blog post I will have made a great meal, from start to finish, in less than the time I choose for it to be done.

Keep cookin ~J

NP 3/26

Uh, that’s Vaseline you’re eating.

I decided to be adventurous this week. I took recipes from the Food Network and attempted to master the expertise of food pornography by making my reproductions look as good as they do online. Below are the three pictures I took from the three recipes I was going to make: Shrimp Scampi, Clams Casino and Chocolate Mousse.

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Maybe its my lack of food photography literacy or my lack of food design literacy but my tasty concoctions did not look as mesmerizing, lip smacking and mouth-watering as the pictures did in the recipes. Although these dishes were made exactly the same way, the pictures above look like a perfection that I could not achieve. Why is that? Maybe it was my camera (I used my iPhone) or maybe the lighting was not right considering I’m the furthest thing from a professional photographer. I’ll tell you one thing, it was definitely not my cooking literacy skills that were lacking. Let’s be honest, my food may have not looked that good but it sure tasted that good. I’ll say though; my clam’s casino beats the picture I found. I can pat myself on the back for one thing. Even the fact that I made clams casino and I’m a 22-year-old in college.

Take that Bobby Flay.

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I did some research to figure out why my food didn’t look as good, no matter what filter I used or what angle I shot it at. According to Amy Zavatto’s article “The secrets of food photography”, “Food photography (or food porn as it’s deemed in this age of Food Network plate-ogling) can make you hungry with a mere glance.  But it’s not easy to get things looking so appetizing and alluring. It takes a ton of skill, timing, artistry, and even some house hold items you should never put in your mouth.” Sir that could be a Vaseline covered apple you’re eating or a scoop of mashed potatoes instead of ice cream. People believe these food images to be accurate representations of what they are either eating or going to eat although half of the ingredients going into food photography are fake. I was shocked at some of the things that are done to make “our” food look for appetizing. The article elaborates that “modifying an espresso steam hose to make something look “hot” or using hair spray to give cold food a “frost” are common practices to disguising “hot” and “cold” items.

I say as long as the food tastes good, who cares what it looks like. Use this as inspiration when you cook. The evidence is above. I’d rather have my mousse look like melted shaving cream rather than it actually being shaving cream.

Stay away from shiny apples… unless you wash it first ~J

WP 3/22