The announcement that CableVision would be dropping the Food Network and Home and Garden TV channels as of January 1st was a total surprise. We had not known of the dispute between CableVision and the Scripps Network and the news was like a bolt from the blue. I didn’t care about HGTV but losing the Food Network was a real blow.We watch quite a few food-related shows and the first reaction was ” Oh, no !!”
However, one week into our deprivation, my reaction has changed to ” No Food Network ?No problem “.
For one thing, I’ve come to realize that most of the best food themed shows ( or at least, those that I prefer to watch ) are NOT on the Food Network Channel. They are to be found on the Travel Channel, The Learning Channel and Bravo. My interest in food is not about recipes, it’s about food and it’s provenance.If I want recipes, I can go to any number of food blogs. What I really enjoy is seeing the places it is grown in,learning about the people who live there and their lifestyle and culture ; a mixture of food and travel if you will. That is why my favorite foodshows are Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” and Andrew Zimmern’s ” Bizarre Foods”, both of which are on the Travel Channel.
At first , I was not sold on the idea of Bizarre foods , but I’ve found that the foods Zimmern describes are not really all that strange . Most of them are unusual to us , not gross. Besides, Zimmern is a very engaging tour guide; a bubbly, roly-poly sort who manges to convey his enjoyment of food and his appreciation of cultures different from our own even as he educates us. In fact, he has edged ahead of Bourdain in my estimation ; sometimes Anthony rants too much.There are other shows too on the Travel Channel which offer this mix of food and travel reportage.
The Learning Channel offers a few food themed shows of which I like the Barbecue competitions, not so much for the food itself but because of the atmosphere of small town America and the varied personalities of the contestants. Occasionally I can also catch a food show on one of the PBS channels and these have the advantage of being fresh, because I don’t often watch them and the format is so different.
Bravo offers “Top Chef” , the most highly rated of the food cooking contest shows. It’s Food Network rivals ” Chopped” and ” The Next Food Network Star” are not a patch on it. I like the Top Chef hosts Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio, who are more genuine , yet knowledgeable ,so much better than their FN opposites. The format is also better and it is a real competition unlike the gimmicky ” Chopped”, which leaves too much to chance because contestants have to cook with a basket of secret , often ill-matched , ingredients. I used to love ” Iron Chef America” and it’s predecessor , the original ” Iron Chef” but I’ve gotten a little tired of it . It’s gone on far too long just like ” Emeril” and ” Rachel Ray” and ” Paula Dean” ; I’m not going to miss them at all. There are several aspects of Iron Chef America that I’ve come to dislike : the theatrical “Chairman ‘ who uses exactly the same words each time as he talks to the chefs, the pompous , prickly Jeffrey Steingarten , the celebrity guest judges some of whom don’t know very much about food, Alton Brown’s craziness… I could go on and on.
Part of the reason most of the cooking shows on the Food Network have no appeal for me is that they are less about the food than they are about personalities, many of whom I don’t care for.There’s only so much I can take of Alton Brown, and Rachel Ray and Giada de Laurentis and if I never hear Paula Dean ‘s “infectious ” laugh again, it will not be too soon. The only Food Network programs I would miss are those featuring Bobby Flay ( “Throwdown, Grilling shows), Robert Irvine ( Dinner Impossible) and and , perhaps, Guy Fieri ( Diners, Dives and Drive Ins). I didn’t used to like Bobby Flay but either he has grown on me or he has mellowed.
Reading this it might appear that I am obsessed with food and that I spend an inordinate amount of time watching these shows on TV. Not really. I don’t watch any of these shows regularly and while I’ll admit to being a foodie, my’ thing’ is more about preparing food rather than eating it.
It might also appear that in the CableVision- Food Network dispute, my sympathies are with the former. Nothing could be further from the truth. … as I will make clear in my next post.