Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Problem with the Food Network

I was tooking around Ed Levie's site (http://www.edlevineeats.com), and there was a long discussion group on who was your favorite Food Network personality. Of course, this meant the usual trashing of Rachel Ray. There's much to dislike about Ray, her unceasing chirpiness, her insane endorsement deals, but I can't quite hate her the way many do. First off, I suspect that the way she cooks is closer to how most Americans cook, and that she helps people in this respect. The same is true of Sandra Lee, who I do dislike. Any one who uses Cool Whip should be taken to the Town Square and killed. But I suspect she helps more people prepare meals, Cool Whip or no. It's interesting who isn't on the Food Network: no hispanic chefs, no Asians (Ming Tsai used to be on, but he's now on WNYC TV, along with Daisy Martinez, speaking of hispanics). Iron Chef (the original) is Asian, but of no help in learning about cuisine. No African American chefs either, though Al Roker does host a show about restaurants. I'm amazed that they didn't renew Mario Batali's show. Mario helped make the Food Network's rep, is he now considered too fat to be telegenic? Most people like Alton Brown, and I agree: his show Good Eats, is an excellent food show, teaching you food basics, food science, and a culinary history, all at once. I also like Tyler Florence's Food 911, even thought Florence is now shilling for Applebee's (why don't the Rachel Ray haters pick on this guy for that? I mean, Applebee's? Is that even a restaurant, in the undestood meaning of the word?). Too many Food Network shows seem pointless. They love those competitions where people race to make statues out of lard, rice krispies, and marshmallows. What is the fucking point? I feel about food art they way I do about ceramic art. A plate should be functional. If I can't eat off it, it's failed in it's primary duty. Food too: most of the food art looks inedible, and frankly, what is fondant? You could replaster your apartment with fondant. But then, I've never been a huge cake fan. I find frosting too sugary, & most over designed cakes look great but taste terrible. I ask you, how many people have enjoyed a wedding cake? My tastes lean more towards ice cream, creme brulee, and whipped cream. But that's me. If I got married, I'd rather have a selection of pastries than one huge inedible cake.
Another discussion of interest on Levine's site was about Frank Bruni's NY Times review of Katz's Deli. I have to say, Katz's is a second rate deli, and was never the equal of the 2nd Ave. Deli, whose closure was a massive culinary crime. When I first started going to Katz's, say in the late 1970's, Katz's was a cheaper alternative to 2nd Ave. Then if got sold, the prices went up, and the only reason to go there was erased. Am I going to go to K-Mart and pay Bloomingdale's prices? Of course not. What Katz's had it still has, which is the atmosphere of the place, and the knoblewurst, though overpriced, is good. The franks are good, but why am i gonna spend 5 bucks on a frank when Gray's Papaya is a bit over a dollar. It's a frank, not filet mignon, for chrissakes. The fries stink, and I hear people say they used to be good, but when was that? 1956? The fries have been limp and soggy for as long as I've eaten there. Rumours are swriling that Katz's may close too, which would be a shame, but not the crime that the closing of the 2nd Ave. Deli was. A friend also claims to have seen lots of vermin behind the counter, but if I feared that, I'd never eat in most of the places I do eat in. It's just one of the weird rules of food that the less clean the culture, the better the food. Or which would you rather eat: Chinese or Swedish? I don't notice any Scandinavian take out littering the city.


roy said...

You're right. Unless it has vastly improved since I was there last, Katz's is not so great. I agree their pastrami comes in an "eye-popping stack," but "juicy"?

I think Bruni was tasting schmaltz, and I don't mean chicken fat. He's suffering from Pete Hamill Syndrome, where the hurdy-gurdy is perpetually playing "She's the Daughter of Rosie O'Grady" and sprats in knickers play stickball and sell newspapers.

A "living museum" -- yeah, that's where I want to eat: a living museum, where mummies bring your food! I'm sick of tourism copy masquerading as journalism. Next they'll tell us the South Street Seaport is "living history."

kmcleod said...

"I mean, Applebee's? Is that even a restaurant, in the undestood meaning of the word?"

I believe that Applebee’s designation is that of a “family restaurant” instead of an actual restaurant. There’s probably some FDA regulation that requires it. The two-word classification connotes that it is a facsimile. Another example of such is the term “Elvis impersonator”, in which the word “Elvis” informs the consumer that the word “impersonator” is less than legitimate.

Anonymous said...

we know you arent a cake fiend....but we DO know your weakness in the form of cubed bread thats been saturated in flavored custard mix and baked...I think they call it b r e a d p u d d i n g or something ;-)

LostSailor said...

Haven't been to Katz's in years, but Grey's Papaya? Get thee to the original, and much better, Papaya King!