The television programs that are most hazardous to our health – with the exception of political ads – are the cooking shows.
It all began with Julia Child and her show The French Chef. Julia came into our living rooms and taught us a couple of things. First was that you don’t have to wear one of those goofy chef’s hats to be a chef. Second was that you needn’t be afraid of failure. So what if you dropped the Thanksgiving turkey? Just pick it up and wipe it off! What happens in the kitchen stays in the kitchen.
Julia’s show spawned an army of copycats. These programs became so numerous that the television industry was forced to dedicate an entire network to food.
Cooking shows can be problematic if you’re overly attracted to eating. It’s like a cat lover stumbling upon a YouTube channel that features nothing but adorable little kittens being adorable.
Another problem is that folks who view too many food programs might get the idea that cooking is easy and that they – even people such as me, who think that fine dining involves buying beef jerky at a gas station – can become a gourmet.
Being addicted to cooking shows can result in some odd conversations. For instance, the other day I turned to my wife and said, “Next time we’re at the supermarket, we need to get some candied polka dot truffles that were harvested by mermaid fairies. And some desiccated bark shavings from the East Asian cassia tree.”
“I can understand the cinnamon,” she replied warily, “But why do you need those truffles?”
“Because I want to make the dish they made today on The Suspiciously Skinny Chef. She whipped up a soufflé using organic free-range fair-trade puffin eggs and a ganache of Gouda cheese that was made from Grand Tetons mountain goat milk.”
“You don’t even know what ganache is! Until last week, you thought that a tostada was a saltine cracker with a splash of Tabasco! And you haven’t touched that jar of locally-produced Nepalese peppers preserved in extra-virgin filbert sauce. Weren’t you going to use them to make a Tibetan saffron omelet suffused with fennel pollen cream?”
She had a point. My cooking ambitions often outpace my culinary skills.
Maybe things don’t go as smoothly on those cooking shows as they would have us believe. Who really thinks that any particular TV chef has never set off the fire alarm or that one person can crank out a four-course meal for ten in half an hour?
As with most guys, my favorite cooking method is outdoor barbecuing. The sight of a chunk of meat sizzling on a dancing flame stirs something deep within the primordial brain. One can imagine how it all began with our caveman forebears:
“Look!” grunts a cave guy to his mate as he drags a dingy pile of fur into their cave. “Me clubbed this before it could eat me! Now we eat it instead!”
“Get that nasty thing out of our living room!” demands his mate as she swats at the cave guy’s prize with her broom. “I just got this place cleaned up and you come in here and make a mess!”
“What me do with this?” asks the bewildered cave guy.
“I don’t care. Just get it out of here!”
Dejected, the cave guy drags the carcass out behind their cave and heaves it onto their burn pile. A wondrous aroma fills the air and the cave guy soon finds himself surrounded by his cave guy neighbors.
“What smell so good?” grunts one of the neighbors.
Thinking quickly, the cave guy replies, “Me call it wild-caught grilled saber-tooth sirloin with aromatic ash-based crust.”
“Whoa! You must be hippest guy in neighborhood!”
We had a burn barrel on our farm when I was a kid. Burning probably wasn’t the most environmentally friendly way to dispose of our rubbish, but we lived so far out in the country that garbage service was just an urban rumor. Plus, paying a garbage service to haul away our refuse would have been taken as a sign that we had gone soft.
Fire is deeply fascinating to boys. When we burned our rubbish I would hang around the burn barrel all day, a fire-poking stick in hand.
It occurred to me one garbage-burning day that a great deal of potential cooking energy was going up in smoke. Inspired, I requisitioned a hot dog and jammed it onto the end of my stick.
My first cooking experience was a total success. But then again, I happen to like carbonized tubular meat products that have fallen into the ashes a couple of times.
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