Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Barefoot Contessa; Smug, Snobbish, Pretentious, and above all – Boring

I like how-to cooking programs, but some seem a bit too snobbish.

The Barefoot Contessa

None is more smug, snobbish, and pretentious than the Barefoot Contessa.

The Barefoot Contessa puts me asleep. It has all the entertainment quality of “Knitting for Dollars.”

The Barefoot Contessa and, for that fact, the entire Food Network appeals to smugness, snobbery, and pretentiousness.

This was best epitomized by her turning down a request from the Make-a-Wish Foundation. A small boy suffering from leukemia enjoyed the Barefoot Contessa and wanted to meet her. She turned down a request from the boy through the Make-a-Wish Foundation.  She had far too many other important engagements with smug, snobbish, and pretentious people to bother with a commoner that has a disease. This hardly registered with the Food Network or their followers. Why? Because the show and network appeals to the selfish concerns of elites who live only for ‘bon appetite.’ After all, in their world there are no diseases, what we can’t ignore we pay, petition, or zone to keep the diseased from our doorstep.

As much as I don’t like redneck NASCAR or self-indulging over paid athletes, they seldom turn down opportunities like the Make-a-Wish Foundation. This puts the Food Network and the Barefoot Contessa squarely where they belong, below redneck NASCAR drivers and self-indulging over paid athletes.

When a redneck NASCAR driver takes time, for example, away from practice laps at a speedway, not doing so may mean his life. Those drivers need every minute of practice. Missing some precious quality time with smug, snobbish, and pretentious people by a Food Network host just means they don’t gorge themselves for an afternoon.

The Barefoot Contessa shops the stores that only people I avoid go to and buys only crap I try to avoid. I only go in places like that if I have to use the restroom, to which they reply, “It’s for customers only.” So I buy some organic ginger root bubble gum and instead of saying, “May I use your restroom,” I say, “May I use your human recycling facilities. I wish to give back to mother earth.”

The Barefoot Contessa prepares all these great dishes and makes them sound boring. She almost makes it sound disappointing – like when sportscaster Curt Gowdy, a long time Boston fan had to say, “And the Reds win the World Series” after his beloved Red Sox lost to Cincinnati in the ’75. On the other hand I don’t want her to describe cooking and food like the crash of the Hindenburg either.

After the Barefoot Contessa prepares her delicious, but boring meal, boring guest are invited to her home for a meal. I bet it’s a real cat fight around her neighborhood to see who gets invited. I wonder what they talk about when the cameras stop rolling? What else – themselves.

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My Mom Was A Lot Like Ted Williams

Ted Williams, I think he would be proud to be compared with my Mom.

When I was thirteen we lived on a farm. It was lonely for me. Dad worked and was gone most of the day and so was Mom.

My imagination and ingenuity created a baseball field in the barn yard. The right field wall was barn. I used bales of straw as a center field fence that connected to a left field fence. I tossed the whiffle ball up in the air and swung away. I was the home run king. I hit near .500. You must have heard about me or seen the headlines.

From time to time I coaxed Dad or Mom into a game of home run derby. I beat my Dad all the time. He didn’t have a home run swing. The ball never had enough elevation to carry over the fences very often. Mom had a terrible swing.

One day I was playing Mom. We were in the bottom of the ninth inning and the score was 0 – 0. I was toying with her to keep her playing with me longer.

With two down. I held the ball out. “Okay Mom this is it, the world championship of whiffle ball. It all comes down to this pitch. If you don’t put it out of here we go to extra innings. It’s all on the line. Are you ready. The world is watching. You might want to step out of the batter’s box and knock the dirt from your cleats. You….”

“Just toss me the ball,” Mom said. “I got things to do.”

“You sound a little anxious,” I said. “Perhaps some deep breaths will settle you down.”

“Pitch the ball,” Mom said defiantly.

I tossed the ball a little to the outside. It was a kick watching her reach for the outside pitches. She hit the ball pulling it to left. It went high in the air. The wind caught it. It drifted not only over the fence but landed in the road. Mom rounded the bases like it was Ted Williams All-Start Game home run.

“Mom you don’t have to run the bases.”

“I do if I want to rub it in.”

We never played after that and like Ted Williams, her last appearance at the plate was a home run.

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Cupcake Wars: The Food Network’s Attempt to Bring Back the Cupcake

Show Me a Cupcake and I’ll Show You a Sissy

Three Cupcake Wars Judges - Hey this ain't Nuremberg.

Cupcake Wars, the name alone makes me laugh. I’m expecting Pee Wee Herman to duke it out with Boy George. It sounds like a war between France and Switzerland. Not only has the Food Network reduced cooking to nothing more than an ESPN production of the Ohio State/Michigan football game, but staged with the drama of Grant verses Lee, Montgomery verses Rommel, or Duke of Wellington verses Napoleon.

Some of those judges I’d like to take out back and just whip the snot out of them and make it into an icing.

Florian Ballanger has the worst French accent since Inspector Clouseau.

There is one judge, Florian Ballanger, he has the phoniest French accent this side if Inspector Clouseu. He exaggerates the importance of a cupcake as if he were considering death by hanging, guillotine or life imprisonment for Marie Antoinette. A much slower and more painful death would be to listen to his cupcake critique.

It would be vastly more interesting if people actually start throwing cup cakes at each other. I’ve personally have had some that registered hard enough to Rockwell test them and guaranteed to inflict death upon impact of the cranial.

Who cares whether a cupcake is aesthetically pleasing or balanced. All I want to know is does it taste good?

The Food Network is Trying to Save the Cupcake from Extinction

A Hostess Cupcake: the cupcake all cupcakes aspire to be.

Cupcakes are… well, kept around the house until they start growing on their own. People only eat them when forced or supper’s not ready yet. I figure if you are going to go through all the trouble to make twelve itty bitty cakes why not make one big one that has the density and strength to carry some real icing.

The Cup Cake Wars program is an attempt to bring back the cupcake. It is dying out and nearly extinct. When is the last time you’ve had a Hostess cupcake. If you ask me there is a money trail that leads from Hostess, to the Food Network, to the producers of Cupcake Wars, and finally to the pockets of Florian Ballanger.

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Mom’s 80th Class Reunion Is Just Around the Corner

Mom Had Dreams When She Graduated

Mom's dream house she never had, but she ended up with something better.

My Mom always wanted to have a nice home – white picket fence, flower garden, and porch swing. She never had that. She settled for far less.

She spoke about her peers from time to time. The nice homes they had and good life.

There was a housing addition she mentioned often. It was where her dream home was. Mom would take me on a drive sometimes and we would drive through that addition. She pointed out the homes of people she knew. She once pointed out the house of an old boy friend. In looking back I wonder if she somehow regretted marrying my Dad.

Shawnee High School, Class of 1932

A couple of years after my Dad died Mom went to her 40th class reunion. She got up and told her class, “Nothing is tieing me down. If you ever want to go some place just let me know, cause I love to travel.”

Nobody took her up on that. Perhaps some thought she was being bold. Mom indicated she thought it was a sign of rejection, as if they were too good for her. After all she didn’t live in that nice housing addition with other successful classmates.

Next year it will have been eighty years since Mom graduated from high school. Everyone else in her class has died. Classmates at her 40th class reunion should have taken Mom’s offer. It’s been a heckuva trip.

I wonder if Mom sometimes thinks about the house with the white picket fence, flower garden, and porch swing.

We sometimes do not get out of life what we want – sometimes times what life gives us is far better.

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Food Network’s Iron Chef – Done In Poor Taste

Iron Chef is really over the top. I thought it was a Saturday Night Live spoof. They all look like they are from a poorly written, poorly directed, poorly casted Kung Fu movie. They look like Bruce Lee, Jackie

Iron Chef or Kung Fu Movie?

Chan, and Charlie Chan dressed as the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Iron Chef America has all the good taste and entertainment value of American Gladiators. It seems like it is the Food Networks attempt to draw the redneck crowd away from NASCAR.

Two chefs go at it it furiously in a competition to be judged my three food critics. They judge the food prepared by two competing cooks and try to add excitement to stuff I would neither eat nor feed to a dog. There comments are as clichéd at a professional football player after the game sideline interview. “The apricot purée and scalloped finger nail really works well together.” I wish they would bring in a couple of dock workers to judge.

I'm not sure which head is the most entertaining.

Alton Brown does play by play of the competition. He’s a guy who knows his food, but also wear’s thin after a while. He reminds me of the teacher’s snitch.

Sometimes a chef burns or cuts themself. It is at that point I don’t want them touching my food or touching anything that touches my food. It’s unsafe and unsanitary. But when you watch the intro to the program I don’t think human sacrifices are far behind. I wonder when human flesh will be the secret ingredient?

Currently the programs are taped in Los Angeles and New York. I foresee the day when each city will assemble a team of Iron Chefs to form a league. There will be contract disputes, lockouts, trades, and steroid allegations.

Before the war in Iraq I heard the Food Network was screening Saddam Hussein as the star and only judge of Iron Chef Iraq. It looked promising. The chef that lost got executed by Saddam. The Food Network is still looking for a country with a despot who has charisma.

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My Mom Faked It With Dad (It’s not what you think.)

My Mom and Dad’s arguments eventually became physical. Dad hurled baseless, hurtful, and disgusting claims against Mom and she would slap him. This gave my Dad, in his mind, the right to retaliate.

It's easier to put this vase back together than to repair a home and lives affected by domestic violence.

Many family stories are told over and over again. There is one that I have heard only three times, my Father’s view, my sister’s view, and my Mom’s view. I was too young to remember the events. I was an infant at the time.

Dad told his side of the event with a great deal of bravado. Mom and Dad got into a long and loud argument. My Dad said, “She was hysterical so I cold cocked her. She was knocked out cold. When she came to, she came to her senses.”

A few years ago my sister told her version: “Dad hit Mom so hard she fell into the bathtub. She didn’t move. I thought she was dead. I started crying and screaming. I ran for the door to get help and call the police.”

I talked with Mom not so long ago about that event. It was not a happy recollection for her. “He hit me pretty hard. I laid there for a moment. There was a whole lot of faking goin’ on. I thought it might win his sympathy, but it didn’t. I couldn’t let your sister go on crying, so I came to.”

I asked my Mom from time to time why she stuck it out with Dad. She said it was because of us kids. I think that is the only thing she can come up with. Logic says, ‘get the kids away from that.”

Mom was trained that way. There is little doubt that is how her Father treated her Mother.

Mom concluded by saying, “That ain’t all I had to fake in that marriage.”

Even in the most tragic of circumstances Mom’s sense of timing and humor is remarkable.

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What’s Wrong With The Food Network

Why I Find the Food Network Amusing

Food Network's cast of personalities, notice food is in the background and crowded out by personalities.

Being a chef at one time, all be it the Army, I have a profound respect of anyone who prepares food for others. As one friend and cook so aptly put it, “it’s a labor of love.”

The Food Network has managed, in some instances, to reduce the art of food preparation to nothing more than and athletic competition. None of the shows that have cooks going head to head to prepare an Ethiopian’s goat gut into a cassoulet or Mongolian Rat turd blended into a creme souffle depict what cooking is all about.

Cooking is Love Not War

Reducing food to a competition between two or three cooks demeans the process. Cooking should never be about winning or losing, but pleasing. Taste are arbitrary and open to conjecture. One who puts forth an effort that is “a labor of love” should not be judged adversely for not preparing something that three critics find objectionable.

Cooking is people consulting and working together. It is not about one cook better than another. It is about cooks blending their experience and skill into a meal that pleases everyone. It is about the food.

You Never Hear from the Good Cooks

There are thousands of cooks who day after day produce meals that would delight anyone and everyone. They prepare good food with limited items or equipment. They do so with little praise, recognition, fame, or money.

Every cook I knew had difficulty in accepting praise. They were surprised when it came their way. The feel as if it ought to be good anyway. I always thought that when someone wants to see the chef and praise him for a meal does so with the same motive as the person who wants to see the chef because of a bad meal – they want something taken off the bill or want it free.

Every cook likes to have their meal or item praised. When I cooked I just didn’t want to find my items in the garbage. Judging good food is somewhat like wine and beer tasters, they are often fooled between the most expensive and the cheap.

I Know Cooks Who Can Really Throw Bobby Flay Down – So He Couldn’t Get Up.

I recall many years ago going to a restaurant in Arkansas. I went inside this dirty little joint. It was July, there was no air conditioning, and the flies were so thick on the screen door it kept out the light. I sat at the counter and ordered a hamburger from a three hundred pound black woman who had a smile as big as a sunrise tucked between two cheeks like eight-balls. She slapped the meat on the grill, flipped it once, never pressed it, and tossed it on a toasted bun with a heavy smear of mustard sauce. I have yet to taste its equal and its likely I ever will.

That cook could have not only thrown down Bobby Flay at the grill, but thrown his New York attitude down in a good street fight literally.

The Food Network is Not About Food

The Food Network is not about food, it’s about personalities. It is about selling that personalities next cook book. It’s about entertainment and cooking snobbery.

Food is food not a descriptive literary endeavor. Probably one of the best football coaches ever, Joe Paterno, was in the press box a few years ago. A player made touchdown. It was an exciting run. The guy with Coach Paterno asked him what he thought about the run. A step by step analysis was expected, dissecting every minute detail into why it was an effective run. Coach Paterno said, “That was a good run,” – that was it. Most of the time that’s all that can really me said about food – that was good.

I’ve eaten in places visited by food critics from the Food Network. All I can say is they must have known they were coming, because my experience bore little resemblance to the one they talked about. In my opinion of all the ingredients that have every been combined into a delicious combination of food, nothing beats peanut butter and jelly.

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