“I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.”
It has come to my attention recently, that we little buckaroos at Cowpoke Alley have a serious addiction. And I’m not talking about the tequila. I’m talking about the T.V. That little box of cable pleasure which seeps into our living room, casting an evil glow over the furniture and dog-hair-laden carpet, teasing us with nasty thoughts of Dr. McDreamy on “Grey’s Anatomy”, or the hilarious blue-tinted orthodontia that is “Ugly Betty’s” braces. Not to mention the toe tags and quirky characters on “Six Feet Under”, the not-so-subtle nakedness of our love-starved gal pals on “Sex and the City”, or the strange and wonderful craving we just can’t seem to kick by watching “Dancing with the Stars.” I know, it’s a sickness.
“Well done Bridge, 4 hours of careful cooking and a feast of blue soup, omelette and marmalade.”
-Bridget Jones’ Diary
And you’d think we could quit. Just give it up. Just walk away from this demon, slinging our remote into the fireplace, and settling down with a good Harlequin romance novel. And we probably could. Except for one teensy thing. One tiny little detail. One 24-hour Extra Virgin Olive Oil-infused, blackened, blanched, blended, browned, caramelized, chocolate-drizzled, chopped, diced, de-boned, de-glazed, filleted, fricasseed, fried, garnished, grated, grilled, herb- stuffed, julienned, macadamia-nut-crusted, mashed, minced, mixed, parboiled, poached, powdered-sugar-dusted, pureed, rendered, roasted, seared, sauteed, scalded, seasoned, shaken, stirred, simmered, steamed, steeped, tomato-pureed, whipped, whisked, white-wine-marinated, zested, oh my gersh turn it off already, Food Network Channel. http://www.foodnetwork.com/ It’s unstoppable. It’s eye candy for grown ups. It’s the devil incarnate. And we are hooked. Hooked like a big flashy trout on a Blue Quill fly. Like Lisa Rinna on Botox. Like Rush Limbaugh on meds. Like Kate Moss on coke. Like Tom Cruise on himself. And that, my friends, is about as rock bottom as you can get.
“I can’t cook. I use a smoke alarm as a timer.”
-Carol Siskind, Comedienne
We need help. Serious help. But, we don’t WANT help. We’re perfectly content to hold down the futons and watch hour after hour of garlic being smashed, potatoes being wedged, green beans snapped, eggs scrambled, bread baked, veggies tossed, meat brined, cookies shaped, pasta drained, sausage smoked, pepper ground and salted to taste. Whew. To those of you who know me well, this may very well come as a huge, resounding, what-the- ding-dang-are-you-talking-about shock. Cooking? Wendy? OUR Wendy? The Wendy who burns soup? The Wendy who fries water? The Wendy who needs a trail of bread crumbs to find the stove? The same Wendy who only knows the fridge by its stage name… wine cooler? Go ahead, laugh it up. For it turns out I enjoy The Food Network in the same way I enjoy say, Martha Stewart Living; I love all the yummy looking dishes of pumpkin and sage, and all the pretty pictures of hollowed out gourds, but have absolutely NO desire to attempt said projects. Does this make me a bad person? Maybe. Does this make me a lazy person? Probably. Does this make me a person who enjoys watching OTHER people slave away? Definitely. Whisk that sauce! Baste that bird! You’re on TV for crimminey sakes!
“What my mother believed about cooking is that if you worked hard and prospered, someone else would do it for you.”
So what is the attraction to this behemoth of a channel? Is it the strangely beautiful photography of ripe red bell peppers? Is it the overhead shots of dark chocolate chunks warming in an All Clad saucepan? Or perhaps the mesmerizing display of imported marble counters, Kitchen Aid mixers, and Calphalon cookware. You know, all the things YOU have in your industrial kitchen with the Italian brick pizza oven, spit chicken roaster, Whole Foods- stocked pantry, temperature controlled wine unit, and underground olive oil well. Um, yeah. Well, the gadgets and cinematography may have something to do with it, but let’s face it, we love the cooks. Mainly, the female-type ones. With all their bizarre behavior, goofy slang, and spotless aprons, we can’t seem to get enough of them. Even when we don’t particularly care for them, and think we could easily pummel them into the nearest rotisserie pan, we still can’t turn away. Drop everything! We MUST watch! We CAN’T miss a minute! “Hurry! It’s ON!” “But I have to pee.” “Hold it, she’s cracking the eggs!” “But my laundry’s done.” “Forget it, she’s flipping the steaks!” “But the dogs are hungry.” “They ate last week…check out this souffle!” Heavy sigh. And so for sanity’s sake, let’s examine a few of these gastronomical heavyweights (pardon the pun) of small screen stardom, to see how they keep up so completely enraptured, just by zesting a Meyer lemon:
“She did not so much cook as assassinate food.”
-Margaret Storm Jameson
Rachel “30-Minute Meal Ray: Yup, she’s a dynamo in the kitchen, a veritable whirlwind of a Tasmanian Devil. She can carry 97 items in her arms at once, whip up a “healty and delicious” meal at breakneck speed, scamper from stove to fridge to sink and back at such a frenetic pace you think she must be on crack, all the while sharing hokey family tales and talking, talking, talking incessantly. Revered by some, reviled by others. http://www.slate.com/id/2122085/
Slang favorites: Yum-O! Delish!
Paula “It’s all about the buttah” Dean: A one woman showboat with the smoothest caramel-sauce Southern drawl this side of the Mississippi, and a laugh that shatters glass. Started out as the “Bag Lady” making lunches in her kitchen, opened a restaurant with her two adorable sons, and became everybody’s favorite juicy aunt in the kitchen. http://www.ladyandsons.com/ Doesn’t believe in low-fat ANYTHING, cooks and bakes with wild abandon, and thinks that butter is the ultimate ingredient. Favorite catch phrase: More buttah, y’all!
Sandra “Semi-Homemade” Lee: Uses 70% store-bought ingredients and 30% fresh, to make dishes “your guests will think you slaved over all day.” Has color coordinated kitchen and clothing scheme for each broadcast; i.e., palm tree apron, palm tree curtains, palm tree dishcloths, vases, bowls, and dreaded “tablescape.” Oh, the tablescapes. Matching dishes, napkins, place cards, tablecloth, party favors, and candles…most of which you can throw together with items from the craft store! http://www.semihomemade.com/tablescapes/ Worst cocktail ever: Bourbon, orange juice, ginger ale, and 1 can of FRUIT COCKTAIL. Bleah!
Giada “Everyday Italian” De Laurentis: More teeth than Julia Roberts. Canines like Cujo. Bigger chops than Jaws. Granddaughter of producer Dino “Serpico” DeLaurentis. Makes fabulous bundles of pasta and other Italian treats, swoons over anything chocolate, throws envious dinner beach parties, surprises her luckiest-man-on-the-planet husband with office lunches, has stunning eyes, luminous hair, and toothpick-size waist, despite noshing on aforementioned pasta treats and mounds of chocolate. Bitch.
Ina “Barefoot Contessa” Garten: Our personal favorite. Has a calm, soothing quality like Creme Brulee. We want to be her friends. We want to sip Cranberry Cosmos with her chic party guests. We want to dine in her sumptuous East Hampton house. We want to stroll barefoot through her herb garden, an aromatic blend of basil, chives and lavender beneath our feet. We want to savor her amazing Chicken with (no, I’m not kidding) 40 Cloves of Garlic, the succulent Salmon with Lentils, smooth Rosemary White Bean Soup, grilled Fennel with Parmesan, decadent Pecan Squares, orgasmic Outrageous Brownies, and luscious Pumpkin Banana Mousse Tart. In short, we want her to adopt us. http://www.barefootcontessa.com/about.html
“You don’t get over hating to cook, any more than you get over having big feet.”
As you can see, the choices are endless on the Food Network. And I’ve only covered the women. There’s also Emeril “BAM!” Lagasse, with his 47 pounds of garlic, Michael “Easy Entertaining” Chiarello, with his 47 steps to every Napa Valley-inspired recipe, and Bobby “Throwdown” Flay, who challenges reigning champions in a winner-take-all competition at their own signature dish. Doesn’t matter if it’s chowder or chili, there will be 47 gallons of it. And I haven’t even mentioned specialty shows like Iron Chef, Ace of Cakes, or Good Eats. Yes, it’s mind-boggling. Yes, it’s brain-numbing. Yes, it’s insane. I’m sure our time would be much better spent on more productive things like cleaning house, paying bills, or doing the dishes. We could engage right now in an intelligent conversation about world politics, the Billboard Top 10, or the sad fact that we have to wait until frickin’ February for the convoluted storyline of “LOST” to return. And I would love to, really, truly I would…but I can hear the Contessa pre-heating her soup pot…
“My mother didn’t really cook. But she did make key lime pie, until the day the top of the evaporated milk container accidentally ended up in the pie, and she decided cooking took too much concentration.”