First, I want to tell you that almost no one enjoys food programming more than I do. In fact, I spend a lot of time watching almost anything on Food Network or Cooking Channel. (Side note: props to Food Network for remembering its roots and making another channel specifically to actually show more cooking shows and not reality television; that is very Discovery Channel-creating-TLC-circa-late-90’s of you.) It is partly because I spend so much time watching these shows that I feel comfortable making the following complaints; I certainly have the epistemic privilege to do so, having spent entire hungover Saturdays
every week often enough to gather evidence of your hosts’, well, let’s call them annoyances.
I don’t care about the host’s personal life. If I did, I would google them and look at their wikipedia page like any other person who has been alive for five seconds. When a show is based almost completely around whatever he or she is pretending to do that day with whomever they mention (I’m looking at you, Giada), it makes me want to cook whatever he or she is making just so I can throw it at the TV. Or start tweeting details about my personal life at them until they realize how annoying it is and block me. (Do not test me on this, Food Network personalities. I’ve done it already, and it worked. Ask Amanda Freitag.)
You can’t possibly expect people to tune into a cooking show because they are walking along the street thinking, “Golly, I wonder what Chef soandso is up to today? I’d better head home right away and find out whom Ina Garten is having over for dinner tonight!” Either you do produce shows based on that idiotic premise, or there are people writing you letters specifically asking for that kind of programming. If the latter is the case, please send those letters back postage due with a harshly worded letter asking these viewers to please get a life. (Side note: if you’re looking for someone to do this for you, I believe I am qualified for the position.)
After years of studying these tendencies, I think Giada is the worst offender. She will occasionally have a somewhat personal tilt to a series of recipes she features during her half hour programs that makes sense. For example, in “Cucina Capri,” she features recipes inspired by trips she has personally made to Capri. Since she is a chef who has traveled there, I’m totally interested in that episode. Do I give a shit if Todd is going to enjoy it? Do I care if she’s invited her best friends over for an awkward dinner party to be shown later in the show before the credits roll? NO! I don’t! I hardly think anyone else does, either. Once again, if they do, they need to please stop.
Probably the worst example of Giada’s crimes is when she spent several minutes opening her show by talking about what a beautiful day it was outside and how she was going to go hiking with her husband, Todd. (The fact that I know his name makes me want to vomit.) She then spent what felt like hours making snacks to take with them on the hike instead of, you know, hiking. If it is so damn important to have that crap around for beautiful days in sunny California, why the hell wouldn’t she have it ready in advance? It’s California, for goodness’ sake. It’s always hiking weather. “But, Zelda, the point of the show is to teach viewers how to make the recipes,” you say. EXACTLY. So just do that. Don’t tell me about your stupid plans, Giada. Just tell me what you’re making, make it, and post the recipe online. Then show me the credits, because those people work hard and, god knows, have to hear your stupid stories for probably several takes, and I’m sure you don’t pay them enough. I can only assume your constant need for us to see you eat is some kind of weird sex fetish.
Don’t get mad at me for this. I, too, enjoy more than just the cooking. I always enjoy Paula Deen’s guests and the story of why they are there. But that story is usually less than a minute, and usually they are there to be useful and they brought a recipe or are going to cook or do something. Also, Paula Deen is a Baller, capital “B.”
I especially enjoy Alton Brown’s show, “Good Eats” because he makes usually two or three dishes based on one ingredient and incorporates the “why” not just the “how.” If, occasionally, there are fake family members or characters involved, it is usually hilarious and always educational. No one can tell me that learning to make a cocktail from Alton dressed as the Colonel isn’t funny. You can’t tell me because I won’t listen; I don’t listen to bullshit.
Stop pretending something is a big deal when it isn’t. Pretending shit is a big deal when it isn’t is annoying in any situation, but especially on a cooking show. Giada, when you say the secret ingredient to your Italian cheesy pasta sauce is asiago cheese, it just makes me want to do violence. Not against a person or anything, but it makes me look at the throw pillows with an uncomfortable amount of rage. Ina Garten, when you say you “just can’t wait till your boss sees that you served SPAGHETTI WITH MEATBALLS(!!!!!!!!!!OMG!!!)” at your fancy work party, I straight up want to vomit. Are you insinuating that spaghetti with meatballs isn’t good enough for your work party? Are you saying it over and over (and over!!!) because you want us to know that you think it probably isn’t appropriate but you are trying to relate to people who aren’t fabulously wealthy and often serve spaghetti because it is, like, a dollar? STFU with that stuff. Just show us your fabulous spaghetti and meatballs. You already told us it is your boss’ favorite comfort food, so walk it off and make the damn pasta. (I personally hate spaghetti, FYI. I’m a penne or bowtie kind of girl.)
Now, to my homegirl, Paula: we knew you had diabetes all along, and before I complain about your occasional over-excitement, I want you to know I don’t care about it and I think it is great that you got that lucrative advertising gig. I don’t care what anyone says; you are a Baller, capital “B.” Still, as exciting as it must be for you to throw a gajillion pounds of butter into a pot, it’s got to stop being thrilling after a while. We know it’s coming. It’s not a horror movie; don’t try to shock us. Just show us how to make a nice cake, and always remind us to bang the pan on the counter so all the bubbles get out before we bake it. (I genuinely find that helpful – which is what your shows are supposed to do.)
Just because you only get a half hour to cook food doesn’t mean you have to try to pack it as full as a Die Hard movie. Keep it simple and make the food.
You know what isn’t helpful? Creepy, seemingly fake dinner parties with your (fake?) real life friends. I’m sorry to say that, once again, I’m looking at you, Giada. I’m sure someone told you that it was fun or cute. It isn’t. It’s really awkward. Can you stop that? Thanks, pal.
In conclusion, my request is very simple. Show us how to make good food. Teach us about ingredients we didn’t know about before. Explain to us why we need baking powder or what kind of flour to use for what kind of baking or sauce; show me how to frost a cake efficiently. I realize I’m not a big fancy television producer, and I didn’t run any of this by a focus group or anything, but that is only because I am sure I’m right. I’m sure because I’m talking about what annoys the crap out of me, and I am an expert in that field.
As I said, I love food shows. Almost as much as I love Criminal Minds and even more than I love Nickelodeon (which is a lot). But I love food shows because they are about food, not because they are about strangers’ personal lives or stupid revelations that make no sense.