As should be evident to anyone that’s been reading my blog, I love cooking, whether it’s at home, in the bush or even eating out and watching someone else cook. I’m always looking for different ways to make meals enjoyable as well as easy to prepare, so I often watch various food shows on TV and will watch the Food channel on SBS quite frequently. It’s not that I watch all the shows, there are some that I simply dislike, with baking shows being my least favourite. And what person created Cup Cake Wars? I also don’t like pretentious food shows where the host/s use obscure or difficult to source ingredients that require far more skill to prepare than indicated. And I generally dislike any food show that involves competition. I used to enjoy the latter, up to a point, but My Kitchen Rules killed that pleasure after around the third show with their ever increasing emphasis on personality fights rather than cooking. Imagine how pleasant a show it could be if it pitted contestants in good-natured competition.
What first got me hooked on food shows, and perhaps into cooking, was Keith Floyd who pretty much started the TV food show fad. Maybe that’s where I got the habit of cooking with a glass of wine usually in my hand. From a more modern day outlook, one of my favourites is Secret Meat Business, hosted by Adrian Richardson. Adrian is a down to earth chef that does away with all the rubbish foisted on us by so-called health experts (nanny state adherents) and makes meals that anyone can replicate in their own home. I’ve watched Adrian in previous programs such as Good Chef, Bad Chef and Boys Weekend, and he always seems to be honest and consistent in the way that he presents his meals, as well as his outlook to life and food. All of these food shows are basically simple, enjoyable and non-pretentious entertainment, as well as idea generating programs. I also like some of the American shows on the Food Network, such as Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and Guy’s Big Bite hosted by Guy Fieri, not so much for recipes, but overall ideas. There are others as well and I could go on, for far longer than is necessary.
There are of course more involved food shows that I don’t mind watching from time to time, presented by such people as Nigella Lawson, Rick Stein and James Martin (rarely heard of today). I also enjoy watching the Hairy Bikers (the old stuff anyway) and River Cottage (the British version, not the flop that is the Australian version) until it went vegetarian and did enjoy the late Anthony Bourdain, until he got political (destroying a degree of personal credibility). Some of these cooking shows are simply entertainment based on travel to places that I’m never likely to visit and food that I’m never likely to make, but makes for an interesting alternative to the usual crap that you find on TV. The Chef’s Line on SBS is a cooking ‘competition’ show with a difference and quite enjoyable to watch. But, as an aside, I suspect that the SBS Food Channel has become much more popular than expected, as it too now has an increasing number of annoying ads, which it rarely had at while back. And for a publicly funded station these ads are doubly annoying and makes watching their shows increasingly unbearable.
Then there are the weird food shows like the one hosted by Adam Richman, as an example, who appeared in programs such as Man vs Food where he was challenged by all manner of food from massive quantities to massive heat. And of course there’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, who goes around the world looking for…bizarre food. Many, or most, of these food shows are years old and sometimes long out of production, as we’re only now seeing them on our shores. These food shows come from the US Food Network that’s been adopted by our version on SBS, showing both US shows and Australian productions. Now I will certainly admit that when I watch cooking shows, it’s not necessarily to get recipes that I can later follow. Much of it is to do with absorbing ideas and styles that kind of stay in my subconscious when I start experimenting and bits and pieces of what I’ve watched come to the fore, though not always for the best.
Now what kind of prompted me to write about cooking shows is that with absolutely bugger all to watch on TV (we have to get satellite TV from Northern Australia), I’ve been watching the Food Channel so as to avoid the other intolerable channels. What makes these other TV channels intolerable are the incessant and constantly repeating ads for crap products, insurance and all manner of charities. For some reason it got me thinking about my own interest in cooking and the number of cooking shows that are now so prevalent and how they differ; The Chef’s Line vs My Kitchen Rules as an example. I also started to think about the overall quality of cooking shows and how so many of them are mere shadows of what we used to get years ago, or maybe that’s just me reminiscing about the good old days. The production qualities may have been far less polished than they are today, but the overall quality of what was being presented I think was much better and much more entertaining, possibly because what was presented came from the heart.
Some talk about cooking being their passion, mostly when it comes to cooking competitions (they have to say that), but I think cooking is really a way of life; it reflects who you are, your heritage to some degree and how you look at life. It doesn’t matter where you come from, be it the UK where meat and three veg used to be the staple diet, Southern Europe where food ‘is’ a passion or Asia where every spice under the sun is a cherished ingredient; it’s the enjoyment of food that matters. And, as a final note, any food show that has ‘healthy’ in its title or description is something that I avoid like the plague. To the latter, I suggest that they stop flogging the Nanny State and let people make their own decisions and enjoy their food without trying to enforce a guilt trip.
And, finally, thank you SBS for utterly ruining The Food Channel that not long ago was an enjoyable, virtually ad free, alternative that has now become an ad infested commercial channel.