I’m the sort of American who apologises. Fast food culture, Fox news, consumer distribution of the Hummer – on behalf of my countrymen, I am sorry. But there are a few things America got right, and the Food Network is one of them. Nowhere else can you watch so many attractive people eating. Except maybe at Boogaloos in the Mission.
Kat and I used to fall asleep each night to Alton Brown, and I can’t tell you the number of times I had filthy, sordid dreams about him in which his glasses got all smudged and his sterile cooking surface defiled. There is something about watching someone cook, and then watching them eat what they’ve cooked, or watching someone talk to the person who cooked the thing that they’re eating (Rachel Ray, I’m
looking at fantasising about you), that automatically invokes sex to me. I’m quite sure that eating is almost the same thing as fucking – the beignettes at The Commoner were a sort of shag in and of themselves – and to me watching someone fuck is often better than doing the fucking myself. So it’s only appropriate that watching Giada de Laurentiis slice into a watermelon with her eyes lifted to the camera whilst wearing a low-cut top can be viewed as a sort of porn.
There’s also this thing where you feel like your friends are sharing recipes with you. When you’re swapping recipes, you know who you’d go after for advice on a roast, and who you’d speak to about avocado gelati – and often they are not the same person. The Food Network’s website lets you look at about 30 different recipes for banana bread, and you know that Emeril‘s is going to sit in your stomach like a rock and that Paula Deen‘s is going to call for three sticks of butter, and so you decide which friend’s banana bread you would be more inclined to like. (In this case I’d probably go with Deen’s Southern Baptist Drag Queen take on things. Also, I think her sons are sleeping together.)
My newfound domesticity, which mostly hangs out in the kitchen, has sent me to foodnetwork.com almost daily, and I love the satisfaction of seeing something you would never come up with yourself in an ingredients list. It invokes that ‘oh, you!’ expression towards the author of the recipe, and creates this sort of intimacy that occurs when you share the alimentary with other people – even on the mass scale that exists with the Food Network’s expansive reach in the world of mainstream food media. It also makes culinary exploration more accessible to those who can benefit from it most – the suburban housewife, meat-and-three-(frozen)-veg chefs out there who will buy anything Emeril tells them to. Sometimes the man on the teevee tells you the right thing to do.
Only in American could celebrity chefdom expand into a mass-multimedia conglomerate like the Food Network, and to that I say ‘fuck yeah’. It’s also the only place where Mark Summers could still find work. But I think the very greatest thing about the Food Network is that it paves the way for some media-savvy, d.i.y., market-going, tech-geek foodies to start their own alt.food.network…don’t act like you wouldn’t get into your best apron for it.