The Food Channel is one of my go-tos for TV to have on when I want to have intermittent entertainment but don’t want to pay close attention. It covers up the sound of my own chewing while I eat. Really, I enjoy it for the same reason I like eating lunch at a bar. It’s nice to have company that will ask you to pass ketchup or remark about the bowtie the dude on ESPN is wearing every so often, but not expect you to look at him or talk too much.
Between bites, I might hear something that makes me look away from my plate at the better looking TV food and listen. I like picking up a tip or two about what spice to add to tuna and why I should leave an egg out for an hour before using it.
Here’s the other similarity with eating lunch at a bar: sometimes the person sitting next to me is irritating. Even if he or she doesn’t demand constant attention, they might have a strange laugh or over-active fork elbow, or a cough that reminds me of cholera epidemics I never experienced and convinces me that reincarnation is real. Here are the irritations I have to put up with on the Food Channel.
The word chef: I think Chef Ramsay is to blame for the militaristic use of the title chef. “Yes, chef.” “I understand, chef.” “Two minutes, chef.” (It’s always two minutes.) Add a clean uniform with an embroidered nameplate to the much respected chef in question, create an artificial time crunch, and yell a lot, and I get flashbacks to basic training.
Hair: Something about the love of food makes people do weird things to their hair. Watch and count the number of hairstyles you would have to look away from if confronted by them in public. Food, especially the falutin to high-falutin varieties, is all about presentation. Smear a sauce, arrange little bits of cut this-and-that’s on top of it and send the tower of pretty out to the customer who wants a reason to pay a hundred dollars for a piece of fish and a vegetable all children hate. This same sort of theory must be applied to the chefs themselves. They must present themselves in a way that makes them stand out, that makes people give them big money to show up at a local food contest to say things anyone’s aunt is saying for free. Hair seems to be primary avenue to creating a memorable appearance. Moose is alive and well on the Food Network. Or is it olive oil?
Protein: I don’t think I’m irritated by the way all of the chefs on TV refer to meat as protein as much as I’m irritated by people not on TV imitating them. I suppose it is accurate to talk about the protein on the plate when one wants to include all things that weren’t formally walking around or swimming. I have heard that some people eat beans or tofu instead of meat. The practice has gotten out of hand, though, and is now used even if everything on every plate once drank mother’s milk and screamed when punched. I have heard everyday people refer to “the protein” in a meal–and not just weight lifters. I hear them now when I hear the TV chefs use the too-inclusive term, and for whatever reason, my mind goes immediately to Soylent Green, which, despite its name, certainly was not soy. “Soylent Green is protein!” just isn’t a catchy line.
Acid: Not once in my entire life have I heard people complain about not having enough acid in their food. They might say “something’s missing” or “I bet a little lemon juice would be good in this,” but the infatuation with acid and its parent infatuation with balance is purely a TV trope. (“That dessert is too sweet!” I hear a lot on TV, but, again, never in real life.) Just try it next time you’re at a restaurant. “Excuse me, but I put my swimming pool test strip in this soup, and it really needs some more acid.”
Pretentious Forks: This last irritant is quite controversial, I’m sure. We at uglY cOUsin don’t pretend to think one way of doing things is right and another wrong. We appreciate cultural differences and recognize our own irrational preferences and, yes, even druthers. Taste is horizontal, we say, not vertical. No one way is necessarily better than another. That said, the way the people on TV eat with the curve of their fork facing downward strikes me as pretentious and impractical. If you were brought up in one of those countries that eats upside-down, you can’t help it. But if you are from the good ol’ USA, especially the flyover part like we are, eating upside-down seems like an insult to one’s mother and common sense. Why not eat with your spoon upside-down as well. Hold the knife by the sharp edge. That will show everyone your sophistication.
With these things in mind, I now retreat to the sofa, sandwich, no sammich, in hand, and I turn on the Food Network. Wish me luck. And if you want a hint at what I’ll review next, re-visit my review of the entire line-up on Sling TV.