Monday, April 26, 2010

Support Public Television

On Ma1 31’st the Food Network plans to launch a spin-off network called the Cooking Channel (they must have some clever marketing people coming up with these names). The Cooking Channel is geared towards a younger more progressive hipster audience. Says one of their VPs “The feel and style we’re going for is a little grittier, a little edgier, a little hipper” Grittier and edgier? Sound like they’re making a HBO drama rather than teaching people how to not burn cookies. Thou I'm sure Every Day Italian with Tony Soprano would be a ratings giant.  Since the Food Network’s premier in 1993, the menu of cable TV cooking shows has grown exponentially. Most every network has at least one food related show from Top Chef on Bravo to Inside Brookhaven Obesity Clinic on TLC. But there is one network that has been serving up four star cooking programming for decades, long before people began paying for cable television. I’m talking of course about PBS (Public Broadcasting Service), the original food network, and if you are halfway interested in cooking you should check it out.

Food programming today can be more about the personality of the host than the personality of the food. From Paula Deen’s on air orgasms every time she thinks about butter, to the middle school drama found in every competition show , to the gravitational pull Giada’s boobs has on the eyes of male viewers, there are a million things on today’s food shows to distract the viewer from the food.

When people think about PBS shows like Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers and boring Civil War documentaries (note: documentaries are not boring, they’re pretty awesome) are the first to come to mind. However PBS offers a wide range of food programming On PBS the food and the story behind the food is the star of the show and the hosts come across more like educators than snake oil salesmen.

If you live in the DC area, there is an entire PBS station broadcasting only home and garden programming. Its called WETA Create (channel 265 on Comcast). TWSF highly recommends watching "WETA Guide: Fine Dining Episode" an hour long special that profiles the area's top restaurants. For those of you outside the DC broadcast range check out you local listings for these awesome shows:

America’s Test Kitchen
It is literally a test kitchen, they experiment with recipes until they find the perfect blend of ingredient and technique. They also do scientific taste tests and product evaluations. 

Lidia’s Italy  
Lidia is the closest you can get to having an Italian grandmother, unless of course you are Italian.

Food Trip With Todd English
Boston readers may recognize the name behind many of the area's top restaurants. Find out what makes this chef (model/chef?) tic. Bonus for the lady viewers, Todd was named to one of People Magazine's 50 most beautiful people lists.

Barbecue University with Steven Raichlen
Its BBQ season, so take some lessons from the pit master himself. Forget about hot dogs and hamburgers prof Raichlen will have you grilling things you never imagined.

Made in Spain
Chef Jose Andres whips up authentic Spanish dishes in his home kitchen in DC and follows the ingredients all the way back to Spain. Those in the DC area watch to see the man responsible for all those awesome Spanish restaurants.

Tommy Tang's Easy Thai Cooking
Tommy Tang cooks Thai, easily.

Yan Can Cook
Chef Yan has produced over 1900 episodes (that's over 5 straight years of daily programming, one episode per day)  of his incredibuly popular Chinese cooking show and has yet to feature a recipe that calls for cat or dog, amazing.

Avec Eric
See what inspires the man behind the three Michelin star Le Bernardin. Watch master chef Eric Ripert explore the culinary world with his camera crew.

Julia Child
And of course there is the original television chef/host Julia Child. PBS runs all kinds of Julia Child programming especially since that movie that was inspired by a book that was inspired by a blog that was inspired by an uninspired social worker. Her full television resume includes:
  • The French Chef (1963–1973)
  • Julia Child & Company (1978–1979)
  • Julia Child & More Company (1980–1982)
  • Dinner at Julia's (1983–1985)
  • The Way To Cook (1989) six one-hour videocassettes
  • A Birthday Party for Julia Child: Compliments to the Chef (1992)
  • Cooking with Master Chefs: Hosted by Julia Child (1993–1994) 16 episodes
  • Cooking In Concert: Julia Child & Jacques Pepin (1993)
  • In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs (1994–1996), 39 episodes
  • Baking with Julia (1996–1998) 39 episodes
  • Julia & Jacques Cooking at Home (1999–2000) 22 episodes
  • Julia Child's Kitchen Wisdom, (2000) two-hour special
"Baking with Julia" and "Julia & Jacques Cooking at Home" are the series in heaviest rotation. They feature an elderly Julia who allows her cohost to do most of the cooking. God bless her, its difficult to cook with one hand while the using the other to hold yourself up on the table, she was at it til the very end.

Well there you have it, that list should be more than enough to get started. So if you are tiring of the current offerings of food television give PBS a try. Program that DVR and get watching. And he best part about PBS is that there are no commercials to fast forward through!

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