Food Network - a pinch of salt and pepper

Cape Town restaurant (Photo: K Grose)

The Channel promotes cooking at home, eating with family and friends as well as small and medium size American businesses.

To keep boredom at bay at the gym, I watch TV. My top choice is the Food Network channel.  Why? Because programs are presented in short segments that can be matched to the duration of my exercise routine.  I might see the benefits of a fine pasta while on the bike for 20 minutes, and swoon over a sugary dessert on the treadmill for 15 minutes.

Whatever - I have now become quite knowledgeable.  I now know some of the chefs - Ina Garten, Ree Drummond, Giada de Laurentis, Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri.  I know the formats - the "how to cook" shows like Ina's Barefoot Contessa, the restaurant drama shows like "Restaurant Impossible", The travel tale shows like Drive Ins, Diners and Dives, the chat shows like the new "The Kitchen" and the game shows like "Iron Chef".

From this exercise-induced immersion in the Food Network I have drawn some conclusions - good and bad.

The first is that the Food Network is good for America.  The channel with its TV programs, website, social media and publications promotes cooking at home - eating with family and friends - and small and medium size American businesses.

It challenges America's advertising-saturated news feeds pushing globalized brands and commercialized life styles.  It provides a practical guide on how to cook a simple snack, meal or drink that can be shared with those closest to you or widen to drawn new acquaintances, neighbors and colleagues (what Americans like to call co-workers) into your personal network.  

On cooking, the Barefoot Contesa brings you Ina Garten.  A talented and practical chef, Ina works her kitchen magic out of home in The Hamptons on Long Island with a friendly low-key flair - "Now isn't that easy!" she exclaims. Her techniques are solidly based on the best principles of cooking and her recipes are, for the most part, something one can replicate.  I like her Vegetable Pot Pie. Nutritionally, I perceive her offerings to reasonably balanced on the calorie counter scale.

Ree Drummond's Pioneer Woman mixes food preparation with the people in her life.  Ree is more cook than chef and focuses on what it takes to feed the folks in her life - centered on her family.  The program is charming and the recipes workable and easy.  Unlike Ina who is about entertaining, Ree is more about three meals a day.  Ree's Olive and Cheese Bread recipe has become one of my favorites.  Nutritionally, I perceive her offerings to be high calorie inventions and care is needed if you want to avoid rapid weight gain.

Brussels Sprouts, Cape Town (Photo: K Grose)Giada de Laurentis tops the food glamour charts.  A talented chef that showcases her Italian heritage in a down-to-earth manner.  Her recipes are excellent and workable but can sometimes have a lot of steps and stages.  She introduced me to KALE and RAW broccoli with her wonderful Kale and Gorgonzola Salad. Nutritionally, Giada's offerings are green and healthy - and calorie counts are at modest levels.

My only suggestion to the Food Network is their over emphasis of American comfort (and very fattening) foods.  Sure we all like 4 cheese chili, Mac&Cheese and Four Layer Chocolate Cake topped with hazelnut and chocolate purée, whipped cream and strawberries - who would not?  But the presentation of these kinds of dishes over and over and over again is not helping America find a nutritionally sustainable future.

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