My absolute favorite thing to do whilst putting in my time on an elliptical trainer at the gym is to watch Food Network's "In the Kitchen" lineup. I am trying to decide if this habit of feeding my brain visual calories while burning physical ones is, in fact, irony. I can tell you that if I am watching Paula Deen while I work out, and if she uses a lot of butter and mayonnaise, I somehow feel dirtier post-workout than I ordinarily do. It's as if my body is rejecting the thought of suspended fats by revving up the sweat glands in some sort of pre-emptive strike.
Since when I work out depends largely on my kid's and husband's schedules, I work out at a lot of different times of day. So I have pretty much seen every major Food Network personality in action. Like a parent, I love them all equally, but in different ways.
The following are my thoughts on some of the Food Network hosts I see the most.
Y'all know I love her. Even when she deep-fries a stick of butter and serves it with melted butter and some mayonnaise dipping sauce on the side.
I really, really didn't want to like her. You've heard that you should never trust a skinny cook? Well, I didn't want to trust the cooking of someone who is both skinny and movie-star gorgeous. And I couldn't help getting a little distracted by her assets. But she has become one of my favorites to watch--she's fun, her food looks fantastic and the few things I've tried have turned out great, and her ideas for entertaining actually seem like things I could do. I have never heard the word "tablescape" come from her lovely lips.
Which brings me to...
I think Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee has little merit as anything other than a good drinking game (Drink every time she adds vodka to something! Drink every time she says, "tablescape!" Drink if her outfit matches the new curtains in her kitchen! Drink every time she says, "store-bought!"). But I have to admit that I feel affection for Food Network's biggest lush--she's like that semi-crazy aunt we all have who shows up at every family gathering with a gallon jug of strong margaritas and some covered dish she says is "fantastic" but ends up tasting like paste. I have no urge to try to cook anything I've ever seen her make, but I think attending one of her dinner parties would be like the funnest thing ever. After one or two of her martinis, I think even marshmallows covered in fondant would seem like a good idea.
First of all, they starve me to death. Their food is pure comfort. Paula Deen's brand of southern food can sometimes overwhelm me and occasionally uses ingredients (like fresh shrimp or lump crabmeat) I can't easily get here in Kentucky. Every episode I've seen of Down Home With the Neelys features at least one item that I can tell is Kroger brand. Now that's my kind of no-pretension cooking. But watching an episode can be like turning on Cinemax at 11pm on a Friday night--you know someone's gonna be getting it on, you just don't know if you'll still have the TV on when it happens. I haven't seen that much sexual innuendo on a family-friendly show since June told Ward he came down a little hard on the Beaver last night (ba-dum-bum.) Yesterday afternoon I actually laughed out loud in the gym when Pat told Gina with a twinkle in his eye that he was gonna melt her butter (to which Gina replied, "Yeah, baby!") and then offered to squeeze her lemons. Is it warm in here?
The Barefoot Contessa
I saved the best for last.
I know a lot of men would play house with Giada in a heartbeat (my husband included) but I think they're choosing the wrong woman. I would totally marry Ina Garten in a heartbeat, if I swung that way. This menu is how she cooks for her husband. Loster pot pie. Green salad with a homemade vinaigrette. Deeply chocolate gelato. The day I saw this episode air, I wanted to call the Contessa and see if she has any openings available for New Best Friend. Seriously, I think that dinner would be what eating in heaven is like. Most of her episodes show her cooking something fabulous for her Jeffrey--guys, you want to be this man.
I know I left off the fave of some you readers, Alton Brown, but his show is a league of its own and is as much science show as cooking show. But yeah, I love him, too. Though I draw the line at buying a scale and weighing ingredients in the metric system.
Who are your faves, my Foodies? And how many of you guys would leave your wives for Giada?