Anyone who knows me, knows what a strange post this is for me to write. I don’t like cooking or baking. At all. Oh I try to help. I’m kind of the sous chef in our house, but I’m not a good one. I’m always in danger of cutting off fingers, I forget to use potholders, I don’t understand where the nipples are on almonds that they get the milk from, and I’m really really really slow at measuring ingredients. I try, and I do help. But I would always much rather be doing dishes. The truth is that Jodi does most of the cooking and baking, and I do most of the dishes.
You know how most women (at least straight women) say they want a man who is handsome, loves to cook, and plays the piano? Boy, did my wife blow it.
But in the last year especially, when things got extra stressful with COVID and politics, I found that I just didn’t want to watch the news at all. I couldn’t. It stressed me out too much. I wanted to watch the most non-threatening things possible. And somehow, that became food shows, and home improvement shows. Of course, Jodi was thrilled with that.
I’ve watched so many food shows now that I started to really like many of them. I actually now have a top 5 list, which is so weird. But here it is.
#5 The Barefoot Contessa
At first I wasn’t sure I would like The Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten), but it’s grown on me a lot over time. For one thing, the woman puts way too much butter and salt in everything, and I am so good with that. Every dish looks perfect and amazing and like it’s going to kill me if we actually tried to make it.
She’s clearly got more money than God, and I don’t usually like to spend too much time thinking about the richest of the rich. But she seems very nice and her kitchen, house, and grounds are beautiful. Also, Jodi is in love with her little gray, curly-haired husband Jeffrey. I think she wants to knock both me and Ina off and then marry him.
Fettuccine with white truffle butter? Are you kidding me? I would take a bath in this dish.
Ina also seems to really like her cocktails. In fact, when COVID started, she made a short video making a giant cosmopolitan. I think it would be the most fun thing in the world to be invited to a dinner party at her house, eat the most decadent dishes, and then watch her get sloppy drunk and make awkward passes at everyone.
#4 Symon’s Dinners Cooking Out
Most people probably don’t even know about Symon’s Dinners Cooking Out. I mean, it’s got to be hard to get any exposure amidst the millions of competition cooking shows on TV. Actually, I think most of the cooking shows we watch are on PBS because the other networks seem to be mostly one competition show after another. It’s so unusual to come across a show these days that actually shows you how to cook or bake.
Michael Symon was streaming cooking classes from his home since the pandemic struck in early 2020, and those classes became so popular that the next thing you know, he began self-filming his TV show in his backyard in New York. It’s just a couple of grills, some fresh ingredients, family members helping out with the filming and cooking, and a really nice garden in the background.
I think I really like this show because it’s so accessible. It’s like your neighbor showing you how to cook. And in this case, that neighbor looks a lot like my friend Rich, so there’s that. He also has the craziest laugh I’ve ever heard.
#3 Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street
Jodi used to watch the show America’s Test Kitchen, which was co-founded by Christopher Kimball. It was a highly successful show, but in 2015 there was a falling out and Kimball was apparently fired. He says it was because of his age. So he started the show Milk Street, which in my opinion is even better.
Probably the main reason I like some shows better than others are the personalities of the people on them. Christopher Kimball is just a likeable man, and so is his staff. They’re down-to-earth; nothing false or artificially shiny about them. Plus, they make really delicious-looking dishes.
My favorite episodes are those where they Christopher travels to another country where he discovers amazing dishes. Then back in the United States, he and his staff try to re-create them.
#2 The Great British Baking Show
Okay, I know it’s really weird that I have this at #2. Only because I’m not real big on competition shows, or reality shows in general. Jodi and I are probably the only two people on earth who have never seen Survivor or The Bachelor. We just have no interest in that.
And the food competition shows? Well, it’s kind of the same, especially in the United States. A lot of them seem to be unnecessarily aggressive and testosterone-rich.
Cook Dammit! I Said Cook, You $@%#! (Just kidding.)
I know millions of people enjoy shows like that, and more power to them. They’re just not my thing.
But there’s just something about The Great British Baking Show. Maybe it’s that contestants in the UK are more likely to cheer one another on (genuinely) and help one another instead of acting like it’s war.
The hosts are also always funny and help to keep the atmosphere light. I don’t know why, but I can’t get enough of this show.
#1 The French Chef
I know this seems like cheating since The French Chef with Julia Child was on the air from 1963 to 1973, but hey, it’s my blog and my rules. Besides, you can buy the DVD set like we did and watch it whenever you want.
Julia Child was the best and nobody will ever replace her. Her show pioneered everything that has come after it. The French Chef was old, old school, with no fancy tricks. Just Julia Child and her bigger-than-life personality doing things nobody had done on TV before.
This is also one of my earliest memories. I can remember my mom watching her show and trying her best to write down the recipes with us kids crawling all over her and making her miss big chunks of an episode. I don’t know how many partial recipes my mom had saved over the years, but it was a lot. Then again, I don’t think a lot of the recipes were too realistic for her to make. It was always like, “Mom, face it, you’re not going to be making Cornish game hens for 10 people. Admit it, we’re having tuna casserole again.”
Every aspect of this show is fun to watch 50 years after the fact. It’s especially fun to watch Julia mess up on camera and just keep moving through it. One of the best moments is when she tried to flip a potato with “the courage of her convictions” and it didn’t go well, so then she tried to fix it.
I also remember fondly when she introduced a “peep of chickens.”
And Dan Ackroyd on Saturday Night Live made the most of it.
Julia Child. There’s nothing not to like about her.
So that’s my top 5 list. You should really check these shows out if you haven’t already seen them. They’re definitely much better than cable news for your blood pressure.