I can’t remember how old my kids were when they cut their first teeth, but if you ask me which episode of Alton Brown’s Good Eats the bloke in the egg protein costume appeared in, I’ll tell you. Yes, I am a hardcore foodie, and like most foodies, my life centres around not just eating, but (and this is kind of a problem) thinking about what my dinner will be while still eating my lunch.
So when the Food Network first launched in America, my wife and I quickly kicked off our shoes, bought our first DVR and hurled the TV remote in a fit of passion (our daughter was born nine months later). How had we gone our entire lives without a channel like this? A 24/7 food channel, are you kidding? How was this possible? Was it sorcery?
It was like imagining life before cell phones. Nothing existed, just the cold and infinite blackness of the void. Whoever had the idea to create a 24/7 food channel deserves not only wealth and pirate riches, s/he also deserves a toast at every holiday party, weekend barbecue, family gathering and tailgate party, and everywhere a fumbling gourmet or gourmand is working hard to impress a potential lady/gentleman friend.
It was Alton Brown who taught me the science behind taste. Specifically the word “tempering”. I remember when I was first courting a lady friend, I was making a pastry cream (yes, ambitious, but this woman was smoking hot). As I fumbled through the recipe, I added the eggs to the butter too quickly and the eggs curdled, leaving me with very labourious scrambled eggs.
I (very stupidly) hid the evidence in the oven and turned my attention to the home made ice-cream I was whipping up. Unbeknownst to me, my date preheated the oven in order to make biscuits. Within minutes the kitchen was smoking from my discarded eggy abomination and I was left with a crime scene in my oven.
My point is, had I seen that episode of Good Eats before that night, I would have learnt to “temper” the egg with the hot mixture to avoid the scrambled FUBAR. You see, up until then people used pages with words called “cook books”, and tempering instructions were relegated to a presumptuous foot note.
I use the word presumptuous because how dare anyone assume I’m smart enough to temper? I didn’t even know the word existed, other than to describe what I have in very short form. Luckily for me, my hot date forgave me. Cut to 16 years later, we have two kids and she’s a classically trained chef working for a prestigious catering company. I am not.
Even when we’re not watching TV, the Food Network is always playing in the background in my house, especially during the holidays. My wife treats the channel much like a banker who leaves financial news on all day, afraid she’ll miss something. The only time we even think about changing the channel is when our children want to watch Dora or Diego (I think that’s what they’re into these days).
Even then, our three-year-old daughter loves Rachel vs Guy Kids Cook Off. If you haven’t seen it you should. Rachel Ray and Guy Fieri champion teams of actual children to cook gourmet adult meals. I know I’m oversimplifying it, but it’s very surreal and fascinating to see kids stressing out because they used capers instead of olives in their dishes.
Personally, I didn’t think kids with encyclopedic food knowledge even existed - it’s very impressive. And while the kids do get a little sassy at times (we try to keep a “sass-free” home), it’s fun to watch the competitive banter, especially between Guy and Rachel, who do a pretty good job wrangling the little baby Gordon Ramsays. To my knowledge, there hasn’t been an on-air Lord of the Flies-type revolt yet.
On occasion, when I have the house to myself and don’t feel like watching cooking shows, this godsend of a channel also does a great job of providing (wait for it) “eating shows”! Who wouldn’t want to see a guy eating thousand-year-old duck eggs or stinky tofu balls. For that, we thank the heavens (emphasis on “heave”) for Andrew Zimmern.
My daughter has walked in on this man eating fried tarantulas. Being a somewhat lazy parent, I told her it was broccoli. I know I’ll have to answer for that someday when she tells me she’s been bitten by a broccoli and I don’t understand what she means.
And for those of us who feel cynical and just want to scoff at everything, there’s a deep primordial pleasure derived from watching Anthony Bourdain No Reservations. This is a chef who has created a brand around being the “anti-chef”, a man who has developed his following by quoting Frost and literally taking the road less travelled. He cooks with 100-year-old grannies, gets hammered with locals in seedy dive bars and eats tacos while watching chicken fights. This is absolutely the kind of person I need in my life (if my wife would just let me go out).
Speaking of which, my son just said his first word! It's... hold on, Ina Garten is making a cheese torte.
Wait, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, watch the Father’s Day BBQ marathon on Sunday from 5:30pm (AEST) on Food Network.
In the meantime, watch Man Fire Food, season 3 episode 1 - "BBQ Sandwiches" - right here: