Overthinking Everything: Lunch with Julia

If you've ever seen me, you wouldn't be surprise in the slightest that I like to cook and I like to watch people cook.  I sort of like cooking shows, and I sort of like Food Network.  The latter has been trying to make itself hip & cool, with the end result being more shows like Ace of Cakes, with supposedly wacky workplaces that are only increasingly vaguely related to food, and rip-offs of popular network shows like Restaurant: Impossible (which, to be fair, feels more like the more entertaining British version of Kitchen Nightmares and keeps covering places I've been).  The cooking shows veer between two schools: "hand full of amphetimines" and "hand full of Valium", with the shows that brokes the mold apparently vanishing.  Seriously, when was the last time we got a new season of Good Eats?  It's pretty dire.

But Food Network isn't as dire as its sister channel, the Cooking Channel.  With the exception of Foodography (which is buoyed largely by Mo Rocco's snarky narration), most of the shows are deadly dull.  There's magazine shows where the obnoxious PR agent (whose only client is herself) that ruined Iron Chef America dominates the comments on what makes good food (I swear this woman is sleeping with the networks' owner, since she has no talent & is unpleasantly abrasive).  And the cooking shows?  Most are Canadian shows that were too damn dull for their home country and drifted like broadcast refugees until some channel got desperate enough to take them.  "Hand full of Valium" doesn't do the level of forced tranquility justice, and they also feel the need to preface each episode with "I am having friends over, so now I shall cook".  We know it's a cooking show - you don't need to give us an excuse as to why you are cooking!

But they have one show, one single solitary show, that justifies their existence.  In the past couple of months, they have started airing the color episodes of The French Chef under the syndication title of Julia Child and Friends.  Her show is AMAZING.  Julia doesn't speak like she's had elocution lessons since she could walk; she stammers, ad libs, and sounds out of breath at times.  She shows nervousness in front of the camera.  But damn, does she know her food.  She can make making a sugar cage for a fancy cake seem doable at home.  She doesn't cut everything into precise even pieces with robotic speed; she hacks away at stuff, like a normal person.  She knows that mistakes will be made and excuses will follow and that not every plate turns out picture perfect.  She also knows that it's the taste that matters, not the pretty presentation.  In short, Julia Child acts like a human being, not a food robot.

I'm sure Cooking Channel only has this show on to fill up space and pretend they have some sense of genre history.  But it's the most watchable show on their entire schedule.  As she herself said in the episode with the Gateau in a Cage, we need to get over the fear of failure that keeps us from trying something unless we're sure it'll be perfect.  It's a marked contrast to the overly perfect androids that populate the rest of the schedule.


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