My daughter and I have been watching a lot of cooking shows lately.
The first cooking-related show we watched was some time ago, "Kitchen Nightmares." We watched it a few times, and found it interesting how the restaurant owners seemed to end up ignoring all the advice they were given, go back to their own way- and promptly go out of business. Some of the changes that were recommended were extreme, for sure, but it seems to me that if you bother getting professional help, you might want to recognize that maybe they know more about it than you do. I guess not, though. At least not the ones we saw.
Recently, we started watching "The Next Great Baker" and had so much fun with it, that we started watching other shows as well. We've seen "Cupcake Wars," "Chopped," "Worst Cooks in America," "Top Chef," "Kitchen Boss," and the first few minutes of "Iron Chef America."
The appeal, for me, is seeing what people do with the challenges they are given. What do they come up with? What would I choose? Would I like what they made, or not? Are there techniques that I'm not familiar with; things I could learn?
The answers vary with each show.
In "The Next Great Baker," there are techniques I've never tried. I bake a great cake, but am not much of a decorator, really. I've tried a few times, and really enjoyed it, but haven't spent enough time practicing to be able to be consistent. I've never used fondant, and although it looks fun, I'm not crazy about eating it, so I probably won't ever work very much on it.
"Cupcake Wars" is a little like a guilty pleasure sort of novel. Pretty, but not a lot of substance. We watched it tonight, and in the discussion afterwards, agreed that some of the bizarre flavors that people seem to favor don't really do much for us. Give me a really excellent chocolate cupcake, with a fabulous buttercream, over some Chai flavored cupcake with green icing piped onto it to look like grass, but it looks more like a hairball to me. I far prefer solid excellence to something bizarre for the sake of being "different."
We've only watched "Chopped" once, so far. Interesting format, four people, three courses, one person eliminated each time. They are given a set of ingredients for each course, and the combinations are unusual, to say the least. Again, I prefer less bizarre flavors to eat, but I do find it interesting to see how they choose to combine things. I would not have wanted to eat any of the courses I saw, but overall, I think they mostly did good jobs with coming up with something in a very limited amount of time.
"Worst Cooks in America" is our most recent new show to watch. They auditioned people who were nominated by their families as terrible cooks. How sad is that? The show starts out with two teams of eight, each mentored by a professional chef through an eight week "boot camp." One person from each team is eliminated each episode, until there are only two competitors left, and they each cook a three course meal, using their mentor's recipes. We saw the final episode of one season, and they both did so well it was difficult to decide which we would have chosen.
"Top Chef" is probably the most classic cooking of them all. They expect the competitors to have a culinary education, and to have a strong foundation of basic cooking skills. This show reminded me of how much I know without realizing that I know it.
"Kitchen Boss" has the same host as The Next Great Baker, and we really like Buddy, and find him interesting, so we started watching a second show of his. We've only watched one so far, so I don't really have much of an opinion about it- except it's Buddy, and we still like him.
We only watched a few minutes of "Iron Chef America" because we didn't like the format of the show AT ALL. Not even enough to finish the episode.
All this cooking show watching goes hand-in-hand with the focus we've had around here for the past several weeks of doing a lot more cooking, a lot more experimenting with food. All four of us are participating in this cooking Renaissance, and it's pretty interesting.
I don't really remember not being able to cook. My daughter also doesn't remember not cooking. Both boys have had a few things they could make, but only recently have become interested in learning more.
Being able to cook is such an important skill. Food is important. It's all caught up with culture, family and comfort. Tradition. Many relationships begin with a shared meal. Families are sustained by good food.
I remember learning to bake bread with my mother, and learning to fry the perfect southern fried chicken with my father. Now, my kids will remember learning to cook with me. They will likely cook with their own children, should they have any, much like we've been doing. The very thought makes me smile.