Posts Tagged ‘The Urban Peasant’

The Foodie 13 – TV Shows

If anyone’s been wondering, running a semi-successful food blog can be exhausting.  I have no shortage of inspiration and ideas to write about, but finding the time to get it all down on virtual paper can be a bit of a challenge.  Plus I impose deadlines on myself (like posting a new Foodie 13 every 2 weeks or so) to try and ensure I’m keeping things fresh and relevant for followers from the internest.  With that in mind, I give you our next installment of the Foodie 13

There’s nothing I love more than foodie TV.  Growing up I could sit and watch cooking shows for hours on end, always captivated and entertained by what was happening onscreen.  When the Food Network finally came to Canada, it was one of the first times I felt like there were other people out there who were just like me.  There’s something so magical (and perverse) about the seeming perfection that’s portrayed on food television that I can’t get enough of, even though like most media, it upholds an unrealistic and mostly unattainable ideal.  As an adult, I find it’s almost the only television I bother with anymore, except for the occasional movie, infomercial (for laughs) or gameshow (Supermarket Sweep anyone?).  So, in no particular order, an ode to some of my favorite TV pleasures both new and old, beloved and reviled.

1- Iron Chef (Japan) - Plenty of people hate this show and think it’s terribly gimmicky, but it’s exactly that kitschiness that I love.  From the bad dubbing and voice-overs, to the cardboard cutout-like poses of each of the chefs, it’s so over the top that you can’t look away.  A few things I especially loved about this program were the Prince of Pasta’s rising out of the floor second-rate intro, the floor reporter always calling for Fukui-san (which to this day I still think of as squeegee-san), and the papi (grandfather-like) Japanese chef Rokusaburo Michiba.  Attempting to watch the American version proves that it literally pales in comparison, and as I’ve noted before, I can’t even be bothered to watch unless Jeffrey Steingarten is on.

2- The Urban Peasant - Watching reruns of this show today is proof that the sands of time can soften memories.  When I was younger I was transfixed by James Barber drunkenly cooking up a storm, but when you revisit the show now, you realize how unappetizing and unsanitary his food and preparation are.  I liken that time in food TV to the wild west; an era where people did not know better, or necessarily realize what would make good TV.  It was definitely the polar opposite of the hyper-stylized completely pre-prepared Rachel Ray type shows we have today, and for that reason alone, it makes it on my list.  Plus, you can’t deny that he always looked like he was having a rollicking good time!

3- Good Eats - Long before Alton Brown became the affable, American version of Shinichiro Ohta, there was (and still is) Good Eats.  A show for the food geek in all of us, Alton managed to combine science, cooking and some unique comic performances into one tight and tasty package.  Always informative, the show specialized in not only teaching you the recipe, but explaining the why behind the recipe too.  I value Alton Brown’s opinion so much that when I once saw a $200 blender on one episode, I ordered it the very next day.  And while the RPM turned out to be nothing more than a flashy kitchen gadget with a tachometer, the show’s cooking advice has never steered me wrong.

4- Cook Like A Chef - I’m almost positive this show never aired outside of Canada, but I couldn’t help but include this small piece of Canadiana.  The premise behind Cook Like A Chef was a revolving cast of great Canadian chefs, showcasing their unique talents for the world to a cool, jazzy tune with lots of 360* shots.  Typically each episode consisted of 2 or 3 segments of the chefs preparing tasting portions of their signature dishes.  Notable names attached to the project included Ned Bell, Michael Bonacini and Carolyn McCann Bizjak, most of whom are probably unknown outside of the Great White North anyway.  While the show originally aired in 2001 shortly after the Food Network’s Canadian inception, it’s been enjoying somewhat of a renaissance now that the Food Network has put a greater focus on Canadian content again.


The Foodie 13 – TV Personalities

A conversation I had with the Everyman last week inspired the topic for our second installment of The Foodie 13.

As we enjoyed a dinnertime nosh, we started talking about some of our favorite foodie TV hosts of all time.  It became apparent to me a long time ago that people’s tastes in television personalities are as varied as their tastes in clothing.  My mother, for instance, loves Martha Stewart (creepy), The Two Fat Ladies (weird and unhealthy) and Ina Garten (uber-annoying).  Then there are people who enjoy Guy Fieri (so I’m told) and Rachel Ray (I have no idea why).  One thing that the Everyman and I agreed on was how awesome it would be if they gave Ted Allen and Jeffrey Steingarten a show of their own.  It would be like a modern version of the odd couple… only foodie-focused.  It got me thinking about who would make my list of top TV personalities… so in no particular order, let’s find out, shall we?

1- James Barber - A perennial favorite in my household growing up, James Barber was a character that was easy to love.  Though it’s likely he was always pickled-drunk, he was entertaining and amusing, and had much to do with inspiring my love of cooking and food over the years.  To watch his show now is both reminiscent and horrifying; it’s a wonder that I never noticed how unsanitary cooking shows used to be back then.

2- Alton Brown - A man of many talents and one for all seasons.  Whether laughing along to bad jokes or skits on Good Eats, or being captivated by his Feasting on Asphalt (or Waves), Alton Brown is as approachable and charismatic a host as you could hope for.  He’s educational and fun, and seems like the kind of guy I’d like to talk to over a beer (if I drank beer).  I won’t comment on his appearances on Iron Chef America, because I like to pretend they didn’t happen.

3- Ted Allen - Trendy enough for the younger generation (due to his tenure on QEFTSG), but non-threatening enough that your grandmother could fall for him, Ted Allen is a lovable, foodie TV fixture.  I mourned the loss of him during season 5 of Top Chef, but was taken by his new Good-Eats-meets-Popular-Science show Food Detectives.  I hear great things about Chopped too, but have yet to see an episode here in ass-backwards Canada.  From what I’ve heard about it though, it sounds awfully similar to the show that personality #9 hosts.  Plus, he’s not nearly as creepy looking when he’s in motion! :)

4- Jeffrey Steingarten - While he has yet to be granted a show of his own, his appearances on Iron Chef America are usually the only reason I’ll tune in.  I set the Tivo to record and fast forward to 15 minutes in – the point where they introduce the guest judges.  If Jeffrey’s on, chances are I’ll continue watching.  If Jeffrey and Ted Allen are there, I can’t not watch every gory moment.  The two of them together are like a train wreck that you just can’t tear yourself away from.  Never before has a curmudgeon been quite so entertaining, though I’m still trying to figure out how he managed to become so damn famous in the first place…