Monday, March 10, 2008

The Rays Have It

Raymond Sokolov, writing in the March issue of Smart Money, came up with a rather surprising top pick of host after a day of watching the Food Network. Back to that later…He certainly knows his food, but he wrote about the Food Network the same way a person just landing from outer space would have.

He expressed surprise at the telegenic nature of its hosts. Obviously, Sokolov is being completely disingenuous, but how about a real dissection of the problems with the Food Network from somebody who could really contribute to the discussion? It’s a shame he didn’t bother. I think the Food Network’s main problem at the moment is their unwillingness to hire food professionals who can cook the way we foodies demand, while they concentrate too heavily on the entertainment value and attractiveness that their network requires. They certainly err on the side of choosing the latter.

Sokolov noted that “authentic presentations of great food and skilled cooking” are not getting the ratings of their less ambitious culinary presentations. Ok, let’s delve into that a bit more, Ray.

THEN he says, “It makes me sad to see Ina Garten's feeble knife skills exhibited to millions, while dozens of far more talented people who know how to chop and slice brilliantly don't make it on the air.”

WELL!!! It makes ME sad that Ray can’t appreciate (because he hasn’t viewed enough episodes and definitely has never cooked from them) the warmth and simple great taste that she imbues into every single thing that she cooks. (Mostly.)

The test is in the tasting. The test is also in creating recipes that, moments after you see them on television, you want to run to the kitchen and make! And the MANY Barefoot Contessa dishes that have passed muster in my kitchen are testament to the fact the FN got at least something right, when they put her on the air. (He should rather have been criticizing them for yanking her off the air on Saturday afternoons.) So, Ray, don’t you be dissing my girl!

So after his spurious remarks about Ina, just who did Raymond Sokolov cite as his favorite Food Network star? Alton Brown came in second. I know he has plenty of fans, but he has more of a special interest show than a “cooking” show.

His number one choice is…Rachael Ray, BECAUSE (get this) she teaches America how to cook with “fresh” ingredients. It IS true that her kitchen isn’t ruled by packets and potions, BUT her “cuisine” is defined by meat, more meat and more meat after that; dishes that are heavy on cheese to take the place of more delicate flavors; and a reliance on the same several recipes – meat balls, meat sauce, pasta sauce, “sammies” with meat; plus a refusal to tackle anything as complicated as “baking” or even toasting bread. Her “figure friendly” or healthy recipes usually consist of something like whole wheat pasta with a nasty cauliflower “sauce”.

I feel as if those of us that have logged hour after hour with the channel have a right to complain (indeed, even a duty!), but a casual observer who blasts my favs can go back to his restaurant reviews.


Catherine Wilkinson said...

I'm baffled. "Knive skills" trumps Ina's cooking chops and personality warmth? I watch RR drag the blade (the sharp side) of her orange knife over the cutting board time after time! What an odd review with dubious conclusions.

Matt said...

I'm with you on your assessment of this "review." I read it as well, and there's very little substance to Sokolov's disdain for the Food Network. In fact, he spent more time describing what each of the network personalities looked like! The appeal of the host is important considering we're talking about TV, but parenthetically dissing Ina as "pudgy" is pretty cheap. I also take issue with his declaration of how "downmarket" the culinary approach is on the Food Network. If he doesn't find the recipes and cooking instruction to be authentic or to adequately represent the culture- fine. But instead, he comes off as classist food snob- which is both insulting and boring.

Sue said...

Hi Catherine,
I KNOW...I was surprised at how unsavvy he was about the FN, which, admittedly, often has nothing to do with fine cooking. And to give such plaudtis to Rachael Ray is quite intriguing.

Hi Matt!
What's going on? I'M lost without MattisLostinTV.
Check out my comment to Ray:

Matt said...

Sue- that's a great comment you left over on SmartMoney. I'm glad you are sticking up for Ina!

Matt is Lost in TV might be heading for a comeback- we'll see!

Sue said...

Thanks, darlin'. I appreciate it.

Emiline said...

He obviously does't know that Ina has a cult following.
He should be scared. Very scared.

I've made several of her recipes and have been happy with the results. I think she might be the only FN person that I've used recipes from. (That's reached mega celebrity status)

I'm going to go read your comment.

Sue said...

I don't get it. He's an amazing writer and cook and food person, someone I would have thought Ina could even have had in her stable of friends.

I love her...I honestly love her. (I wish I had no problem with stealing music...Olivia Newton John would have come in handy right there.)

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I wouldn't know a good knife skill if it hit me in the face. I know I'm ignorant on the topic, however, people seem to enjoy my cooking and forgive me for it.

What burned my butt is that he blasted INA's knife skills, but thinks Rachael Ray is just great? Her knife skills are worse than mine - and her food is gross with a capital G. She ran out of ideas years ago.

This guy pretty much echoes what the FN is all about now. A lot of people don't like Ina because they have that same feeling from her that I do - an anti-Hamptons reaction against perceived snobbery. IF people feel that way, that's fine. I still admit Ina can cook (did I not do an entire blog recently where I featured her recipe for Coq au Vin?). Her recipes are original and abundant. This guy is obviously someone who values style over substance. (Not that Rachael has much style - clothes-wise or performing-wise.)

Grrr...Tell me again why I watch the Food Network?

Actually I'm writing this comment from an internet cafe in London,where I have enjoyed 4 FN-free, Rachael Ray-free (no constant ads and shows featuring RR here in this country, so refreshing) days. Sadly, it ends tomorrow. I've done quite well without mindlessly watching food all day.

Sue said...

Hi Rachel,
You lucky thing. Indian food and the National Gallery are my 2 favorite things in London. Oh and a Pickaninny Poppet from Fortnum's. Maybe by now they've changed the name...I sure hope so.

I know you have problems with Ina, but, at least, you recognize her recipe supremacy, certainly as compared to Rachael Ray. My theory is that men like RR'S bouncy, animated, cheerful persona, because it's completely unchallenging AND they think they can always get a burger from her. Why Raymond Sokolov does is beyond me.

Boy, have you been missing big doings in Albany! Travel safe!

Adriana Velez said...

Wow, see, this is why I never watch the food network. Oh yeah, also because I don't have cable. But it saddens my that there is so much unfulfilled potential with FN.

Sue said...

Hi Adriana,

In some ways you're not missing anything, but when I think of the hours I've spent with Ina, Michael, Giada and, of course, Aunt Sandy...just kidding...there have been plenty of wonderful recipes and tips. I guess you'll just have to come here to learn about them, which is fine with me.

prtybrd said...

I find it amusing that Ray picks the least trained, least original, least appealing (food-wise) individual on FN, and holds them up as paragon for others to follow. He just proved he knows NOTHING.

Adriana Velez said...

Thanks, Sue. I still remember Ms. Moulton's method for chopping onions back when I still have cable. Glad I can still get the "filtered" version of FN.

Sue said...

Hi PrtyBird,
That’s what weird. He DOES know stuff, a lot of stuff. There really is no accounting for taste.

Visit anytime. Does not having cable mean that you use rabbit ears and that you’re completely freed from the tyranny of the cable companies? Lucky you.