Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Hillary Is To Obama As Paula Is To The Neelys…

That headline just occurred to me after looking at a lot of the heated feedback I’ve been getting about this post. No subject on my blog has engendered the same level of occasionally unpleasant debate as Pat and Gina Neely. I guess this hot political season has spilled over onto food television. BTW, I don’t mind heated comments, but I won’t post nasty ones.

There seem to be two sides to this issue: people who hate the Neelys, because they regard them as stereotypical, over-the-top, hackneyed, poor black role models and people who hate me, because they think my criticism of the Neelys’ love of overcooked steak, Cool Whip and other garbage additions to perfectly good recipes is racist.

I’m writing about one thing mainly: the food. Of course, other stuff comes into play with judging the merits of a show. Do we like the host(s) as people? Can we relate to them? Not just Pat and Gina, but all the hosts.

Many people have a hard time with Ina, because they can’t relate to her Hampton-ness. I find her warm and cozy and don’t mind at all that she lives in a beautiful house. I don’t even begrudge her apartment in Paris. (More great shows for us.)

I love hearing about the Neelys’ grandmothers and Gina trying to get on her mother-in-law’s good side by making her favorite recipes. I love the talk of a strong male role model for their daughters…all that stuff. But it all comes down to the food. If the food’s good, even if the host is a pissant, you have to admire the final result. In the same way, you may have a perfectly affable host, but if the food doesn’t do it…forget it.

That’s really what it comes down to for me. Let’s debate the hot topic of macaroni and cheese on top of stove versus in the oven. Or is pasta salad better with mayo or vinaigrette. (Both!) Or even…GASP!!! barbecue better with a vinegar-based sauce or a tomato one or should you go with pulled pork or chopped pork?

OF COURSE, there should be every color, ethnicity and gender on the Food Network – but each show, no matter its bent, should demonstrate excellent cuisine, whether fancy, fanciful or just plain fattening.

And let’s not use the Neelys as an opportunity for race baiting. They’re obviously an incredibly successful couple. Has that translated into a 100% successful Food Network show? We don’t know quite yet, they’ve just begun, but that doesn’t mean it won’t.

My objection with any show is overloading a recipe with too much crap, too much onion powder, too much fake stuff. Is it really too much to ask to use REAL food? That’s it. That’s all I want. It can have as many calories, as much fat as you want, just make it REAL.


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Despite being one of those anti-Ina people, I do know what you mean. (Heck, I'll even concede that I do watch Ina sometimes because she does have some good recipes if she's not using smoked salmon). I'm not one of those people who won't watch Giada because I find her head/teeth/cleavage offensive (although lately I've been offended by her shortcuts). But I've always been bothered by the lack of diversity on the Food Network. They only seemed to be reaching out to one audience. I was really pleased when I first saw that the Neelys would be on TV. Finally, some diversity.

I haven't watched the show yet, but from everything I heard, their recipes aren't great. I haven't been impressed with what I'm seeing online when I look at their recipes. This really wan't what I had in mind.

I wonder if this is the kind of food they serve at their restaurant. If it is, why is it so popular? If it isn't, why aren't they cooking that food on their show?

Emiline said...

Well said.
You'd think these days, Food Network would be moving in a different direction with their shows. Well, maybe they are, with Jamie at Home.
I don't believe people want to watch chefs/cooks making shortcut recipes with packaged ingredients. I think more and more people are starting to cook from fresh ingredients, as well as organic and locally grown.
I think more people are examining what they eat. Chefs/cooks on Food Network have so much power, and such a huge audience, why don't they use their platform to do some good? They should be demonstrating what and how we should be eating. That doesn't mean low fat cooking. I think more lightened cooking shows would be a good idea, though. Or what about a vegetarian cooking show? Look at how many people are vegetarians.
I think they're in need of a baking and pastry show, too. (I think I could work behind the scenes on that one.) ;)

I don't have a problem with the Neelys, but I agree with you. Use real ingredients! No Cool Whip, please.

Sue said...

Hi Rach,
Yes, I know you have a problem with my precious Ina, but at least she's never used Cool Whip (on her show, at least). I also hate it when Giada uses mixes.

I want a more diverse palette on the FN too.

I can't imagine that the Neelys serve jello-infused cake at their restaurants, but who knows? They have done some barbecue on their show, which is what they're known for. Presumably you don't have to order it overcooked.

Hi Em,
Yes! Yes! Double Yes! You could definitely work behind the scenes, except that your stuff would be so good, they'd have to kick the host off and give you the show...

CommonDialog said...

Wow...when did Cool Whip get such a bad name??? It's yummy...

They had a vegetarian cooking show for a while. Curtis... someone or another was the host. I don't think it did well.

Sue said...

Hi CD,
Cool Whip has had a bad name ever since people have had taste buds! (I'm so rigid.)

You're talking about Curtis Aikins - - I think. He was cool.