Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Watching Sandy With New Eyes

Sem-EYE Homemade with Sandra Lee

Caribbean menu
Green Salad with Dressing
Best Black Beans
Island Chicken
Island Bread Pudding

What if I turned over a new leaf and tried to see Sandy in a different light? What if I tried to see what her fans appreciate about her? What if I could appreciate her strengths rather than focus on her weaknesses? The latter, which up to now I certainly would have said, vastly outnumbers the former.

Okay, let’s begin:
The best part, I have to admit, is that I only caught the last half of the show, so surely I can sit through 15 minutes of Sandy without reverting to snarky, negative comments.

Hmm, her hair looks nice, a little less sunflower yellow...more like a yellowed wedding dress. Her kitchen is full of white objets. I’m not really sure what they’re meant to represent, but at least they’re not in Kool-Aid colors.

Sandy takes chicken and pineapple - apparently with jerk seasoning – off a tabletop grill. She dabs on a sauce made of reducing pineapple juice, jerk seasoning and brown sugar. There’s nothing too outlandish yet. This might be easier than I thought. She says the chicken took 6 minutes on each side (Sandy, hon, that might be a TAD too long) and the pineapple took 1 minute a side.

Sandy's making a mango salad. Hmmm, refreshing. See? I’m trying. Sandy makes a dressing starting with ¼ cup lime juice…out of a glass bottle. Well, it could have been worse. It could have been a green plastic squeezable lime. 2 tablespoons honey and one teaspoon of jarred crushed garlic (I am getting uncomfortable now) get stirred into the lime juice. She adds 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and whisks in ¼ cup olive oil with a pinch of salt.

Sandy chops up half an English cucumber, with the skin still on. That’s probably the most amount of fiber she’s had in a decade. Oh, there I go…sorry Aunt Sandy. I’m trying to be good.

She chops the romaine with her big knife. I’m not getting on her about that, I do that too. She adds 2 cups of thawed, “chunked mango”, “because this salad is all about the mango”. It seems to me that if an ingredient is THAT important, you might consider using a FRESH mango. But maybe that’s just me.

This concoction goes into a mother of pearl (mother of pearl-like?) bowl of such hideousness that I can see my pro-Sandy intentions are going out the window fast. The lettuce, mango and cucumber get tossed with the dressing.

Then, she serves herself something out of a crockpot.
Remember, I came late to this party. I’m thinking, “Beef Stew doesn’t seem all that Caribbean to me. But maybe, knowing Sandy, she’s added rum or some fruit.”

It turns out IT’S NOT BEEF STEW, IT’S BREAD PUDDING! Oh my, that can’t be good.

She moves on to her strong suite – the cocktail. You can hate Sandy, but you have to admit that she has quite a repertoire. She’s making a Flirtini, very appropriate with her friendly personality.

Sandy pours coconut rum (Malibu is her fav) into a most attractive plain pitcher filled with ice (I think it’s even real…the ice, I mean). She adds citrus vodka (this IS looking rather potent), pineapple juice and some cranberry juice. Just beautiful, truly. I’m impressed. See, she CAN do it! Oh wait, she’s not finished. Into this so-far-without-reproach cocktail, she adds SOUR MIX*.

Okay, all bets are off.
What the hay is she doing? She could have gotten the same effect from squeezing in a lime, a real lime, and adding sugar syrup. Sour mix is transforming that fruity, tropical cocktail into one with an artificial and bitter aftertaste and fake foam. She really can’t help herself, can she?

She tastes it, gets buzzed and tells us she has to change for her “beach time soirĂ©e”
and then show us her tablescape. I’ve officially abandoned my be-nice position.

Sandy’s in the dining room. There’s a reason that there’s an old saying “There’s no blue food,” because THERE ISN'T ANY! (That should apply to drinks too.)

Sandy produces a blue drink “for the kids”, just to match her insanely ugly headband.

Ah, who am I fooling? Sandy and I will never be on the same wavelength. As long as she keeps adding cheap poison to her food, I’ll never support her efforts. But she IS an awful lot of fun to watch.

high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, sodium citrate, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, polysorbate 60, gum Arabic, sodium metabisulfate, glyceryl abietate


Emily said...

It does sound like you'd get buzzed after one sip of that cocktail! She does make some pretty good looking ones.

She entertains me, but no, I would never make any of her recipes.

Roberta Lipp said...

I have run the same experiment. I've never made it as far as the cocktail, so kudos to you!

Toni said...

Hi Sue,

I just happened to catch the last half of this episode, too - and no, it's not just you about the frozen mango!! I actually yelled "WHAT?" at my TV, and replayed it twice just to make sure I'd seen/heard it right. It's a shame - with fresh mango (and fresh lime juice), that black bean salad might not have been half bad. I may actually try a variation of it the next time I can get a good mango, to see if it can be redeemed.

Gotta love Aunt Sandy's "cocktail time!" I wouldn't be surprised if she DID get buzzed off one sip, as strong as her drinks are. I grew up in Wisconsin, too, but I don't recall anyone making such strong cocktails, then or now. (And I grew up in a drinking family - I was allowed to start drinking beer at keg parties at the age of 7 or 8, but that's another story...)

Whenever I see Sandra's "tablescapes," I flash back to the opening of her show where she says, "Semi-homemade saves you time AND MONEY..." How on earth does buying pre-prepared, boxed, canned, and frozen foods save money? And even if it did, certainly whatever she saved (and then some) must have been spent on all those tablecloths, centerpieces, and name cards she buys "at the craft store." Where does this woman KEEP all this stuff after she's used it once? She must have a whole extra wing in her mansion, categorized in separate rooms by color and theme.

Watching this episode, I found myself looking at Sandy in a new light too - for about five minutes. But by the time the show was over, I was back to my usual stance on her: she does occasionally have some lovely ideas for dishes, but they are ruined by the horrible ingredients and short-cuts she uses. It might work for your average housewife who has too many kids and doesn't have the time or ability to cook, but it just doesn't cut it for foodies like us. I can't see how this show stays on the air.



The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I saw that episode a while ago. When I saw her put the bread pudding in the crock pot, I almost cried.

If it makes you feel any better, she's learning. She made a pumpkin bread pudding in a new show and actually put it in the oven.

Jen said...

Hahaha... every once in a while I'll catch Sandra Lee or Rachel Ray then watch for 5 minutes before remembering why their shows drive me nuts.

I'm really curious to see what you thought about last night's Top Chef finale-- can't wait to read your post.