Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The New Cooking Channel - Oy!

My gal Cynthia had a special request of me. She asked me to take a close look at the new Cooking Channel and tell her what I thought. She was a little confused by some of the programming and wanted another opinion. Well, when Cynthia asks, I comply. She does so much for her readers (and friends) that I planned an afternoon of Cooking Channel watching.

On a Sunday afternoon about a week ago, after 3½ hours (!!!) of watching the Cooking Channel (this WAS for Cynthia), I arrived at my conclusion - I was completely bewildered and befuddled by what I had seen and why we needed another cooking channel to show THIS.

After that afternoon spent with the CC, I needed to get away. Where? To the 2010’s! Why? Because the majority of what I watched was older than 5 years, and, actually, felt twice that.

WHY are they showing programs from 2004? WHY? I know they’re showing the Frugal and Galloping Gourmets and Julia from the 70’s. That’s fine. That’s history.

But what I watched was just kitschy. Really awful. What was particularly galling was watching this closer-to-a-decade-than-NOT stuff, which featured people I’ve never heard of and don’t really care to.

“Bill”, for example. Nice guy, but since I have no clue who he is, I have no idea where that gorgeous beach is that they keep showing. I’m thinking maybe he’s in Hawaii, which I would love, because the beginning of the show has a lot of Asians in it. But they never mention Hawaii…or anywhere.

This Bill-person cooks for 2 kids and a wife and has an uncomprehendingly big smile on all the time. Did I really need him to show me how to mash 6 raspberries with yogurt? I am not kidding. AND it wasn’t even Greek yogurt, because, of course, more than half a decade ago that wasn’t the trend.

“Bill” makes muesli (woo-hoo!) and then moves on to fried rice.

It was SUCH a poorly executed fried rice that I was about to send a telegram to Cynthia telling her not to waste her time with this network. Oh, but of course, THIS is 2010, no telegrams necessary. I can tweet or text or just tell her HERE.

I think this is the video of that recipe, but since it kept buffering and never actually loaded, it’s hard to tell.

Cynthia, here’s another reason not to watch good old Bill. He made this rice pilaf-type dish. Right before he put it in the oven, he bunged a can of tuna on top and added some raw sliced zucchini. I nearly gagged. The zucchini would give off a lot of liquid and end up being steamed almost…ugh. It was unattractive, not tasty-sounding and almost 1950’s casserole-like.

The next half hour of The Cooking Channel was redeemed by Tyler in a vintage 2003 episode on pizza, although his choice of toppings was slightly unappealing – Robiola, caramelized onions, pancetta and shaved white truffle. But still it was Tyler, so it was okay. Nigella rounded out that hour with comfort food. She seemed positively modern in this show taped only in 2007. Just yesterday compared to Billie Boy.

Maybe Rachel Allen will be better. Her show was a repeat from two thousand and NINE. But, um, didn’t this network just start a few weeks ago?

Again, no real introduction was offered, so I have no idea who Rachel Allen is and where she’s from. Britain, I’m guessing. (Oh, Bill turned out to be from Australia.)

I admit I took a little shuteye at the beginning of the episode (I was still recovering from that rather tranquillizing Bill), but I woke to find Rachel teaching a cooking class. They were doing a chocolate layer cake.

This could be good, given my predilection for cooking classes…except that it wasn’t. I love many Brits, I really do, but this cake was the spongy, dry kind of cakes that Brits like, nothing like the deeply chocolate, moist, fudgy cakes that we American bakers are so fond of.

All of that is fine for teaching a class in Britain, because those people LIKE this kind of cake, but WHY are we seeing it in Amurica?!!

The episode gets worse. After the dry-looking, vaguely chocolate cake comes out of the oven, Rachel has them make a minuscule amount of (boring) buttercream with a tiny amount of cocoa, butter and powdered sugar. That’s the kind of icing that kindergartners make!

The abomination continues when Rachel has them fill ONLY the center of the cake with the pedestrian icing. The top has powdered sugar or cocoa if you like. Dreadful.

THEN they sit around some rickety old table (supposedly charming because they’re in the country) and proclaim that it was the best cake any of them had ever made. WELL, I’m sure THAT was true!

Do yourselves a favor. Get a copy of ANY Maida Heatter book and bake from that.

I revived myself with a cup of tea and began to watch David Rocco. Everything I’ve said in this post up to this point has been a complete exaggeration! I had no idea what a throwback was waiting for me until I watched Rocco’s La Dolce Vita. OMG!

Seriously, I KNOW it was filmed in 2004, but it felt like it was from the 70’s. Honestly, it could have been in black and white and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

Again, I have no idea who this David Rocco is. I only know what I see – super skinny, small-framed, slicked-back compromised hairline, fluent in Italian, with lots of “zany” friends. AND he was on for about 2½ hours in episode after episode.

Oh, I haven’t told you the worst. Throughout the ENTIRE show is this 70’s, actually 60’s maybe, even FIFTIES, Italian music with vocals by what must be the Italian version of Andy Williams.

Actually, THIS was the worst. He made a pasta pizza. He took a bunch of old sauced spaghetti, added it to a few poorly beaten eggs and threw it in a sauté pan with A LOT of olive oil. He did get it nice and crisp on the bottom, then turned it over and fried the other side. That was it. No onions, no cheese, no nada. NO GOOD!

Get me out of here! I need to tweet, Ipad and sous-vide my way back to modern times. The Cooking Channel has left me with a weird feeling, like watching old home movies and being glad that people don’t wear their hair like that anymore.

I really don’t really need an entire network to make me feel obsolescent. That's what my kids are for.

I’m assuming (hoping, praying) that they’re playing around with the schedule and what I saw isn’t what is really going to be the final Sunday afternoon lineup. Please no! If the cooking channel is just where old food network shows go to heaven, then just say so and call it the Food Network Redux or Food Network Heaven. Whatever, but please don’t pretend you’re showing us new content.

BTW, the Cooking Channel’s website is just as outrageously bad as the Food Network’s. I went to Bill Granger’s page, (yes, I finally looked up his full name) and searched for his Fried Rice recipe. I got these - definitely not fried rice and not even Bill’s recipes. And c’mon, Tarte Tatin???!!! Arrggghhh!!!

THIS is funny too. THIS is what happened when I searched for Bill’s muesli recipe (which went with his revolutionary yogurt and 6 raspberries). YUP! The exact same recipes came up for Muesli as for Fried Rice!!! ‘Splain THAT to me!

Cynthia, on Sunday’s at least, skip the Cooking Channel and read a book, a good cookbook and you’ll learn a lot more.


Emily said...

Oh man, I didn't realize the channel had switched over yet. Didn't it used to be Fine Living? When I went on the Food Network studios tour, they showed me the Cooking Channel's office area. It sounded like they were scrambling around, trying to prepare for the new channel. The woman who gave me the tour said everyone was doing double the work right now.

Hopefully they'll start airing new content soon, otherwise that's really disappointing. I was looking forward to this channel because I wanted to watch more cooking shows that weren't so focused on entertaining you, but wanted to educate you.

I'm so sorry I'm behind on your blog! I'm behind on everything right now.

Lisa said...

I too was surprised to see that most of the programs are just FN re-runs. I did have fun watching a few old Julia Child programs, and I'm always happy to watch Tyler. I have no interest in any of the new programs.

astheroshe said...

I like Foodography, and Unique Eats they showcase different foodies and their crafts/businesses...It is dated, but as far as i can tell most places they report on are still working businesses.

and i think it is called ..French at home?..Fair..(but i like anything french) Nothing super difficult to create here.

Got a great recipe of Nigelle Express...easy mock jelly donuts.. I have to say, I am addicted to them . :)

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I've been watching dribs and drabs. I watched one of Rocco's shows. I think it was his. He went to Italy and made some simple dishes. The show ended with him and his wife running off from the dinner table. You saw wine glasses shaking and heard moaning so you thought they were having sex, but the camera zoomed out and showed they were playing fooseball. Made a decent show sort of dumb.

I keep seeing this new show where this cook named Roger takes traditional dishes and tries to put a new twist on them. He put okra in chili - yuck! He NEVER SHUTS UP. He could give Rachael Ray a run for her money in a talking contest.

I saw a bit of Rachel Allen. It drove me nuts that she kept giving all of her measurements metrically. If you're playing to a US audience, use US measurements please!

SayGrace said...

THANK YOU for all of your as-usual dead on commentary re. this network. And especially that lame-o Rocco show. I DVR'd it thinking from the description that it sounded intriguing. It took him almost 15 minutes into the 30-minute broadcast to actually COOK something, and when he was done with the tatty, sad, unappetizing spaghetti/pizza, I just wanted him not to have ever started... I enjoy seeing Sarah Moulton again - I don't find her in my area anymore - and some of the vintage stuff is sweet (And Jamie Oliver can pretty much just stand in his garden and talk about tubers 24/7 as far as I'm concerned.) But the only current host I saw was the gal who does the 5-ingredient show on Food Network who needs to take a very slow, deep breath and blink more if I'm going to tune in for any length of time. Definitely disappointing.

Oh, well. Ina is in the midst of a new season and even though she spends way too much time on those awkward viewer questions these days, she's so darned cute that I'll keep coming back for more!

Anonymous said...

ah yes the Cooking Channel!

i saw about an hour of it on its first night, then promptly forgot about it. never watched it again or remembered it existed until I visited your blog today, June 19.

guess that sums it up.

Sue said...

I also thought cooking shows (that weren’t ages old) were going to be the focus of the COOKING Channel. We’ll have to see if anything changes.

Hi Lisa,
I’m with you. Julia is always awesome, Tyler (and Nigella) too, but all these other random people are NOT doing it for me.

Hi Astheroshe,

I guess I have to give the Cooking Channel another try NOT on a Sunday afternoon. I’ll take a look at those shows.

I saw your version of the mock jelly doughnuts. Yum!

DARN!!! I wished I’d seen THAT Rocco show. There was no wife in my episode. IN FACT, I thought there was kind of a girlfriend. Well, MAYBE this show is worth watching after all.

I haven’t see Roger, but these first name blokes are annoying. Don’t any of them have last names?

I like it when folks use metric measurements, because it makes me feel so superior. I know all that stuff, but I can see how it would be annoying.

You are too funny. You (and Rachel) need to keep watching Rocco and telling me about it. Sara Moulton AND Jamie can do no wrong, but we could watch their repeats on the Food Network.

I agree about Ina answering questions. She’s great at it, but it’s kind of a waste of her (and our) precious time.

You’re making me think that I shouldn’t spend another minute watching the Cooking Channel. You may be right.

Anonymous said...

I caught a David Rocco show on PBS about 8 years ago, I think, and it was pretty good -- but he was totally hot. Or maybe he worked out just before his episode where he had to peel off his wetsuit after diving... All these years later he's a little skinnier, at least from the pictures on his website. Sorry to hear the food's not any good. But if they can't cook, they ought to at least be decorative!