February 20, 2007

Guilty Pleasure

Thanks to pregnancy, my body refuses to fall asleep until 3 a.m. When this first started happening a few weeks ago I just lay in bed for 4 to 5 hours cursing and praying alternately for sleep to overcome me. But I've finally accepted this inconvenient development and have turned to late night t.v.

There's not much on past midnight but there's one channel I can always count on - The Food Network. They shamelessly broadcast food porn 24 hours a day to all races, colors and creeds. During the sunny hours I can resist the shows rich with tenderloin, chocolate sauce and creamy dips. But I'm ashamed to admit that after my family goes to bed my resistance falters and I slip into a saliva induced trance brought on by the effortless creation of decadent foods.

Like everything else in Hollywood, The Food Network does not strive to depict cooking as reality. All ingredients are pre-measured into spotless ramekins, the salt is never accidentally excluded from the recipe, and the second you open the oven to insert your roast a perfectly braised one is waiting to be pulled out. The finished entrees have been airbrushed to disguise any imperfection and there is no such thing as limp lettuce. It's every woman's fantasy.

Since falling prey for these depictions of dining, I've grown disgusted with my tiny apartment kitchen. Why can't it be more like Nigella Lawson's immaculate sun-filled dining area? The frozen chicken breasts in my freezer are pathetic compared to Emeril's cuts - plump, juicy and still warm from the slaughter. Rationally I know it's not fair to compare, but I'm slowly growing apart from my dollar store cooking utensils. They just can't give me what I need.

These shows typically last half an hour. It's a steady building of anticipation. Layer upon layer of ingredients, textures and spices. The side dishes are quickly prepared and put to rest in the fridge. The accompanying wine is selected, there are only a few minutes left of the program, will the meal come together in time? In the five seconds that the camera zooms in to the chef, the counter is magically cleared and an impeccable Williams Sonoma place setting appears. The expensive teak serving bowls are presented, filled to the brim with succulent eats. This is the moment we have been waiting for - the first bite. Will the chef approve of the dish? For some reason I hold my breath every time, waiting expectantly. Did the cake bake evenly? Were the fish fillets left too long under the broiler? Will he crunch an eggshell that fell into the lady fingers? But every time the chef lowers his eyelids, smiles subtly, and pronounces the meal "fabulous!" This is food fantasy at its finest.

Tonight I prepared quesadillas yet again for my family. I feel guilty knowing that while my husband and daughter sleep tonight with such an inadequate meal greasing up their insides, I will be laying on the couch devouring hour upon hour of soufflés, crab cakes, jambalaya, and parfaits. But I can't get help if I don't want it. For now, I relish this late night addiction even though I know full well that it will destroy me as a cook. But I was never that great in the kitchen anyway. Maybe it's better this way.

17 comments:

Azúcar said...

I'm so glad you're awake to the wee hours too. At least knowing there's another preggo out there staring a clock down makes it all feel better. The difference is that I've got a DVR and no longer rely on random late night fare to tide me over.

Do you know who I don't believe? Sandra Lee and her semi-homemade. What's with the changing set? Thanks for making me feel like it's not enough to have decent cooking, Sandra, now I've got to redeco my kitchen every single time I change my menu.

kelsey said...

funny post. funny comment from azucar about Sandra Lee. i am a food network junkie myself, only i waste precious daylight hours watching it. if i would cook food instead of watching it on tv, we probably wouldn't be so hungry around here. but i need my daily dose of Barefoot Contessa. Ina Garten makes me feel like everything is going to be o.k.

Silly Marie said...

Rachel Ray tries to put on a realistic show, however, she's too annoying for me to watch continuously. Alton Brown's Good Eats is by far the most informative show. I trust him and his recipes implicitly.

Anyway, you could make veggie stuffed quesadillas. They are delicious and healthy. Saute sliced onions, bell peppers, zucchini(add this last because it cooks quickest)and garlic. Season with chili powder, lime juice, cumin, and salt. Toss those into a tortilla with mozzarella cheese and grill. Yum. You can always add diced, cooked chicken if you need some meat...

The Wiz said...

Alton Brown is the best. Food Netwrok rocks. Rachael Ray bugs the crap out of me.

Iron Chef america is awesome.

Jenny said...

My husband has a crush on Giada...I feel very inadequate as a frumpy housewife and as a cook.

Lindsay said...

Wow. Your descriptions of the glory the Food Network has to offer makes last night's leftover spaghetti and meatballs sound so...inadequate. How do they do it? How do they make everything look so...so...perfect? Over the weekend I tried a recipe for soft pretzels and while they tasted pretty good, they looked, shall we say, a little more like knotted shoelaces than beautifully shaped pretzels. C'est la vie.

compulsive writer said...

I felt guilty about Mac & Cheese for dinner last night, even though I'd just barely got back into town. I hardly ever cook out of a box. But then I recalled my childhood. Mac & Cheese was a staple. And I never ever got homemade, which is what they usually get by way of Mac & Cheese.

I think my kids fail to realize how good they've got it.

By the way I actually saw a disaster on the food network the other night. It was some big fruit carving competition. Two teams of guys were competing against these little itty bitty women. The women's 5-foot tall sculpture was by far superior, but part of the competition involved lifting the scupture and moving it to a pedestal.

I'm sure you can imagine what disaster occurred and upon whom it fell.

Because upper body strength is such an integral part of fruit carving skills.

Samantha said...

I love eating food, and whenever I cook a good meal, I feel quite proud, but I still have little to no desire to actually learn how, or improve, or practice, or implement, any cooking skills out there. I don't know why. I feel kind of guilty about it, but I'm sure that will increase with the birth of my child.

How you feel about the Food Network is how I feel about HGTV. I can't wait to be back in the States watching home improvement shows all day. Except not the building from scratch ones, those are crap. I'm only into the interior design ones, or the renovating ones, redecorating, "design on a dime," etc. Oooooo. Can't wait.

tracy m said...

Ah, yes, food porn. My secret vice as well. It's better than watching the Discovery Channel when you have late preggo insomnia, then imagining your other children are wildebeests eating zebras narrated by some English guy.

Or maybe that's jsut me...?

The part that just kills me is how often the super sexy chefs talk about how "kids will love this~" Oh, yea, sure, Rachel, my kids will LOVE your bell pepper and onion ladden sausage and lentil soup with a grilled salad and blue cheese.

Nigella became my fav on a show when they actually showed her kid gagging and spitting something out!

s'mee said...

yeah, Sandra Lee...has anyone else noticed how she manages to create a cocktail for everything including a child's birthday party? Now you're cookin'!

Sleep *tight* baby, sleep tight!

Toni said...

"food porn" hahaha! That's a new one for me!

They really do seems to make it look SO easy, throw a toddler in the kitchen with them,-a tired, cranky, hungry toddler, with a runny nose- and see how well they do!

Azúcar said...

Sandra Lee is a lush.

Sarah said...

But who wouldn't be a lush with an endless supply of cooking alcohol supplied to you by your employer? They're practically begging her to show up with a hangover.

Amber said...

As a fellow insomniac, I'd take to your diversion vs. mine: i.e. staring at the ceiling for hours, waiting for the baby to wake up. :-)

Rebecca said...

That phrase "food porn" just gave me a hell of a chuckle. HAHAHA!

Toni said...

Hi Sarah! Thanks for looking in- you posted: "BTW - I linked you up to my blog - hope you don't mind if I stalk around here!"

Cute... like a newbie, such as me, knows what that means!Hope it's good!

Bex said...

Whenever I watch those kinds of shows, I don't so much as get jealous of all their stuff, but I do get really hungry.
So I go to my kitchen and usually all I can find are some stale graham crackers...they aren't quite up to the gourmet standards of the Food Network, but what can you do?