I like to cook, and I’ve been known to watch a little television, so people are sometimes puzzled that I don’t particularly like watching cooking shows. Some other people who like to cook, I’ve learned, love cooking cooking. In fact, they find themselves becoming somewhat “addicted” (their words) to the Food Network.
Me, not so much. For whatever reason, I don’t particular enjoy sitting there watching celebrity chefs prepare food (that I’m not going to get to eat). So since Food Detectives stopped making new episodes (far as I can tell), there is no Food Network program that I watch regularly.
I had seen their previous show (possibly still on), called Shopping Bags, in which they test various consumer products. It was definitely an entertaining approach to product testing, but the information always seems to whiz by so quickly it wasn’t that useful. Three types of five different products in one half-hour; how are you supposed to remember which to buy afterward?
Whereas each episode of Grocery Bag focuses on one (1) cookbook. That’s what they test: cookbooks. They do this by making a sampling of recipes from the book, within a time limit, to be judged by a chef. Interspersed in there, they do a little pre-taped product testing of both kitchen gadgets and ingredients, to be used on “cook day”.
I like it in part because I can relate to it. Anna and Kristina are competent cooks, but not trained chefs. As the stress mounts of trying to prepare five or more new recipes for a guest who is coming to judge your efforts, they make mistakes. They get annoyed with each other. They swear. They redo. They run off to the grocery store to buy more ingredients. They curse the poor instructions or weird ingredients of the book. They get grossed out trying to deal with octopus tentacles or squid ink.
Then when the food is done and the chef arrives with a bottle of wine, everything seems a little better. And the tasting begins… Will the dishes make the taste buds sing, or stimulate the gag reflex?
It’s drama, man. It’s highly entertaining every time.
Plus, it’s useful. As it’s a test, they try to be real sticklers for following the recipes—like manually chopping all the onions if the book says to, instead of what I would do, which is stick those suckers in the food processor. In the end, they come out with a recommendation to buy or not, but as you’ve seen how and why they came to that conclusion, you can decide if you agree. It’s made me consider cookbooks I otherwise never would have, like Gwyneth Paltrow”s (!)—turns out it’s not just the vegan, raw-food weirdness you might expect—and Gordon Ramsey’s.
Now what I want to know is whether those “addicted to the Food Network” people would (or do) like this show. Or is it just too real?