I can’t watch most of what’s on television because I am a big chicken. If there is rising tension, undercover cops shouting at each other over their dying partners’ bullet-ridden bodies, or decomp of any kind involved, I can’t watch it. I also have a strict policy against watching anything where kids get killed. So pretty much there goes all primetime network and cable television right there. Oh, and if there are ghosts trying to avenge their own murders or even ghosts who are perfectly nice but just want to chat because no one else can hear them? Can’t do that either.
What I do watch is the Food Network because here’s an empirically proven fact: food is never scary or stressful. Food is never stressful even when they try to make it stressful with those competition shows or Food Network challenges where the pastry chefs have to reinterpret the work of El Greco in fondant and so on. OK, there’s a time limit and sure, they’re rushing to finish but let’s face it, if your giant sugar sculpture falls over right before judging, well, that’s a shame but a general rule of thumb in my life is, if you make a mistake that can be eaten off the floor by your dog it’s not all that bad of a mistake.
Seeing as my regular T.V.-viewing options are so limited because of my chickenhood, I have probably tried to watch every show on the Food Network. To my dismay, I have found that I cannot watch just anyone chopping onions. For me it’s not so much about the food itself as much as the host’s personality and delivery. Plus there’s what I call the ITWRR -- “in touch with reality ranking” -- with 5 being “fairly grounded, doesn’t insist that we make our own chicken stock” and 1 being “I nearly always have a film crew around me, and I have no idea how average people without access to Japanese eggplant actually live.” If a host’s ITWRR is too low, I just start throwing toast at the television like I’m at the midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
I’ll break things down for you host by hostess in case you ever get tired of watching “CSI: Montpelier” and need a break from the endless parade of recently-discovered corpses:
Paula Deen: OK, I'll admit it. Hers is the only show on Food Network that stresses me out. I fear that someday I'll be watching her show and she will choke to death on her own tongue while trying to pronounce the word “oil.” But if you like that sort of thing, go ahead and watch. Are you over fifty? People over fifty love her. She’s like Garrison Keillor that way. ITWRR: 2.5
Sandra Lee: I have nightmares about that woman and her elaborate tablescapes. I dream that I am caught in a giant doily and she is laughing and wants to put me in one of her signature cocktails that she’s created from the blood of the unrighteous who cannot coordinate their outfits, kitchen décor, and dining room table cloths. ITWRR: 3.14
Bobby Flay: Why is he always insisting on showing up places and demanding to challenge people for dominance? What is he, like, the Scorpion King of food? ITWRR: 3
Giada DeLaurentiis: She and Todd are going to get divorced one day and I’ll tell you why: When your husband has friends over to watch the game, they do not want to eat swordfish on ciabatta bread with tapenade relish. That poor, pasty man probably just wants a plate of goddamned hamburger helper once in a while. Please, Giada, for the sake of your daughter, make some dang cheeseburgers once in a while and, please, NOT with tangy, easy-melting Fontina cheese. Either that or just leave your husband out of it altogether and keep throwing dinner parties for your vapid girlfriends to help celebrate the launch of their new handbag line. ITWRR: 0
Ina Garten: I watch her a lot. I love her show. It’s on Logo Channel, right? Oh, wait, maybe I’m thinking of something else? Her show is the one with all those gay guys who show up and set the table for her and bring her flowers. Then they all eat her food and tell her how fabulous it is. Isn’t that the one? ITWRR: -6
Tyler Florence: He talks too fast. He moves too fast. He once tried to cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner on a 2-minute Today show segment. I think he might be manic. Do you think I should try to contact him and tell him my concerns? I’m sure there are medications that might help or maybe we could just all pitch in and buy the guy a crock pot. ITWRR: 3
Nigella Lawson: She is perfect in every way except that her show’s on too early on Saturday mornings, and I always miss it. I’ll bet you even she wouldn’t get up that early to watch her show but then she couldn’t anyway because most weekends she’s probably stuck to her own sheets after an ill-advised middle-of-the-night icebox raid to dunk pork tenderloin into caramel sauce. ITWRR: 4
Jamie Oliver: I adore him. I would like to carry him around in my pocket like my own little troll doll and periodically muss his already mussed hair just because he’s so cute. Then I would bring him up to a cabin and chain him to the stove and force him to cook meals for me made from ingredients that he gathered in the forest. Because that’s the only way you can make his recipes – to have him do it. I have two of his cookbooks and I can tell you firsthand who can make these recipes: Jamie Oliver can make these recipes. Which is why I needed him to cook for me, officer. I was gonna let him go as soon as he finished with that wild mushroom crepe with ginseng foam and pan-seared brook trout, honest. ITWRR: 2
Rachael Ray: She’s the best thing to come out of Upstate New York since Ironweed. (I’ll just wait while you look that reference up. ) All right, fine, I admit it. I’m a little jealous of her success because I’m from Upstate New York, too, and as we all know there is this huge quota thing going on and only one person from Upstate New York per century can be successful and I guess she’s it. So yeah, take what I say about her and her “delish!” with a grain of salt. ITWRR: 4
Anne Burrell: I like Anne Burrell. OK, bear with me a minute, but I am very certain that Anne Burrell might be the same girl I met once on Spring Break in Fort Lauderdale. I just remember going to this party at a motel and there were these girls there who were running around in nighties spraying shaving cream at people off the balcony and playing Romeo Void really loud. They were not attractive girls, OK, let’s be honest, but they were having a fun time of it anyway even with no boys in sight. And they invited us to come and hang out and so we did. Then there were shots of flaming Jell-o and the next thing I knew, I was awakened by the most amazing smell because some angel of mercy was cooking sausage and eggs on a hot plate and they were fargin’ fantastic. And I tell you, that girl who was cooking, she didn’t seem hungover at all, but I am sure she drank more than all of us combined. I’m telling you, it was her. It was Anne Burrell. This is a woman you want to learn from especially when you've had too much flaming Jell-o in a Florida motel room. ITWRR: 5
One last thing: I don’t trust skinny chefs. I know you claim that you looooove food, Robin Miller, and I do believe that you love cooking, but I do not believe for a moment that you like eating because people who love eating are easily recognizable by their fatness. The proof’s in the pudding, people. Or rather, the junk’s in the trunk. So my advice to you is to watch Sunny Anderson and make her stuff ‘cuz girlfriend can OBVIOUSLY cook, if you know what I’m sayin’.