Friday, November 16, 2007
Margaret Hair's column appears Fridays in the 4 Points arts and entertainment section in the Steamboat Today
. Contact her at 871-4204 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Steamboat Springs Thanksgiving is the only time of year that I don't trust the Food Network.
I don't have a reasonable explanation for this - the people cooking on TV have been at it for decades, are for the most part professionally trained, and likely have a deeper reserve of time-tested family recipes than I do.
But looking at the channel's Web site, and reading the labels that should be assuring - "supreme sides," "savory stuffing," "delicious desserts" - I'm skeptical.
I trace this skepticism to a special the network has aired the past couple of years, in which Rachael Ray - who has built a franchise of cooking programs, morning talk shows and recipe books out of her quick-fix recipes - makes a full Thanksgiving dinner in an hour.
I've always thought Rachael Ray was just a touch on the other side of crazy. For the first several seasons of her show, "30 Minute Meals," there was a 75 percent chance her rush would lead to cutting her hand with a paring knife or burning her arm on the broiler.
I also once watched her blend ham, cheese and mustard in a Cuisinart, slather it on a Kaiser roll and proclaim it dinner. Trained chefs do not do things like that. Neither do people in their right mind.
Mostly though, I think the mistrust comes from the idea of getting traditional recipes from other people - other people who I don't know, people who I've only seen on cable or the Internet.
It's certainly not as genuine as learning from family, but it also pales to nabbing a gravy recipe out of the "Joy of Cooking."
The ability to learn higher-end culinary techniques by watching them performed on TV has made things too complicated, has made the flavors that are supposed to make the holidays too complex.
Next to a how-to for "Roast Turkey with Gravy" on foodnetwork.com, there's one for "Maple-Roasted Turkey with Sage Butter." And right under "Good Old Country Stuffing" is "Sage, Apple and Sausage Dressing."
Most of these recipes are probably amazing, savory twists on old classics. And most people who try to cook them will probably mess them up horribly.
I think my final disdain for the Food Network is that it has the potential to blur the unique, family-centric culinary traditions that make the holidays what they are for a lot of people.
Any given family's food might not be a four-star feast, but it's theirs. When information is so readily available, we all stand the same chance of serving someone else's over-seasoned Thanksgiving fare.