Margaret Hair: How Food Network ruins Thanksgiving


Margaret Hair

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

— 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, 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.


okie 9 years, 5 months ago

I have found many awesome recipes on the Food Network, one of which is a Deep Fried Thanksgiving Turkey from Paula Dean-we tried it two years ago, borrowing our neighbors deep fryer-the Turkey was the best we had ever had, moist, juicy and not greasy at all-It only takes 3-4 minutes per pound-We deep fried another Turkey last year and bought our own deep fryer from Walmart for $25.00 -same thing, wonderful Turkey-this is our new family tradition. Thanks Paula and the Food Network-Keep up the good work. Margaret-TRY IT, YOU MIGHT LIKE IT


Gadfly 9 years, 5 months ago

Margaret: Try "Good Eats" with Alton Brown. You can learn more from him in a half hour than from Rachel in a week.


Tracy Barnett 9 years, 5 months ago

I LOVE the food channel! I have learned how to peel garlic the easy way. My favorite roasted butternut squash soup recipe comes from Michael Chiarello (sp?). YUMMY! Even green bean casserole takes on a new richness when done from scratch ala Alton Brown. Venture out, Margaret. Those family traditions had to start somewhere. While it might have been Joy of Cooking in the past, it is now the Food Channel that inspires us (me). By the way, the 2-hour turkey recipe from Safeway has become a new family tradition. It is wonderful, moist, and a blessing since it gives me time to cook a turkey for the community dinner in the morning and another one for my family in the afternoon.


JazzSlave 9 years, 5 months ago

Written by someone who has clearly never tried any of the recipes she's skeptical about. I've gotten a lot of great meals after trolling thru the network's website; some have become staples at my house.

And how is "nabbing a gravy recipe out of the Joy Of Cooking" somehow more "genuine" than acquiring recipes from any other source? Eliteist tripe, with all due respect.


JazzSlave 9 years, 5 months ago

Hey Margaret:

Give this one a try:,,FOOD_9936_16200,00.html

Easy (even more so if you buy pre-peeled garlic cloves), delicious, and idiot-proof. And be sure to use some of the resulting olive oil & roasted garlic for awsome garlic bread.

We'll make a convert outta you yet.


retiredinss 9 years, 5 months ago

My guess is that Margaret's book shelves do not contain the 20 or 30 or more cookbooks that many older cooks have accumulated over the years. When we look at the Food Channel, or those books, or any other source of recipes, we treat them as additional information in the context of a large library of information, not as standalones.


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