Sunday, February 14, 2010

An Open Letter to the Food Network

Dear Food Network,

Heaven knows I love your channel. And Heaven also knows that my husband wishes Alton Brown were not on at 11:00 p.m. our time, because I'm busy watching Good Eats then instead of doing other things. So, clearly, I am a dedicated viewer.

Also, I like to cook. It's an enjoyment born out of self-preservation because I have two children at home and a husband who works in the restaurant industry and therefore does NOT cook once he hits home turf, except in the case of dire emergency/ Cajun food craving. So since it's either cook or starve, because eating out is pricey... I cook. It's just something I do. I also wash clothes, scrub toilets, drive a car... I do many things, because they're just part of living.

I am not a laundress, a custodian, or a chauffeur, although I perform all these functions. And I am not "a" cook. I'm just a person who cooks... because again with the eating-instead-of-starving preference.

And believe me, Food Network, I am fully aware I am nowhere near being a chef. I have zero formal food preparation training, and would never presume to hold a candle to many of the amazing chefs who grace your shows. What I do have is the ability to follow or modify a recipe, and an ability to find excellent ones. It's like chemistry class, only less accuracy is required (except with the baking -- oish!). It's fun, and when you pay attention you can produce some pretty tasty stuff.

All that said, would you please, oh pretty please, abolish the term "home cook" from your chefs' vocabularies? I had never heard the term, actually, until Chef Anne Burrell used it on the final episode of Worst Cook in America with words along the lines of "These meals weren't prepared by us, they were made by home cooks."

Cue gasps of horror and shock from the judges' table!!!

Then to top it all off, she revealed that not only were these people members of the dreadfully shocking "home cook" class, they were actually really, really, bad home cooks.

The horror!! The horror!!!

Okay, someone who initially cooked terribly badly being brought to a level of not only competence but excellence is impressive. And I enjoyed the show. But that line "home cook" rankled.

Then on an episode of Chopped, Chef Alex Guarnaschelli remarked that a dish was simple like something a "home cook" would have made. My lip twitched, and I was really worried that she'd get a crick in her neck with the way she was holding her nose up in the air.

You know, it wouldn't be so bad if your chefs didn't say "home cook" with the same inflection they use to utter "raw pork," "rotten fish," or "Guy Fieri". But as it stands, a "home cook" is something that is apparently as appealing as a communicable disease.

The vast majority of your viewing audience isn't cooking for a living. We aren't chefs. We don't cook in restaurants. Where the hell else do you expect us to cook other than at home?

It's an inherently condescending term, used in a consistently patronizing manner. And it's an insult to, I'd say, the majority of your viewing audience.

Cut it out. It rankles.



Choreboy said...

I suppose that term leaves me as "home bus-boy" and "home-dishwasher" since I do these things at home. Even though I do these things when necessary for work on a daily basis, along with cooking, preparing, serving, administrative, etc. While my job may blur the perception of "professional" when it comes to home and work, I can assure you that the tasks are the same at both places. I have to agree with Amanda- the term is ok to use as long as it's not done in a derogatory manner.

Amanda said...

I'd say not to bother using the term at all, though. Because really... "Home cook"? What purpose does the term serve other than to denigrate those of us who don't have formal training and who dare to cook for our families in a competent manner?

Like I said, it rankles.

Ms Snarky Pants said...

Yeah, that is a reallly poor choice by them. Why would they want to irk 99.999 % of their audience...

Amanda said...

Exactly, Lesley.

Trevy Thomas said...

It is with some trepidation that I confess I have built an entire website presence around the phrase "Home Cooks." It is used so much today that I wish I had chosen something much more personal and fun, but I've had this blog going for quite a while and there's no changing it now. Even more horrifying, I think I was partly intimidated into selecting the name for precisely the reasons you describe. Heaven forbid should some "real chef" come around and see little old me posting recipes with no actual culinary school credentials. It did occur to me somewhere in the midst of blogging that there are millions more "home cooks" than "real chefs" in the world, and there is no reason why we should be belittled for doing -- dare I say -- a good job of feeding our families. Thanks for the post.

Jen said...

They are insulting not only us, but our mothers as well. Not a very smart move.

Amanda said...

Trevy, no trepidation necessary -- I believe it's only within the relatively recent past that "home cooks" started being used by Food Network's chefs to denote "One who is not One Of Us," followed by a nod and a slight curl of the upper lip (ala Chef Alex). And yeah, I totally get why you'd name it that. I mean, I'm not a chef. I just like to cook food that tastes good for my family, and I enjoy gathering good recipes to help make that happen.

Jen, YES. And you can mess with me, but don't you DARE mess with my mother, LOL. Especially because I'm the one who actually turned her on to Food Network...

Cupcake/Jen said...

I dated someone that had "formal chef" training. Graduate of the CIA, actually. I consider & have been told that I'm a very good cook. I follow recipes, I tweak according to my tastes or needs & 99.9% of the time, it's not only edible, but quite tasty. I was sharing how I make chicken soup. Mom's recipe that I've tweaked a bit to make it my own (oh, and on this occasion, I was making it for 60 people.) He then started telling me the ways I needed to change how I was making my soup because that's how a "real" chef would make it. Excuse me? A chef I am not, but I'm a dang good cook.

In essence, I agree. Food Network was created to teach and inspire us lowly "home cooks" to try new ideas, recipes and techniques. Ironically, the show where Chef Alex was "teaching" a cooking class didn't even last a whole season.

Amanda said...

Cupcake, I am impressed you didn't strangle him.

Re: Chef Alex, I will admit that she irks me, primarily because in almost every shot I see of her, she looks like she smelled something bad.