Food TV Torment

cooking_with_wine.jpgCooking and travel shows make me angry. That's right, I said angry. For a very irrational reason. They make me hungry, which leads me to snacking which is making me fat. I usually have pretty good self-control, mainly because I don't stock snacks in my home to begin with; however, after watching Anthony Bourdain traveling the globe eating across country after country, Mario Batali delivering another delicious Italian dish and the Top Chef contestants turning vending machine food into gourmet treats, I want to enjoy what they're eating/making right at that moment and I can't. Thus I get angry and find myself rummaging through my kitchen looking for anything to ease my phantom hunger pains. I'm not really hungry, they've just made me think that I am and when all I can conjure up is stale nuts or microwave popcorn, I get miffed. Sure, I could have more selections on hand, but that would not be helpful to my waistline. Nor would they be as delicious as what I'm seeing on the screen. Getting enough exercise when you work in front of a computer all day is hard enough without these talented kitchen wizards making it worse.

Because I work on a food blog people are always amazed when they discover that I'm not a longtime foodie with an encyclopedic knowledge of all the cool/classic/famous chefs, who attends the latest restaurant openings and watches the Food Network night and day. I don't have a million cookbooks in my library, not even a copy of *gasp* The Art of French Cooking.  Over the last several years I have become very familiar with not only the big boys and girls – Julia Child, James Beard, Mario Batali, Emeril LaGasse, Alice Waters, Thomas Kellar, Jacques Pepin, Bobby Flay, Jamie Oliver, Suzanne Goin, Ferran Adria and Ina Garten – but the latest techniques (hello molecular gastronomy), regional fare and holiday traditions that make food more than just the sum of its parts. Though I still think of the Ava Gardner movie first whenever someone mentions the Barefoot Contessa. I sort of catch a break when they find out I'm a serious oenophile. My years of wine education relieves the pinched look a bit, but not entirely. Then their wheels start turning. Aren't food and wine supposed to go together? How can you love one without loving the other? Easily. I'm just more fascinated by the nuances of wine than of food. Give me a great cheese to go with my glass and then we'll talk. I enjoy food, I obsess about wine. There's just not enough time in the day or space in my brain for both.

cooking-and-cleaning.jpgWhat about using the shows for inspiration?, they cry. They'll help you become a better cook, pair your meals perfectly with your wines, make you more comfortable in the kitchen. Totally untrue. Believe me I've tried. While I've become a fairly good home chef – the right wines help a great deal – I don't have the patience, imagination or innate touch to recreate the meals I see on TV. Or in most fancy cookbooks for that matter. I enjoy the process enough to provide an enjoyable meal, but not enough to create a great one. Despite countless demonstrations, my knife skills are still mediocre, my risotto is sometimes mushy and I've never attempted to roast a whole chicken. The idea of it seems so rustic and simple, but I hate touching the uncooked bird and shudder at the thought of placing anything under its' skin. Which brings me right back to my initial complaint: if I will never get to eat what they are showing me to make, why bother watching? It's palate torture, pure and simple. I still try every once and a while when a recipe really captures my attention, I just wish my success rate (looks good and tastes good) was higher.

pairingswithandrea.jpgThe only show I ever watched regularly – usually with my husband – was "Pairings with Andrea" on Fine Living. Mostly because Andrea Immer-Robinson is one of the few woman Master Sommeliers in the world and I love her books about wine. She breaks the subject down in a way that makes it simple and accessible for everyone. She's also apparently a great cook as well. On each episode she cooks a multi-course, wine country meal (her home is in Napa), usually on a certain theme, that delivers as much information about the wine as it does the food, which almost seems secondary. More up my alley. Plus, she's just plain hilarious. Though not intentionally. She just loves her job and it shows. Especially when it comes to tasting her simply prepared dishes with the selected wines. Her "hmmms" and "ooohs" when she hits the right combination of flavors – and she always does, by the way, because she's a master – just crack us up, which takes the sting out of my jealousy. If she wasn't just so down-to-earth, informative and cute, you'd almost want to slap her for living so well and doing it without you.

The good news is I have enough foodie friends who are willing to share the fruits of their kitchen labors with me. All I have to do is bring a good bottle of wine and a hearty appetite. Both easy to accomplish for me. Many women in Los Angeles are constantly on a diet, but I feel that if you're going to cook for me, I'm going to eat for you. No one wants to see their guests pushing food around a plate. So in an effort to keep myself healthy, I watch TLC, Discovery, Biography and Turner Classic Movies all in a sad attempt to keep my mind – and body – away from the Food Network and out of the kitchen. It's pathetic, but necessary for me to continue to enjoy the joy of cooking. 



Lisa Dinsmore is a writer, web programmer, movie and wine lover. She currently runs two review websites to share her passions: and She is also the Managing Editor of One for the Table.