WND – Asian-ish

January 28, 2010

The Food Network has a new show on called “The Worst Cooks in America”.  I had hopes for it, mostly because the promo of the two professional chefs staring in horrified bemusement at the man who’d boiled a whole chicken was entertaining.  The premise of the show is that they’ve found 12 of the worst cooks in America – as nominated by their friends and families – and in a couple of months they’ll turn at least two of them into cooks who can fool professional food critics into thinking they’re eating a meal prepared by one of the host chefs and not by one of the (presumably now formerly) worst cooks in America.

The promos for the show were really entertaining in a shadenfreude reality TV kind of way – seriously, who boils a whole chicken?  But, I watched the first episode and was unimpressed, and then I caught a later episode this past weekend and was thoroughly annoyed by it.  For one thing I cannot imagine having family or friends nominate me as one of the worst cooks in America – it’s like “What Not To Wear”.  There are certainly people I see regularly who I think could use some stern fashion advice – yes, woman on my floor who’s 50 and dresses like she’s 22, I’m talking about you – but I can’t imagine admitting that to someone I actually like by putting them up for “What Not To Wear”, not even for the $5,000 shopping spree in New York.

For another thing, unlike “What Not to Wear” where they do actually teach you the principals of how to dress for your coloring and body type, the chefs on “Worst Cooks in America” aren’t really teaching the contestants how to cook.  As far as I can tell mostly they’re throwing them in the deep end and waiting to see how long it takes to make them cry.  Asking people who have absolutely no foundation in cooking to jump right in and make a cioppino after seeing it demonstrated once strikes me as idiotic.  Yelling at them when they fail is just mean.

Mostly they seem to be teaching them how to follow directions, which is a good idea in general and a rule I learned in 7th grade math because I had a math teacher who used to like to assign long complicated equations that ended with x0 just to see if anyone was actually paying attention.  However, while being taught to read a recipe to the end and follow the directions is a useful place to start, it’s not learning how to cook.  If that’s all the help these contestants needed they could grab a Joy of Cooking and teach themselves.  Learning how to cook is about learning how flavors go together, and how they change when you heat them, and knowing how long something needs to cook before it’s done, and why you cream butter and sugar together and then add the wet ingredients and then the flour rather than just dumping it all in the mixer together.

It’s not like I’m unfamiliar with the concept and format of your average reality show.  There’s a reason I don’t really watch them – I’m not a big fan of watching someone being humiliated for my entertainment.  I guess I just expected more of the Food Network.  I wanted to see them actually teach someone how to cook.  Frankly I feel like they’re setting most of these people up for failure.  I’d be hard pressed to successfully achieve the dishes they’re being asked to make in the time frame they’re being asked to make them in, and I already know how to put dinner together.  From what I’ve seen if anyone, except maybe the winner, comes out of this show ever willing to enter a kitchen again I’ll be surprised, and I can’t imagine that’s the message the Food Network is really trying to promote.

Apricot Glazed Chicken
Coconut Rice
Bok Choi

Apricot Glazed Chicken

Let me give you some free advice.  Don’t dump a bowl full of chopped onions and minced ginger into hot oil and then lean over the pan.  Five hours later and my eyes were still watering from the fumes.

Recipe previously given:  Oscars!

Coconut Rice
This is the rice that would not cook.  Recipe says 25-30 minutes, which is about standard for rice.  In reality it took upwards of 45 minutes to get fully cooked.  I need to try and remember this for next time.

Recipe previously given: Mastering the Art of French Cooking, sort of

Bok Choi

Recipe previously given: Taking the Easy Way Out


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