TND – Pet Peeves

September 15, 2011

I sometimes feel like I have more than my fair share of pet peeves. I have at least four that are just related to the printer/photocopier at work, and I have two completely separate and lengthy lists of pet peeves for traffic depending on whether I’m the pedestrian or the driver – I do try not to do the things as a driver that make me nuts as a pedestrian, although I’m not entirely sure I can say that the opposite is true.

I also have a whole series of pet peeves about cooking shows. I’ve talked before about how they exist in this vacuum where nobody has food dislikes or food allergies, more than once in fact. These are two not new exactly, but recently reinforced pet peeves courtesy of a series of Saturdays that have filled my DVR with cooking shows.

Firstly, vegetables. Now admittedly I am perhaps a little dogmatic in my insistence on the presence of a green vegetable on the table at every meal (you can thank my mother for this). However, has anyone else noticed the sheer blinding lack of vegetables showcased on food shows? I’m not talking about the shows that do a dish – like say, here’s a lasagna recipe, or here’s how to make beef stew, or let me teach you how to make cinnamon rolls. I’m talking about the shows that are based around the concept of a meal – I’m throwing a party to watch Bollywood movies, or I’m having friends over for a pool party. The show is structured around making all the component dishes for the party and ends with the host and their friends sitting down for the meal, and I would say that 80% of the time that meal does not involve a vegetable of any description.

For example, last week’s Aarti Party was “Bollywood Nights”, and the menu was:

Roasted Lamb Curry with Garam Masala, Caraway, and Apricots
Green Apple and Ginger Chutney

Don’t get me wrong, I want to make all of those recipes, particularly the roasted lamb curry which gets marinated in yogurt overnight and then baked in the oven and also involves dried fruit. It wins for tasty, and easy, and also involves my personal kryptonite – dried fruit in savory applications. There is, however, not a single vegetable on that menu which is presented as being a complete dinner menu.

Or, to take another example, Giada de Laurentis’s menu for a “No Stress Party” which features:

Ginger, Lemon and Lime Martini
Grilled Beef Skewers with Sun Dried Tomato Relish
Sweet Basil Cheesecake

Vegetables are conspicuously absent from this menu (no, the sun dried tomatoes in the relish and the basil in the cheesecake don’t count).

Ina Garten is actually stunningly bad at including vegetables in her meals. The “Perfect French Dinner Party” has two kinds of protein, but no vegetable (4-hour Lamb, and Provencal French Beans). “Jeffrey’s Treat” includes Filet of Beef au Poivre, Matchstick Potatoes, Whisky Sours and Strawberry Tarts, but no vegetables. Or, “Comfort and Company” in which she makes pot roast and baked potatoes, but no vegetables. It would kill her to sauté some spinach, or throw a salad together to go with those meals? She could even sauté the spinach in a stick of butter if plain spinach seemed too boring (I know it’s possible – Jes just did it, go bug her to tell us about it).

This obviously isn’t true for everything The Food Network airs. “Five Ingredient Fix” while not being one of my favorite shows, does in fact reliably feature vegetables as part of the meal. Melissa d’Arabian (again, not one of my favorites) is also pretty good about having a vegetable as part of her menu. Elie Krieger, who is on at an odd time so I don’t often watch her show, is fairly consistent in her commitment to vegetables, as one might expect from someone who promotes healthy cooking.

My other big pet peeve recently has been portion size, and oddly this is not about portions being too large, but about portions being unrealistically small. Now granted, my quantity gauge has perhaps been warped by years of cooking for Dinner. As a friend put it this week, Dinner will expand to consume the amount of food available to them. The number of times I have ever seriously overestimated the amount of food that can be disappeared by Dinner can counted on my fingers.

I understand that the point of cooking shows is to do a demonstration, not actually cook a meal for a family/party. However, on the shows when they end the episode with the host and their friends sitting down to eat the food that you just watched being prepared I always worry that everyone is going to go home hungry (and with incipient scurvy).

For example, on the “Bollywood Nights” show Aarti Sequeira made the curry with 1 ½ lb of lamb, which her recipe says will feed 4-6 people, and on the show she served it to a table of about 10 people. Now, I’d quibble that 1 ½ lb of meat will serve 4-6 people (four people maybe if there were a number of side dishes, six people not so much), but really what struck me was that the narrative flow of the show suggested that the quantity she’d made would feed the entire table of people she presented it to.

Take it from someone who regularly feeds large groups of people, 1 ½ lb of meat will not feed 10 people, particularly not if it’s the only thing on the table. My general rule of thumb is about 1/3 lb (raw) meat/person + an extra portion for the pot – so 3 lb of meat will serve about eight people, assuming side dishes.

I was particularly struck by this recently because when I was watching the second episode of the Ree Drummond’s “Pioneer Woman” show and she made an offhand comment about how the viewer shouldn’t be alarmed by the two full pans of macaroni and cheese she was making because they were for a large party. It was one of the first times on a cooking show that I felt like the quantity being demonstrated was actually likely to feed the quantity of people who were shown eating the dish at the end of the episode. She also made about 100 sliders for that party, and I think the only vegetables on offer were some caramelized onions to top them. However, I’m going to give her a pass on that because (a) her entire shtick is ‘cowboy’ food and I don’t get the impression from her blog that vegetables ever feature heavily in that diet, and (b) it was her kid’s birthday party.


Butternut Squash Chili


Butternut Squash Chili

Partly because I’ve been in the mood for chili recently, partly because we had a four course dinner party on Saturday, we’re going out for drinks and nibblies on Thursday, and ending our week with high tea in Newport on Sunday and in between I needed to eat something a little lighter, and partly because I wanted something that was easy and fast to prep on Monday night because I spent some of Friday and most of Saturday in the kitchen (which I enjoyed, but still). And that was the king of run on sentences.

As a note about realistic portion sizing, I doubled the recipe with the intent of having leftovers. I served seven at Dinner, froze two+ portions for an easy dinner for us sometime in the future and sent two sets of leftovers home with Dinner guests (in this case 2 lb of ground turkey was stretched with beans and butternut squash to feed 12 in total).

Recipe previously given: Same Batplace


Recipe previously given: Chili Take II


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