Tag Archives: Writing

Ice Sculpting… not just for weddings anymore!

I admit that I have pretty much given up on Food Network. In terms of programming, I will watch Barefoot Contessa, Good Eats and perhaps any rerun of a Nigella Lawson or Jamie Oliver show–both of which are now found more on The Cooking Channel. Nothing else interests me because they’ve just about gotten rid of every show that might remotely show you how to cook in a manner that makes it seem accessible. Any knowledgeable host was given the boot and replaced with a “celebrity chef” that’s more about food as a lifestyle. To a point, I was willing to accept this as simply part of changing trends. Food is something that a lot more people are paying attention to these days, whether for health reasons, political reasons or because they’re becoming foodies. Still, watching the step-by-step/recipe shows give way to travel shows, I Love the [decade] style shows about where their hosts have eaten, restaurant rehab programs and a show that examined/busted food myths–busting myths… where have I heard something like that before?–signified that it was no longer about the food. But at the least each new non-cooking show had at least the tiniest root in food & dining… until now.

Ice Brigade is a new show airing in March on Food Network. When I first heard the title, I thought it would be a new show on either History or Discovery Channel, but no, it’s a “food” show:

Ice Brigade follows Michigan-based chef Randy Finch and his team of renegade ice artists as they blow the lid off ice sculpting by developing original designs that defy the imagination. To these frozen outlaws, the standard wedding swans are simply huge ice cubes. The real thrill of their bone-chilling craft is to make life-sized and interactive creations like pool tables, bowling lanes, grand pianos, carousels and putt-putt courses. Armed with chain saws, chisels and sledge hammers, each episode features Randy and crew sculpting rock-solid ice blocks into out-of-this world art and delivering them to awestruck clients. No matter the job or locale, the mission remains the same: get the job done, before it all melts away.

I dunno about you, but that picture of a guy with snappy headwear, a chainsaw and a sledgehammer just screams “I have a new show on Food Network”… right? And I don’t discount the attractive inexpensive quality of a “documentary/reality show” but watching an ice sculpture company’s trials, tribulations and triumphs doesn’t exactly shout “food television” to me. Yes, ice sculpting is considered a culinary art, but I fear the direction things are going when a programming executive says, “Hey, you know ‘Ace of Cakes’? Why don’t we just make a bunch more shows like that?” picking the businesses to follow at random just like Bewitched‘s writers would choose what Endora would turn Darrin into on that week’s episode.

It isn’t that I don’t like reality shows–as it happens, I can’t stand them–but when Food Network still owns the rights to show their entire back catalog starring actual chefs and noted food writers it seems silly that, in an effort to maintain a “full” programming slate, they’d seek out new and loosely-food-related shows to put on instead. I suppose this falls under the category of “guy programming” which many networks–who were made popular by their female viewing demographic–are now trying to appeal to for… truck ads? I have no idea. But I suppose it’s a good thing that this show is airing just as Winter is over, otherwise we’d probably be hearing about a bunch of emergency room visits due to chainsaw slippage and sledgehammer bruises!

In Praise of Nigella

Even though it’s unlikely, I have said that if Nigella Lawson were to do a book signing stop in DC this year, it would make 2010–cancer aside–the best year ever. Since Sara Moulton was dumped from Food Network and they’ve gone in new directions, the only shows that are my mainstays are Barefoot Contessa and whichever Nigella series they carry at the time. The other shows are background noise and none of the food personalities really seem to enjoy cooking as much as Sara, Ina or Nigella do.

The feminist cooking blog To Serve Woman has a guest post today extolling the virtues of Nigella and I absolutely agree:

Nigella stands out from these for the following reasons:

  1. She’s beautiful.
  2. She’s not as skinny as a twig.
  3. She takes an almost orgasmic pleasure in food.
  4. She uses stock cubes.
  5. She advocates the use of frozen peas.
  6. She doesn’t seem to have anything to do with a supermarket chain.
  7. She makes cooking risotto look almost worthwhile (why anyone should want to stand around stirring a pot continuously for about half an hour to produce a generally tasteless yet savoury version of a rice pudding, has always been beyond me).
  8. She comes down to the kitchen at midnight and wolfs down huge slices of chocolate cake.
  9. She has a body that looks as though she comes down to the kitchen at midnight and wolfs down huge slices of chocolate cake (although not on a daily basis).

Those last two points are what won me over. Not that it ever speaks to excess, but there’s nothing wrong with a midnight snack! If you’re a Nigella lover, check out the full article and the rest of their blog.

Why food, of all things?

So why, after more than 10 years of blogging at various sites and domains have I decided to create a spin-off for food? Easy answer: Why not?

The results of a recent trip to the farmers market

Seriously though, with all of the geeky things I do in life, it has always seemed odd–especially to my family–why food seemed to emerge as and eventually match many of my other hobbies in terms of importance. When I was a kid, my main concern was that we never ran out of peanut butter and jelly, but the potato chips always had to be Lay’s. In high school, I took cues from my mother who–bless her–wasn’t always the greatest cook. She has her standards, and some items she excels at, many things picked up from her mother, but realistically she had the “working mother/wife” role, so churning out 5-star meals wasn’t high on her list of priorities. When I went to college, I was all about Top Ramen at first, but slowly started to notice other things in the store–canned items, mostly, but it was a start. My roommates were most impressed when I added real shredded cheese to the blue box Kraft mix.

I can’t really say when the food bug bit me after college, but before I tackled proper recipes, most of the dishes were just applied knowledge of what goes with what. Not a very impressive statement for someone who’s “top dish” at that point was oatmeal, but you have to start somewhere. Along the way I tried more things, usually just for myself, though I noticed that everyone loves baked goods! Many people say that once they realize they can make bacon at home, there’s no need to leave the house again. For me that food item would be cheesecake. Well… steak too. In any case, enough about my cooking history. If you’ve read my other blog, you know that my cooking experiments have their measures of success and failure, but they’re all fun.

That’s what I’m hoping you’ll most find here: an appreciation of the fun of cooking, the joy that we all find in food, pictures and reviews of my food and that of others, and you might just learn something along the way!