I love Food Network. Not the informative, “how to” shows. I only watch cooking competitions, like Masterchef, Top Chef, Food Network Star, The Taste, Food Truck Race, Chopped, Worst Cook in America, Cupcake Wars, Cake Wars, etc. I think my obsession with cooking competitions comes from my basic approach to cooking.
Most meals for me are along the lines of Chopped. Here’s what I have in my kitchen. What can I make in under an hour that my family will eat and maybe even like? It’s all about improvising on the fly. Inventing things, putting things together that don’t normally go and making it work.
For me, every night has the intellectual and technical challenges of a cooking competition. I’m always racing the clock with limited ingredients trying to please the tough and brutally honest critics and judges I call my family. I think that’s why I really get off watching other people, usually more knowledgeable and skilled than I am, doing the same thing.
One of my favorite shows is Masterchef Jr. and I even got my husband hooked on this one. Here 8-14 year olds do everything the adults do but with better attitudes and sportsmanship, less arrogance and a cuteness quotient that is off the charts.
What I can’t wrap my head around is how a child that young has had enough hours in their short lives to learn how to make souffle, macaroons, beef Wellington and fancy fresh pasta dishes in one hour and without a recipe. Granted a kid’s brain is not clogged with all the esoteric information, to do lists, worries and song lyrics that fill adult brains. It means that the complex recipes don’t have to fight through a hoarder’s nightmare of irrelevant data to come to the surface.
Other than an hour or two of homework only part of the year, nothing is stopping these kids from spending 11 hours a day reading cookbooks, working in the kitchen and watching Food Network. To be fair to myself, this is not an option for me.
When I watch these kids, I feel inadequate and embarrassed for me and my kids, who had no such superpowers when they were that age. But I also feel pride and hope. It’s wonderful to know that some kids today have discipline, drive and passion and can become experts in any field that interests them. That gives me hope for humanity’s future.
As for my cooking competition addiction; that serves no higher purpose than to give me something with some redeeming value to watch while my husband plays video games. I may get a few ideas for recipes or learn a new technique here and there. But basically I’m okay with just calling this “my guilty pleasure.”