THE JOY OF COOKING SHOWS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

The less I cook, the more I watch cooking shows on TV. I particularly love baking shows and I haven’t baked in years. But I’m obviously not watching these shows to improve my cooking skills or to learn new techniques or even to collect new recipes. I think for me, it’s more of an outlet.

I did once replay a Bobby Flay show a few times so I could write down his recipe for baked meatballs. We still use this as our go-to meatball recipe and it comes out great every time. But that was the exception, not the rule.

Bobby Flay

Since menopause, I’ve had to watch my weight (I fortunately never had to before).

I gain easily so I had to pay attention to what and how much I ate. Then over a year ago, I had to start taking Prednisone and I slowly gained ten pounds over the course of 15 months. This is a common side effect of Prednisone. Most people gain a lot more than I did, but I was actively ‘dieting’ to keep the weight gain down to a minimum.

This is particularly frustrating because I love food – I love to eat and I love to cook. I once created a whole line of baked goods for a business that never took off. I’ve put together several of my own cookbooks and I used to constantly look for new recipes to add to them.

One of my own recipe collections

I tried to cook something ‘interesting’ every night when my husband was still working and I came up with creative ways to use leftovers. Recently my husband was warned he was about to become pre-diabetic. He had to lose weight, cut down on sugar and alcohol to prevent it from happening.

He lost 30-pounds and is now as obsessed with maintaining his weight as I am. So no more rich sauces and cheesy dishes for us!

Recipes I adapted or created for my defunct English Dessert business

We got an air fryer (which I highly recommend) so we can still have French Fries and crispy chicken wings without any fat. But most nights we eat plain grilled meat, a baked potato, and vegetables.

Tom does the grilling and I occasionally roast something in the oven or cook an actual vegetable recipe, as opposed to plain, boiled or steamed veggies.

Air Fryer

But my love of food and creative cooking has not diminished. So I get my foodie fix by watching TV. My favorite shows these days are The Great British Baking Show, The Best Baker in America, Masterchef, and Masterchef Junior and Top Chef. I find that these shows have the best cooks and bakers and the nicest contestants.

The level of skill and knowledge is very high, as is the spirit of camaraderie as well as competition. The plating and decorating is usually impeccable and creative. Also, the shows have the classiest hosts and judges and the best production values.

Best Baker in America winner last season

I’m still amazed that an eight or nine-year-old can bake a macaroon or an éclair without a recipe, in one hour, even if they’ve never made one before. The amount of baseline skill and knowledge this implies is mind-boggling. The complex and imaginative dishes the food show contestants come up within an hour or less blows me away. I can’t seem to create dishes in anything in less than an hour and my dishes are far from sophisticated, mouth-watering of beautiful to look at.

Masterchef Junior contestants

These cooking competitions are at a level way above mine. I couldn’t even begin to copy any of their recipes. Tom and I have always longed to learn how to plate elegantly, but we’ve never gone beyond making a vegetable puree and serving it under each piece of protein, a common practice on cooking shows.

The decorations on TV seem to require lots of planning and extra ingredients and we never seem to get around to even trying. I wouldn’t know where to start making those colorful ‘drops’ that appear on so many artistic plates. And who keeps fresh parsley around just to use as a garnish? I buy it if I need it for a specific dish and it only lasts a day or so in the fridge before it wilts and becomes useless.

I love watching skilled people, even amateurs, do their magic in the kitchen. I love hearing the judges’ critiques, which teach me what the dishes are supposed to look and taste like.

While I’m not going to try to duplicate what I see, I am a more educated restaurant goer and a more attentive home cook. That, along with the hours of enjoyment I get watching my cooking shows, is enough.

RDP Saturday: GOURMAND

12 thoughts on “THE JOY OF COOKING SHOWS – BY ELLIN CURLEY”

    1. Unlikely people like my son also love watching them. It’s great to be able to gossip about our favorite cooking shows! I’m not into some of his other hobbies, like cars and cigars, but the cooking shows are something we can share.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ellin, you and Tommy make an excellent cooking team. I’m aware of the “teamwork” when we visit. I should be taking notes. I know Marilyn would agree.

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  1. Our younger daughter recently has taken up the keto, low carb diet. It involves giving up sugar, a lot of fruits and vegetables for a higher fat content. I’m not sure I can do this. Surprisingly, you do tend to lose weight with the high fat diet. I’m still learning about it. Meanwhile she brought me some dark chocolate “fat bombs” sweetened with stevia. They had pecans in them and they were quite good. I love the cooking shows too.
    Leslie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The problem I’ve had with diets that eliminate whole groups of foods and emphasize others, is that you have to keep eating this way to keep the weight off. If you try to start eating even small amounts of the forbidden food groups, you start gaining the weight back. I prefer eating a little bit of everything so I can maintain my ‘diet’ on a permanent basis. I love to eat out, so I have to have a diet that can adapt to restaurant food at least once a week. I used to eat out more, but since Tom is also watching his weight, we rarely go out more than once a week.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I rather shy away from some of those food fads. Years later one often finds that the pundits were wrong and butter (etc) actually was good for you. I never gave up butter it tastes so much better.

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  2. A lot of my friends love to watch cooking shows but not me I’m afraid. I am put off by the competitive part of it as many shows seem to come down to being about all the drama between contestants and fear of not making the deadline. Way too stressful for me. But before that, the bad manners of Gordon Ramsay put me off watching cooking shows. I guess I am just a meat and two veg girl really.

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    1. Gordon Ramsey has toned down a lot on all his shows except for Hell’s Kitchen. He yells a lot on that one. I totally get the ‘stress’ of watching people race to meet a cooking deadline. But most of the contestants are skilled enough that they do. It’s rare for someone to totally screw up and not be able to present anything on their plate. The contestants on the shows I watch, are very nice and friendly to each other, even helping out if the need arises. Many used to be more cutthroat and the contestants were coached to ‘trash talk’ each other. But not on the ones I watch because I don’t like that extreme competitiveness either.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. To me the interesting bit here was cooking with an air fryer. Had to watch some YTube videos to learn about that. All the things I don’t know about and yet I still live…. I find that often what puts one off is the severe lack of space. A kitchen machine or cooker or anything really attached to a plug NOT at hand at all times is never going to be used. I once bought a very expensive kitchen machine with EVERYTHING (sort of like your kitchen aids) but not having had the space to keep it nearby, it didn’t get used at all and in the end I gave it away, new and all.

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    1. I have to keep my air fryer in a cabinet because I don’t have enough counter space to keep it out all the time. But we use it so regularly that I don’t forget about it. It’s a part of our thinking when we decide what to eat for dinner. I think this is a device that you will never forget about because you’ll love the food it makes so much!

      Liked by 1 person

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