I Hereby Declare…

…that people get over the fact that The Food Network isn’t all about food and it isn’t the place to learn how to cook.

It’s probably never going to be and is simply entertainment. It’s what it is. Criticizing them for the lack of serious cooking on their programs is like complaining that there’s not enough hard-news in Jay Leno’s monologue.

If you want to learn how to cook, crack open a cookbook by Richard Olney or Jacques Pepin, take a cooking class, or follow along while watching Julia Child on The French Chef on DVD.

…that people please stop using that phrase “Fat is flavor”.

Espresso, ground cinnamon, marshmallows, red wine, maple syrup, fresh ginger, Ranch Gordo beans, arugula, soy sauce, cranberries, Château Yquem, Concord grapes and sea salt are delicious and absolutely loaded with flavor. Yet they have zero or just very trace amounts of fat.

Fat is not a hero nor is it a villain.

But if you think fat equals flavor, eat a spatula-full of Crisco vegetable shortening and let me know how it tastes.


…that people use their real names when leaving restaurant reviews on the internet.

If you have something to say, especially if you’re going to be negative, why not put your name on it to give it validity?

If you’re truly convinced of your opinions, do it with your real name. It carries much more weight and it far more helpful to others if that’s your intention. If it’s not, you shouldn’t be putting things out there in the first place.


…that people stop picking on Alice Waters.

If you don’t like the message, don’t listen to it.
I don’t like Anne Coulters’ message (…although does anyone?) so I switch her off.

Alice Waters is well-meaning and has been working for over 30 years striving to make eating locally and sustainably a reality and her restaurant gave validity and visibility to a vast network of local food producers.

If you can’t do it or don’t want to listen, then don’t. Continue to eat and shop the way you normally do. You don’t have to listen to her.

…that if you’re worried about eating high-fructose corn syrup, then don’t eat it. Simply stop buying processed foods and eating fast-foods.

Now…Isn’t that easy?

Let’s face it; the people making bottled salad dressings with all that junk in it don’t really care to change their formula. And if you’re interested in healthy eating, don’t buy processed foods.

Read the labels. Don’t eat items like Hot Pockets, sweetened yogurt and frozen pizzas that contain corn syrup. It’s all there on the label.

The big food companies will respond to consumers since their sole goal is to make money: If people stop giving them money and buying that stuff, they will stop making it. If you’re worried about corn syrup in foods, read the labels (or visit their website) which list the ingredients. Then put those items back on the shelf if they have products in them that you don’t want to eat. Write a letter to the company and let them know why you made that decision.

And yes, no matter what your economic means, you can make your own cornstarch-free foods, like homemade powdered sugar by whizzing regular sugar in a food processor. Or grind it in your mortar and pestle, a tool which the least-affluent people in the world use for cooking.

Whew…I feel better…

Categories:

Whining

63 comments

  • Whew! thank god you feel better!! ;)

  • Thank you, I feel much better as well! Now let’s get the masses to read this one.

  • Thanks for the link to Rancho Gordo!

  • so true! Bobby Flay was challenging someone to make buffalo chicken wings, can you imagine?

  • I love it when you get all dictatorial! Yes!

  • You mean powdered sugar is only powdered sugar?! Who knew? Any excuse to use my mortar and pestle is fine by me :)

  • Life becomes so much easier through your eyes David.

  • David, How can you say such things about the Food Network? My inspiration to learn to cook was when I watched Sweet Dreams with Gale Gand. Okay, that was a while ago and now they only air her shows (reruns!) on Fridays at 4 A.M.(!). Thank God for tivo!? Anyways, I don’t think they are totally useless. Although Emirel’s show is 90% entertainment, sometimes I can get maybe only one but very useful technique or concept. But that may be a waste of time. Food Network wants to cover the most audience as possible and most people care about entertainment. But I do get a chance to watch PBS shows which are really more about cooking than entertaining like Julia Child’s Cooking with Master Chefs, America’s Test Kitchen, and Ming Tsai’s East Meets West, and Jacques Pepin’s show.

  • SO MUCH WISDOM here … and I especially like your comments on fat is flavour – ha! – and on reading the labels and then putting down the industrially processed food.

    Reading the labels on industrially processed “food” is the most powerful thing you can do for a healthier life.

    Thanks
    Joanna

  • You are very right. The Food Network is all about entertainment and only secondarily about food or cooking. Apparently that’s what sells and what the audience watches. When it was available, I used to watch “From Martha’s Kitchen,” not because of Martha, but because she always had serious and talented chefs as guests who passed on their knowledge to the audience. Apparently, her revamped show has made the decision that her audience wants to see second-tier celebrities with no basic cooking or food knowledge try and imitate what Martha does. I’m not one of them.

  • PS David, I’ve used some of it on my blog, completely attributed and with link … it’s too eloquent to lose

  • I don’t know why people think that every show, book, restaurant, etc. has to be geared specifically for them. How difficult is it to realize that if you don’t like it, put it down, change the channel, etc??

  • I hereby declare….
    that people in New York realize that good food can be found outside the NYC city limits. People who live in New York think that us hillbillies and rednecks in the rest of the world wouldn’t know good food if it came up and crawled into bed with us. However, the last time I was in New York, I paid over $100.00 for food that was mediocre at best.

    that some food bloggers actually have a point when writing. Too many times I have started reading someone’s blog when half way through, I stop and ask myself, “Just what is the point of this?” (David, you, of course, do not fit this description.)

    that I will teach my kids how to eat healthy. By healthy I mean that they will indulge every once in a while, not every meal. That there is more than french fries as a side dish. That vegetables can taste good even when they are not double battered and deep fried with a “zingy” ranch dipping sauce.

    that if we stop eating the crap that the fast food nation keeps putting out, they will stop making it. Do we really need an Oreo Crust Pizza drizzled with icing? Or, a 3/4 pound burger topped with ham, cheese and jalepeno poppers? If you do, then you need to check yourself into Eaters’ Anonymous.

  • David, I love you.

  • Hi Johnny: My point is not that there’s anything inherently wrong with the Food Network, it’s just that I’m so over hearing criticism of what it’s not, or how bad it is.

    It’s not intended to be a serious network on cooking and although they do have some good chefs (and some bad ones!) just like Jay Leno isn’t where I look for getting serious news coverage, I don’t think it’s the place to expect to find a lot of serious cooking going on. There’s plenty of other places to look for that if people are interested. Julia, Jacques, Richard, etc… (except Julia doesn’t have Giada’s rack.)

    Maryann: Most powdered sugar you buy has roughly 3% cornstarch added to prevent it from clumping. But I am totally into my mortar-and-pestle…my goal is to have big, strong arms like all those Mexican women cooks.

    tut-tut: I love Rancho Gordo beans! If I could, I would wallow in them like Ann-Margret did in ‘Tommy‘!

  • I hereby declare that people who make public pronouncements, whether they are Alice Waters or Ann Coulter, shouldn’t get upset when they are criticized. If you don’t want to be criticized (or praised) keep it to yourself.

    Other than the above caveat, I hereby declare David Lebovitz to be fabulously correct.

    Ps. When writing restaurant reviews for a free weekly in the Midwest, I got death threats, yes death threats, when I gave a certain restaurant a pan. So while I find the anonymity a bit cowardly I can understand it.

  • Amen! Especially on the “fat is flavour” thing.

  • Wow! I hope you haven’t been brewing on this for too long. Glad you feel better.

    Do people complain about the Food Network? Must have missed that. I think they’ve made a foodie out of a lot of people, some of them who later moved on to reading more about food. Popular and easy to digest TV.

  • Amen food brother!

  • Hmmm, Food Network. I used to watch it as a newly wed. Then, we didn’t have cable for years. Got it again, and it wasn’t on the cable line up. Moved again, and got it back. The channel had totally changed in the 6 years I wasn’t able to watch. During those cable-less years, I watched PBS. Learned about baking from Julia Child, and honest good food from Jacques Pepin. I adore them. They are heroes to me. Now, I find Food Network as entertainment. Alton Brown is great entertainment with a lot of science nerd in him. I find more recipes, ideas, and tips on the internet than Food Network. They have a great database of recipes, but then so does Epicurious, and many other recipe sites. I love DVRs. I can skip all the crappy shows, and only watch the ones I truly want, when I want.

  • I’m a PBS cooking show junkie and have learned a lot by watching Julia Child, Jeff Smith, Ming Tsai, Lidia Bastiatich, Jacques Pepin, and Chris Kimball; however, I have learned much more from my mother, and from 2 excellent cooking classes I took (one from Rich Herzfeld at Chef’s table in Westport CT, and one from Jill Santopietro now a writer at the NY Times). One of the things Julia Child’s show taught me is that making mistakes (like dropping a chicken on the floor)is a huge part of learning to cook. I once made a carrot cake and forgot the eggs and it taught me a very good lesson about mise en place.

  • I learned more watching Julia Child and Jacques Pepin’s shows than any show on Food Network-except for Good Eats. They all offer excellent advice on technique, use of tools, recipes etc. Food Network is great because it inspires people to cook and bake things themselves.

  • Amen, and comment about Giada’s rack seconded.

    What is it about gay men and their “appreciation” for women’s “racks”? :D

  • Wait, what’s the deal with cornstarch? Do we not like cornstarch now?

  • As a semi-resident science-y person here (free conversions from Celsius to Fahrenheit and backwards!), I should point out that espresso is, technically speaking, an emulsion of fats (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Espresso for reference).

    I do concur with all the points David is making, of course. :)

  • Good on ya!

    XXOO,
    Val

  • Huzzah! I agree. FoodTV is kind of like Food Porn. Sometimes there are good articles, but we all come for the (chicken) breasts and sausages, right? But if it inspires you in your own kitchen/bedroom, than where’s the harm?

    And may I add, “Margarine is not food. It is a pharmaceutical.” (Shudder)

  • I hereby declare that you rock.

  • Very funny :-) I have one question though – am I still allowed to say “fat is flavour” in relation to meat? I never realized this until I tried pork that wasn’t super lean. I always disliked pork before that as being flavourless chunks of white protein, but the day I had slow-cooked pork belly from a Gloucester Old Spot pig was the day I realized I needed some fat to get the meat to taste like something.

  • re Food Network, how strange it is that in this era of non-cooks, that cooking has become entertainment?

  • The Food Network is to food what MTV is to music. It’s my go-to if nothing else is on TV (Giada is nice eye candy), but for the most part I don’t bother to watch it anymore. It seems like people have stopped complaining about the lack of music on MTV and started accepting it for what it is, so I imagine the Food Network snobs will go the same route.

    I think the addition of fat to a recipe is more for the mouthfeel than for the flavor, but I guess “Food is Mouthfeel” doesn’t have quite the same ring.

  • Oops, I meant to say “Fat is Mouthfeel”. Should have hit the preview button first.

  • Are we feeling feisty today?

    I have to tell you that extremely lean hamburger is sorta yuck.

    For the rest, d’accordo. TV is not school, not important, no one has to buy junky food, but I’d watch you if you were on Raiuno, and I’m not that into dessert.

  • I love it when you rant – usually because I completely agree!!

    Here’s to actually thinking about what we put in our mouths, and how it’s prepared. Go DAVID!!

  • Regarding Crisco: yuck!!! Totally on board with you regarding the whole “fat is flavour” thing. I think the people over at the fat free vegan blog would agree too. While fat is totally necessary, the idea that fat is flavour (and that without it, there is no flavour) is just a tad off. After all, Colombus didn’t try to sail around the world in search of the fat isles, now did he?

    As far as it being strange the food is entertainment in an era when less people than ever before cook at home (esp. here in the USA), I think that is actually EXACTLY WHY it is entertainment-after all, people turn on their tvs to be entertained by things that they can’t or don’t do themselves, right? So in order for cooking to be entertainment, instead of just a daily chore, it has to be exoticized and distanced from everyday life-in other words, people have to stop doing it regularly. I think that is one of many reasons why there has been such an explosion of shows about food.

    Good Post Dave!!

  • That high fructose corn syrup thing is SO true! People aren’t unhealthy from eating real food, they’re unhealthy from eating processed food full of that crap.
    And I agree with you about Anne Coulter. Can’t stand the sight of her!

  • Preach on, Brother David!

  • Andrea: I didn’t realize Giada’s husband was gay!
    ; )

    Zoe: Things that are supposed to have fat, like lardo, bacon, chocolate, sausage, and butter, do depend on fat for the flavor. And aside from the excellent sausage that I buy from the people from the Auvergne that’s pretty lean naturally, low-fat versions of those particular foods just don’t cut it simply because in those instances, fat is part of the product and it’s appeal. But the blanket statement that ‘fat=flavor’ just isn’t true.

    Appreciate your comment..

    Robert: Well, in theory that’s true. I guess if you’re going to say something in public—you will likely get criticized. But it’s unfortunate that people can’t debate or disagree without being mean and nasty.

    Of course that Coulter lady is an exception. Anyone who would pick on women who lost their husbands in 9/11 deserves any smack-downs. What a loser she is and my sole consolation point is that probably her friends are just like her (if she has any) and she has to hang around with them. How horrible that must be!

    Keely: I’m not up on the whole corn thing, but corn is popping up in the most unlikely places and I read somewhere that people were concerned about cornstarch in powdered sugar (which keeps it from clumping). But it’s easy to make at home if anyone is so inclined. fyi: I’m not… : 0

    Vladimir: Which that’s true, you’ll notice (because I know how astute my readers are) that I said some things have ‘trace’ amounts of fat, like espresso. But if you analyzed an espresso, I think the fat content would read below 1% for the beverage. Most things do have fat, even watermelon!

    See…unlike Ann Coulter, we can disagree and still be pals!

  • I agree, I agree, I agree, and I agree! Yay for David Lebovitz for telling it like it is. What would we do without you?

    And LOVE the Anne Coulter reference…I’m not such a fan either.

  • Corn in any form is now heavily GMO’d, for one thing. Does that explain why it is one of the more prevelant food allergies? Has anyone else noticed that most major food allergies are from the basic food staples, all of which are now GMO in the US?

    Also, I was watching Iron Chef Japan because it was inspiring, but the American Iron Chef doesn’t seem as intellegent or inspiring to me. I wish the focus could return to FOOD and the chefs who are in love with it instead of drama.

  • Getting out my mortar and pestle right now…

  • amen, brother.

  • here here! great post

  • Ok, while fat may not be flavor, there is nothing worse than baking with margarine. Real butter is the real deal.

  • After reading today’s entry, a group of friends and I discussed what very well might be the obvious next step – in terms of the amount of, or, even the use of, high fructose corn syrup in so many products. It seems that amongst all of your readers there is total consensus that the use of HFCS is unhealthy, to say the least. If all of us were to individually email the various food manufacturers complaining about its use as well as indicating that we were simply going to boycott purchasing the product in the future, it might be a place to start. We’re aware that the manufacturers might not be inclined to listen to us in the beginning, but, given a continuous stream of mail, after a while, they might very well hear us. We could call it the David Leibovitz Blog Commenters for a Healthier Diet :)

  • All points well-taken. Just one thing…What can replace corn syrup in a marshmallow recipe..??

  • I’ll chime in with support for Robert; if you are a pubic figure, criticism should be expected. Of course, ad hominem attacks are not really welcome, and politeness welcome.

    I hear the reviewer who actually was threatened after using his real name in his restaurant reviews…it’s an ugly (cyber)world out there, and why would you want to publicly expose yourself to nutcases, unless you were a bonafide public figure-reviewer like Frank Bruni (whose job benes, I presume, outweigh the potential downside of publishing harsh reviews…not the case for small-time reviewers).
    And perhaps the wailing and nashing of teeth over the Food Network is really over the fact that, as others have alluded to, it really USED to be about helping teach people to cook!!! Besides Martha (who granted may not be to everyone’s taste), remember Sara Moulton? A consummate professional, with great, accessible recipes that didn’t pander to the lowest common denominator, and a great pedagogical method to boot. The head honchos at the network made a conscious effort to shift programming to appeal to a very different demographic a few years ago, away from people who really wanted to learn to cook WELL, and towards people who just wanted to be entertained (i.e., the network was found out that it had a substantial and growing group of young men who watched for, hmmm, eye candy, who enjoyed reality tv, “macho” challenges and posturing, etc. Hence the shift in programming).
    Since I am sure that the Food Network bean counters watch the ratings numbers, perhaps it might be better for people who have stopped watching to write in and let it know why.
    I have a funny feeling when the appeal of these pure entertainment food shows wears off on this same demographic group, and they move on to something else, the Food Network will shift its programming again.

  • Tom: I think you’re right. Like MTV which used to be about music, I remember when the Food Network was a couple of people sitting in a tv studio, in a diner booth, talking about food. Those were the old days, although I wouldn’t say they were all ‘good’ ones.

    Some of those folks on Food Network are pretty entertaining, as noted by all the chatter going on about that Iron Chef program I keep hearing about. It certainly seems like a lot of people are watching that, and enjoying it.

    Maybe Michael R. will send me a tape so I can see what all the fuss is about?!

    DrB: Kate has a long list of places where HFCS is, which is a good place to start.

    izzy: I don’t think you can. But since I don’t eat all those processed foods, I can eat as many marshmallows as I want.

    The homemade ones, of course…

  • LOL on the Crisco comment…yucko, just the thought of it!

  • Nice observation on fat–I love butter and using bacon to flavor certain things, but you’re absolutely right. Healthy, flavorful cooking is a snap, and so many recipes can be done with a fraction of the fat called for.

  • I love you too David! Now tell me, what exactly do you do all day? And I’m not sniping. I want your life! Can you do a “Day in the Life of David?”

    :)

  • Hi David,
    I write an advice column about food-related etiquette for CHOW (www.chow.com) and I’d LOVE to interview you for a piece I’m writing. If you have a moment, it would be great. Thanks so much!

  • Actually, you can’t make proper powdered sugar in a food processor. Powdered sugar is different, on a chemical level, from ordinary sugar. (So sayeth Shuna, at one of her cooking classes I attended.)

  • You go David! I especially like the bit about fat is flavor. Unless it’s pork, usually not!

  • I hate Ann Coulter. She wants all us muslims to just vanish off the earth…whatever happened to living peacefully together?

  • Well said!

  • i love how supportive you are of Alice! vent away!!!

  • Amen!

    I used to love the Food Network but I agree its shift is unfortunate. The New Yorker had an article on it. They went from Mario Batali and Sara Moulton to more reality shows.

    At least Giada and Ina can cook. It’s Rachel and that Semi Homemade woman who force me to change the channel. Cooking basic, good food is not that difficult. You can make a meal in 30 minutes that actually looks good and is good for you. I have yet to see Ms. Ray cook anything I would want to eat.

  • A question from a pastry chef in distress. I would like to know if you’ve come across an appropriate substitute for corn syrup. I hate using it but a lot of my recipes just don’t turn out without it. I’ve manage to do without corn starch by using tapioca starch, but I can’t grind my own 10x ’cause I work in a restaurant and use large quantities but only when making shortbreadies. I did read Michael Pollan’s book and since feel very guilty when using corn syrup. What a dilemma!

    P.S. Alice rocks, so does Lyndsey. They are an ultimate source of motivation for so many of us.

  • Thank you so much for saying all of that! I could not agree with you more or said it any better myself!

  • I know this post is about a month old, but I’ve been catching up on blogs, and I hope you’ll have a moment to answer. What is wrong with eating cornstarch? I’ve never heard of it being a bad thing before!