Following in your footsteps?
Posted 17 December 2003 - 12:54 PM
Likewise, after reading your books, I realized that Alton Brown is covering much of the same ground. Dunno if its the Harold McGee influence on you both, but I can definitely see your shadow in the scientific approach and many of the topics on "Good Eats."
Does you feel that the FTV hosts are influenced by your writing? Do they ever call with questions or ask for advice? Would you do an FTV show if you were asked to host?
Enquiring minds want to know.
Posted 28 December 2003 - 11:49 PM
And now, Food TV.
Being a TV host or presenter is sufficiently trying and difficult that most research and writing is done by the staff. For shows shot largely in the studio, Food TV has the host(s) come to New York and make, say, eight shows in four days. The exhausted hosts may end up just reading the script from a half-mirrored prompter in front of the camera lens. Hosts are chosen for their looks, their voice, and their charm--not for their ability to discover lost American food traditions or the deeper meanings of Kaiseki. There's a research staff for that.
With the death of the serious TV documentary, and with the exception of some excellent programs on public television, original research is not the strength of TV journalism. Except for an occasional "60 Minutes" program, TV rarely investigates (very expensive) and rarely sees the relevance of reading the literature on a subject. Journalism, even at the NY Times and the Washington Post, often consists of quoting people--and usually one person on each side of an issue and then an elder statesman in the field who synthesizes the two. This method is supremely ridiculous when the issue is, "Was Hitler a Bad Man?" or "Does the FDA have any evidence that young raw milk cheeses endanger consumers in France?" You'll notice that the daily agenda on TV news is usually the NY Times, the Washington Post, and sometimes the Chicago Tribune and the L.A. Times.
On Food TV, the research sources, either initially or entirely, are things that have been written on a subject, especially those available on the Internet. Neither my Vogue articles nor my books can be read online, but I flatter myself in thinking that some researchers at Food TV know what I've written. But in journalism, as I was told by a former food editor at the NY Times who had stolen and was about to print something I had discovered at considerable expense and told to somebody who told one of their writers, nobody owns ideas. Credit never needs to be given. And newspapers like the NY Times can even plagarise if they feel like it; when an editor at the magazine discoved that one of their writers had lifted a recipe nearly verbatim from one of my articles--which appeared in my first book--the writer's reply was, "Sure, but it's never appeared in the Times."
Sure, TV people call me all the time on subjects I've written about. Recently I've become less generous with my time, unless the caller is friend.
If anything, I mind it more when an article appears in the Times or a program is shown on Food TV that doesn't even take into account research that I've published, for example on the variety of boutique salts, which appears in "It Must've Been Sometihng I Ate." Or when a less accurate account of the FDA's campaign against raw milk cheese gets a Beard award.
But those are the breaks.
When Ed Levine and I did our TV show, on the Metro channel, I tried to speak only about subjects that I had written about or at least researched and never written about for Vogue. Otherwise, I would keep quiet. We had very little time to do original research before a show--just a phone call or two, the journalistic standard. Metro had no research staff; assistant producers were frantic most of the time.
Sure I'd love to have a TV Food program. But I don't think that TV is my medium, except on shows such as the one I did with Ed Levine. Otherwise, I prefer radio.