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"Kitchen Porn": Buford's New Yorker Article


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Wonderful insights, beautifully written ... should be required reading for every eGulleteer.

More interestingly, there are Food Channels in the UK and in Canada, with a completely different spectrum of shows, chefs, philosophies. I know that starting this fall, Nigella Lawson will be on the US TV Food Channel, but we won't see Giorgio Locatelli, for example. PBS in the US tried to regain it's food prominence with "The Two Fat Ladies" ... only partially successful.

Regards,

Jason

JasonZ

Philadelphia, PA, USA and Sandwich, Kent, UK

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In the October 2nd issue of The New Yorker, Bill Buford dissembles the fall and rise and fall of Food Network (USA). Interesting turn in the last couple of paragraphs, spelling only a vertiginously brutal edit screeching to the halt of a simple lack of space?

What think you?

Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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. . .

Interesting turn in the last couple of paragraphs, spelling only a vertiginously brutal edit screeching to the halt of a simple lack of space?

What think you?

I think Bill got as bored writing about it as he did watching it!

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Does the Food Network concentrate mainly on US programmes, or include other countries? I watch quite a lot of the Lifestyle Food - http://www.lifestylefood.com.au/home/ - channel here in Australia. There is a good mix from the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and an occasional New Zealand or South African programme.

It's interesting to note the different presentation styles and content from country to country.

I couldn't take a solid diet of US programmes. Is that what Buford had to contend with?

Some seem to fall more in the "don't try this at home" category, instead of making us want to get into the kitchen and cook.

Website: http://cookingdownunder.com

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The floggings will continue until morale improves

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Does the Food Network concentrate mainly on US programmes, or include other countries?

Nearly 100 percent, well it is 100 percent as far as I can tell now that I.C. Japan is off the air. I haven't ever really seen any other food shows on TV here, Ramsay's KN, Made to Order and Opening Soon recently have been on other stations on extended cable which costs about forty more dollars a month.

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It seems totally inadequate to evaluate all TV food shows in terms of the Food Network..Some of the best cooking shows I watch are on PBS - most especially Lidia Bastianich, my favorite, as well as Pepin. Food Network has too much time to fill and not enough shows can be of quality.

Julia Child, after all, was on PBS, not Food Network.

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It seems totally inadequate to evaluate all TV food shows in terms of the Food Network..Some of the best cooking shows I watch are on PBS - most especially Lidia Bastianich, my favorite, as well as Pepin. Food Network has too much time to fill and not enough shows can be of quality.

Julia Child, after all, was on PBS, not Food Network.

I couldn't agree more. Pepin could actually make a meal in the 26 minutes alloted, often working his knives as he went. Perhaps the surprise in this article was that there wasn't more counter-reference to this quality programming: Food Network delivers the hook, PBS the fish.

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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It seems totally inadequate to evaluate all TV food shows in terms of the Food Network..Some of the best cooking shows I watch are on PBS - most especially Lidia Bastianich, my favorite, as well as Pepin. Food Network has too much time to fill and not enough shows can be of quality.

Julia Child, after all, was on PBS, not Food Network.

Right on, Mimi ... agree fully!

I spoke to Ming Tsai about a year ago and he is going in the same direction ... wanting more control over his programming, rather than letting TVFN mold it.

Especially with its current direction, TV Food Network is becoming more "TV" and less "Food" (unfortunately not "more taste ... less filling") ... there's a niche for someone (PBS?) to fill ...

JasonZ

Philadelphia, PA, USA and Sandwich, Kent, UK

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Does the Food Network concentrate mainly on US programmes, or include other countries?  ... It's interesting to note the different presentation styles and content from country to country.

I couldn't take a solid diet of US programmes. Is that what Buford had to contend with?

Having lived in the UK for two years and traveled to Canada frequently (and Australia on occasion), the style of the equivalent of TVFN in each country (and BBC "Saturday Morning in the Kitchen") is quite different, both in the cuisine and in the style of presentation.

There has been only minor cross-over onto US TVFN: what comes to mind is Iron Chef (Japan), Two Fat Ladies (UK) and, this season, Nigella Lawson ... otherwise, it's US hosts and US styles ... which (conveniently) matches to the marketing of host books, cookware, etc. ...

US viewers have never seen Giorgio Locatelli, Tamasin Day-Lewis, Jancis Robinson, Antonio Carluccio, just to name a few ...

JasonZ

Philadelphia, PA, USA and Sandwich, Kent, UK

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There has been only minor cross-over onto US TVFN: what comes to mind is Iron Chef (Japan), Two Fat Ladies (UK) ....

My two all time favorite TVFN shows! :biggrin:

You would think they could try airing a few of the other "foreign" shows in overnight or weekend days slots?

SB (how about Two Fat Ladies late night re-runs) :raz:

Edited by srhcb (log)
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Interesting article...

Personally I think the move away from actual chefs to people like Rachel Ray and Sandra Lee is what is killing the food network. I mean, every show now is of the 30 minute, easy this or that, and while I definately think there is a place for that the true chef driven shows, like Molto Mario were what I liked the best about FN. I mean Paula Deen seems like a sweet lady but she is now the anchor of the new lineup with her live audience show?? Good for Ming Tsai and others for finding success on other networks, I always thought he was one of the most underutilized people on the FN, very talented chef and great on camera. I guess, the bottom line is I don't really like where the network is going unfortunately, thank God for Alton Brown....

"A man's got to believe in something...I believe I'll have another drink." -W.C. Fields

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It seems totally inadequate to evaluate all TV food shows in terms of the Food Network..Some of the best cooking shows I watch are on PBS - most especially Lidia Bastianich, my favorite, as well as Pepin. Food Network has too much time to fill and not enough shows can be of quality.

Julia Child, after all, was on PBS, not Food Network.

These have all recently gone stale for me, same with Yan, and that Scandanvian show. I still would love to see more of Ming, alas, he is never on anymore, thought he has some goofy show on Discovery Home or something. His series for PBS was some of the best ever, it was like a greatest hits all in one show, he always had an awesome guest (Schlow, his parents, Jacques, Gayle Gan, etc.), the building block and like five dishes, now that holds the attention. He was like when the Spinners were let go from Motown. I have also seen most of those in the kitchen with Julia shows, though occasionally I am suprised to find one I haven't seen.

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Enjoyed (as much as I could given the implications) the article. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I do not have cable, but scan the FN whenever I stay with friend or in hotels and find myself increasingly changing the channel. (I do watch reruns of Child and Pepin on PBS when I get the chance). The demographic they are targeting is sadly not those who really like good food, or the pleasure of preparing good food. My guess is that these are people who eat at chain restaurants, like big portions, nonthreatening flavors, and as little contact with sharp things and raw ingredients as possible. May I be so bold to propose a change in terminology for those who really like food and its preparation – the people who actually know how to hold a chef’s knife, are not afraid to bone a duck, truss a chicken, try variety meats, eat seafood that is not salmon, tuna, or flounder and that might not be cooked well done, like assertive flavors, and in generally seek out the unfamiliar and the foreign. I think the term “foodie” now most describes the folks who reflect the values of the former group rather than the latter – people who attend cooking classes that look like time share condo sales retreats and who would rather not know how that bacon ended up on their table. Perhaps gourmand, gourmet, gastronome, and epicurean better serve to describe those in the latter category. Just food for thought...............

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Does anyone remember what the original broadcast model for FoodTV was supposed to be when it launched? Round the clock cooking shows, focusing largely on the classics: Child, Lucas, Kammen, even Beard (who made his television appearance in 1948). The model proved unsuccessful for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was that the "new foodie" was far too young to know who anyone was beyond Julia. So now, we've gone way off the deep end to 24/7 reportage on how one might go about deep frying a twinkie.

Aren't most PBS shows produced by one person--Geoff Drummond? I've heard over the years that he retains all rights to everything he produces. True?

BeefCheeks is an author, editor, and food journalist.

"The food was terrible. And such small portions...."

--Alvy Singer

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Does the Food Network concentrate mainly on US programmes, or include other countries?  ... It's interesting to note the different presentation styles and content from country to country.

I couldn't take a solid diet of US programmes. Is that what Buford had to contend with?

Having lived in the UK for two years and traveled to Canada frequently (and Australia on occasion), the style of the equivalent of TVFN in each country (and BBC "Saturday Morning in the Kitchen") is quite different, both in the cuisine and in the style of presentation.

There has been only minor cross-over onto US TVFN: what comes to mind is Iron Chef (Japan), Two Fat Ladies (UK) and, this season, Nigella Lawson ... otherwise, it's US hosts and US styles ... which (conveniently) matches to the marketing of host books, cookware, etc. ...

US viewers have never seen Giorgio Locatelli, Tamasin Day-Lewis, Jancis Robinson, Antonio Carluccio, just to name a few ...

Jancis Robinson appeared on the TV Food Network here as host of a show called

"Grape Expectations" her co host was frank Prial (of the NY Times).

Sort of (as she describes it in her book) a "Siskell and Ebert" on wines.

Later, I recall her being teamed with Alan Richman.

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Enjoyed (as much as I could given the implications) the article. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I do not have cable, but scan the FN whenever I stay with friend or in hotels and find myself increasingly changing the channel. (I do watch reruns of Child and Pepin on PBS when I get the chance). The demographic they are targeting is sadly not those who really like good food, or the pleasure of preparing good food. My guess is that these are people who eat at chain restaurants, like big portions, nonthreatening flavors, and as little contact with sharp things and raw ingredients as possible. May I be so bold to propose a change in terminology for those who really like food and its preparation – the people who actually know how to hold a chef’s knife, are not afraid to bone a duck, truss a chicken, try variety meats, eat seafood that is not salmon, tuna, or flounder and that might not be cooked well done, like assertive flavors, and in generally seek out the unfamiliar and the foreign. I think the term “foodie” now most describes the folks who reflect the values of the former group rather than the latter – people who attend cooking classes that look like time share condo sales retreats and who would rather not know how that bacon ended up on their table. Perhaps gourmand, gourmet, gastronome, and epicurean better serve to describe those in the latter category. Just food for thought...............

Time for a little perspective!

Right now, somewhere there are audiophiles decrying the low taste (or lack thereof) of the hoi poloi who listen to poorly made CD's on third rate boom box's and distorted mammoth surround sound systems.

Also at this very moment, there are groups of people who are deriding the poor uninformed dolts who are driving Toyota Camry's (don't they realize that they can get a vintage BMW 2002 for the same price?).

and there are folks who are wondering how anyone can go to the movies these days (it is not "cinema" anymore since the sixties).

Like stephen king novels?

well that isn't literature! You are obviously a small step above comic book freaks.

Sign your checks with a parker ball point and not a limited edition blah blah blah???

This game covers a lot of territory!

It is all well a good to be a connoisseur--a gourmet (or gourmand) or whatever.

It is quite another to look down on those who do not share your passion.

By the way--what are you listening to?

:wink:

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Enjoyed (as much as I could given the implications) the article. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I do not have cable, but scan the FN whenever I stay with friend or in hotels and find myself increasingly changing the channel. (I do watch reruns of Child and Pepin on PBS when I get the chance). The demographic they are targeting is sadly not those who really like good food, or the pleasure of preparing good food. My guess is that these are people who eat at chain restaurants, like big portions, nonthreatening flavors, and as little contact with sharp things and raw ingredients as possible. May I be so bold to propose a change in terminology for those who really like food and its preparation – the people who actually know how to hold a chef’s knife, are not afraid to bone a duck, truss a chicken, try variety meats, eat seafood that is not salmon, tuna, or flounder and that might not be cooked well done, like assertive flavors, and in generally seek out the unfamiliar and the foreign. I think the term “foodie” now most describes the folks who reflect the values of the former group rather than the latter – people who attend cooking classes that look like time share condo sales retreats and who would rather not know how that bacon ended up on their table. Perhaps gourmand, gourmet, gastronome, and epicurean better serve to describe those in the latter category. Just food for thought...............

Time for a little perspective!

Right now, somewhere there are audiophiles decrying the low taste (or lack thereof) of the hoi poloi who listen to poorly made CD's on third rate boom box's and distorted mammoth surround sound systems.

Also at this very moment, there are groups of people who are deriding the poor uninformed dolts who are driving Toyota Camry's (don't they realize that they can get a vintage BMW 2002 for the same price?).

and there are folks who are wondering how anyone can go to the movies these days (it is not "cinema" anymore since the sixties).

Like stephen king novels?

well that isn't literature! You are obviously a small step above comic book freaks.

Sign your checks with a parker ball point and not a limited edition blah blah blah???

This game covers a lot of territory!

It is all well a good to be a connoisseur--a gourmet (or gourmand) or whatever.

It is quite another to look down on those who do not share your passion.

By the way--what are you listening to?

:wink:

Well played. Point taken. Alright, I'll admit it, I have a snobbish side. However, I am not above food pragmatism, i.e., what’s in the cabinets kind of cuisine. It is not so much that I look down upon those who eat at chain restaurants, etc., but that I think the key to approaching food is to try, e.g., just eat one oyster and if you honestly don’t like it don’t have another one. If at the bottom of the off ramp you see a busy local BBQ joint and a Bob’s Big Boy which do you choose? I’m going with BBQ every time. Does there have to be an either/or between the honest enjoyment of pithy TV or a good hot dog and an appreciation of independent cinema or haute cuisine? I hope not.

Would you think any less of me if I said classical music on NPR through vintage Advent speakers? :smile:

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Time for a little perspective!

Right now, somewhere there are audiophiles decrying the low taste (or lack thereof) of the hoi poloi who listen to poorly made CD's on third rate boom box's and distorted mammoth surround sound systems.

Also at this very moment, there are groups of people who are deriding the poor uninformed dolts who are driving Toyota Camry's (don't they realize that they can get a vintage BMW 2002 for the same price?).

and there are folks who are wondering how anyone can go to the movies these days (it is not "cinema" anymore since the sixties).

Like stephen king novels?

well that isn't literature! You are obviously a small step above comic book freaks.

Sign your checks with a parker ball point and not a limited edition blah blah blah???

This game covers a lot of territory!

It is all well a good to be a connoisseur--a gourmet (or gourmand) or whatever.

It is quite another to look down on those who do not share your passion.

By the way--what are you listening to?

:wink:

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Time for a little perspective!

Right now, somewhere there are audiophiles decrying the low taste (or lack thereof) of the hoi poloi who listen to poorly made CD's on third rate boom box's and distorted mammoth surround sound systems.

Also at this very moment, there are groups of people who are deriding the poor uninformed dolts who are driving Toyota Camry's (don't they realize that they can get a vintage BMW 2002 for the same price?).

and there are folks who are wondering how anyone can go to the movies these days (it is not "cinema" anymore since the sixties).

Like stephen king novels?

well that isn't literature! You are obviously a small step above comic book freaks.

Sign your checks with a parker ball point and not a limited edition blah blah blah???

This game covers a lot of territory!

It is all well a good to be a connoisseur--a gourmet (or gourmand) or whatever.

It is quite another to look down on those who do not share your passion.

By the way--what are you listening to?

:wink:

Well played. Point taken. Alright, I'll admit it, I have a snobbish side. However, I am not above food pragmatism, i.e., what’s in the cabinets kind of cuisine. It is not so much that I look down upon those who eat at chain restaurants, etc., but that I think the key to approaching food is to try, e.g., just eat one oyster and if you honestly don’t like it don’t have another one. If at the bottom of the off ramp you see a busy local BBQ joint and a Bob’s Big Boy which do you choose? I’m going with BBQ every time. Does there have to be an either/or between the honest enjoyment of pithy TV or a good hot dog and an appreciation of independent cinema or haute cuisine? I hope not.

Would you think any less of me if I said classical music on NPR through vintage Advent speakers? :smile:

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"If you have time to watch a Saturday morning of the Food Network, you will learn that you have time for nothing else." -- Bill Buford, Notes of a Gastronome, TV DINNERS, The rise of food television in the 2006-10-02 issue of The New Yorker.
Buford is primarily speaking of the Food Network and "rise" is used with sarcasm. He depicts a downward spiral in quality of broadcast. He doesn't believe the current Food Network personalities, or "brand names," make people want to cook as Julia Child did or that people are coming to the shows to learn how to cook. He suggests that the good old days of cooking shows probaby began in 1962 with Julia and that the audience for food and cooking shows today is a different one.  . . .

People attend and watch cooking shows that purport to teach them to cook a meal in thirty minutes or less, not because they want to learn how to cook at any speed as the producers seem to think, but simply to be entertained (continued) --worldtable.com posted on 29 September 2006

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Buford and others often make assumptions.

Julia Child was successful because, in part, she was entertaining.

I am somewhat skeptical of those who attribute a "revolution" in food--I believe she was in the right place at the right time--the revolution was probably in progress and she certainly helped move it along.

Additional assumptions are being made about today's culture.

There is no doubt that there has been an explosion (far in excess of the boom Julia was a part of) in interest in food and dining and eating.

Something is driving and sustaining it.

Food has become part of the mass culture to a degree far surpassing what and where it was in Julia's early days.

Naturally this expansion includes many people at various levels of interest. It is no longer a relatively small group of people with a more intense dedication to the food arts.

Or Julia's housewives who yearned to cook "gourmet" meals for their hard working husbands and families.

Times are different and the crowd is larger thousand fold!

I question the assumption that RR and her thirty minute meals are less "important" to today's far busier people than Julia's cooking was in the sixties.

I also have a problem with applying a level of "seriousness" to Julia (and others the cognoscenti have anointed) while deriding RR (and others the cognoscenti have designated as less than worthy).

In fact, if not for the interest of thousands of people Buford designates as probably "in it for the entertainment" he probably would not have the audience for his book (and other food related writings) that he does.

If Bourdain isn't a talented and entertaining writer his book gores nowhere and he doesn't get a TV show (on the FN) and an even wider audience. That is how it works.

He has reached beyond those just serious about food and cooking and reached those less serious who are entertained none the less. maybe some of those in this larger audience will gain a greater interest and move on to the "real serious" stuff.

It is not very smart to think that the success of the Food Network is not playing a very large role in driving (and capitalizing upon) the current interest (at all levels)

of food interest today. It is also wrong to believe that at some point entertainment is key to driving large scale interest. The fact that his book (and others) is so successful is that he is an entertaining writer with broad appeal.

To follow Buford's argument he would be considered a lesser food writer than say Escoffier (who appeals to those truly interested in food and cooking).

To be sure, Buford has valid criticisms of the Food Network (no one is perfect).

But I detect more than a hint of elitism or snobbery in his critiques.

For someone who should have a prescience about the media, Buford has let his elitism creep in and blind him a bit.

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I question the assumption that RR and her thirty minute meals are less "important" to today's far busier people than Julia's cooking was in the sixties.

I also have a problem with applying a level of "seriousness" to Julia (and others the cognoscenti have anointed) while deriding RR (and others the cognoscenti have designated as less than worthy).

I don't know if the cognoscenti really deride RR, they probably simply dismiss her as someone who has nothing to offer them. They are cognoscenti after all.

Buford's fundamental observation seems to be that the FN has turned it's focus from teaching to entertainment, does he really think or say this is bad, or is he just defending his buddy Molto a bit. Or, perhaps, he's looking at the big picture (yes I recognize the irony) and realizing TV as entertainment is a vice and therefore is bad.

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