Thursday, August 5, 2010

...The "Oh so black" cooking shows on the Food Network

I was going to start this essay by describing the black people that I know, but then I realized that when straight people talk to me about the gay people they know I want to stick needles in my let's assume that I am a person who is progressive about race issues because this essay is not about my personal thoughts on race.
This essay is a little observation that perhaps the Food Network could calm their black targeting.
The funny thing is that I started getting irritated with the title of Sunny Anderson's cooking show "Cooking for Real" (you see to me, this is just a coded way of saying "Cooking for Black People") as if the other shows weren't "for real," and honestly most of them are not, Barefoot Contessa and Bobby Flay's food= too expensive, Paula Deen = too much fat, tiny, tiny Giada clearly never eats the expensive fat laden italian food she makes (also too much fat), Rachel Ray = mediocre, Sandra Lee=A-whole-nother class of terrible. Sunny is pleasant, her food seems good, she offers alternatives that are readily available outside of Zabars/Dean and Deluca/Whole Foods, so really I think she should call her show: the only decent cooking show on this afternoon.
But, and maybe this is my racism talking, "Cooking for Real" is an implication that somehow the other shows weren't meant for you, that was fake cooking, cooking for other people. Again the ironic thing is that the other shows ARE fake cooking, but you don't have to be black to feel that way, you just have to a. not have tons of money to spend on food b. not want to be rolled out of your kitchen in a wheelbarrow c. actually want to perhaps consume vitamins and fiber.
The ironic thing (or thaaang) is that Sunny, who's status as the Hip Hop caterer is mentioned in her Food Network bio, is much less shall we say, marked in her soulfood orientation then the other black hosts on food network The Neelys "Down Home with the Neelys" and Aaron McCargo, Jr "Big Daddy's House."
"Soul Food" is part of a great culinary tradition and it is wonderful to celebrate African-American food culture and perspectives as part of the network, but I just feel that every time I see a promo for the Neelys sandwiched into the other programming on food network, I feel as if I am watching Hattie McDaniel in "Gone with the Wind."
I turn on the TV and see so many images of black people that seem targeted to very narrow perspective of black people, and the reason why I am over it is not because I have a problem with the culture or want to see it "toned down" but rather and please tell me if I am being racist, I simply think it is reductive to black people. Now perhaps I am saying that they should "act white" and don't realize it...but why the fuck can't it just be someone smart who knows how to cook who happens to be black. I know some black people who can cook, but in some crazy soul food only way, they are just good cooks.


  1. We love "Cooking for Real," "Down Home with the Neelys" and "Big Daddy's House" for many of the reasons you mentioned (#1 good recipes without too much expense #2 they are really fun to watch because the chefs seem to be enjoying themselves). Outside of the name, "Big Daddy's House" is a great show. It seems to really be for what you might think of as stereotypical guy food, but much better. Aaron McCargo Jr. is fabulous! P.S. The Neelys' BBQ sauce is also fabulous! Perhaps the only show on Food Network that is hosted by a white guy that has budget conscience meals that are delish is "Guy's Big Bite." If onlly he would do something about that awful hair...

  2. I wonder what happens to all of that food that is prepared on these cooking shows? Thrown in the trash perhaps? Imagine the hungry people that could be fed.