Tuesday, April 14
Food Network Addict's Comments on Mark Bittman's "TV Cooking vs. Real Cooking" Piece in the New York Times
Bittman refers to food TV shows as:
"A charade because it's all taped, and therefore not only doesn't take place in real time but doesn't even give a sense of what 'real time' might be."
Is it because some food TV programs are watched by viewers who solely intend to go right into their kitchen and reproduce the recipes that said programs are now bound by a need to present a sense of real time? Does Bittman forget that a large number (I'd guess the majority) of viewers watch to, gasp, be entertained and aren't looking at their watch's second hand to double check that the cooking time the host said he used matched up with the amount of time that passed while we were sitting on the couch?
Does Bittman also complain when watching HGTV's slew of home renovation programs? It would have taken LONGER to tile that backsplash, I imagine him yelling at the TV screen. Would he be any more satisfied if they showed every last, mind-numbingly boring minute that goes into painting a bedroom? Obviously not. So why shouldn't food TV shows be given the same liberties?
If you're so dumb that you don't realize that 35 full minutes don't really pass in-between the shot of Ina Garten putting her brownies into the oven and the following shot of her taking them out, then perhaps you shouldn't be cooking... or getting anywhere near a 350 degree oven. In fact, I'd argue that it was the complaints against real-time cooking and the cheesiness of swapouts ("Here's this other pan of brownies I have all done!") that prompted food tv programs to move more toward time-lapse and interspersed vignettes that flow more logically.
These changes (seen most obviously in the beautifully shot programs of Giada De Laurentiis and Ina Garten) add significantly to both the production value and the time it takes to produce one episode. If modern viewers truly demanded real time cooking shows, why would so many shows go through the labor-intensive process of shooting them like movies with multiple "passes" (wide shots, close ups, etc.) if one, standard & continuous shot would suffice? As much as we might like to give it sole credit, it took more than Giada's cleavage to win her three Daytime Emmys. Everyday Italian looked like a damn movie and it was justly rewarded.
Bittman goes on to complain about the "egregious mistakes" wiped clean from the finished product:
A further charade because when it's taped, all sorts of egregious mistakes can be magically made to disappear."
Hmmm... like all those egregious mistakes that magically disappear when any movie is made? Or any taped and edited TV show? Even "reality TV" has no sense of real time, and oftentimes just the opposite happens with mistakes, as they are magically made more intense and more prolonged. So why should we be any more shocked about this occurrence when it comes to food television?
I guess the mistake arises when one starts to think of anything on television—not just food TV programs—as something resembling real life. I don't think people turn to TV programs that are designed to entertain and inspire to see egregious mistakes. And I'd like to think that people watching Barefoot Contessa don't think that just anyone can open a specialty food store in the Hamptons, sell it, make a few million dollars, and spend their whole day debating about which truffle butter is really best.
I agree with Bittman's statement that the aspiring home cook needs encouragement, but to assume we need to see a TV chef burn a steak to a crisp, lest we get befuddled when attempting it ourselves, doesn't give the home cook enough credit.