LET INGA TELL YOU:
It was a source of puzzlement to me for some years that my husband, Olof, who does not cook, is a huge fan of cooking shows.
Now, I've addressed this topic before. After realizing that he had watched the same six episodes of a certain cooking show some 20 times, I finally observed, "I didn't know you liked Southern cooking so much."
And he replied, eyes transfixed on the screen, "Is she cooking?" Olof was completely infatuated with this young hottie's 100-watt smile, her big blue eyes, her blond hair, and her southern accent that was thicker than the maple syrup she used in her pumpkin scones.
I soon learned that he was equally enamored of Giada's dazzling smile, Ina's multitude of fancy chicken feasts, and Tricia's penchant for carbs. But it took me a while to figure out his affection for the Pioneer Woman. But finally I got it. Cheddar. I think the Pioneer Woman has a skip loader back up to her garage every week and unload 100-pound flats of cheese, butter, and cream. Olof, I realized, was engaging in full-fat fantasies.
I've also written before about our primary care physician, Dr. No, as in no alcohol, no sugar, no coffee, no full-fat diary, no starches and only teeny weeny bits of whole grains. She has a particular vendetta against pasta. In fact, Dr. No is against anything humans actually like to eat.
Fortunately, Dr. No fled, er retired, to Oregon several years ago and is probably cackling with glee at the thought of all of her non-compliant patients, such as us, suffering the nutritionally-related health ills we so richly deserve. It was not that we ever followed her Draconian dietary recommendations. But her influence lives on. We still ask ourselves: Would Dr. No approve of this?
There's one thing Olof and I have noticed about the majority of cooking shows. While most aren't starting a dish with three sticks of butter like the Pioneer lady, the majority of them — Ina, Tricia, Giada, Demaris — are starting with at least one. Not to disparage their genuine talents (and often delicious recipes) but how hard is it to make something taste good if you add enough butter and carbs?
For example, the other night, we watched an episode for a dinner called Hash Brown Casserole. Here are the ingredients:
1 stick butter, melted; 2 pounds large red potatoes, peeled; 2 cups full-fat sour cream; 10 ounces Cheddar, shredded; one 10-ounce can cream of mushroom soup; 1 small onion, finely chopped; 2 cups crushed butter crackers, such as Ritz.
It was not surprising that the show's website does did not post nutritional information, probably because there isn't any. This recipe was a total fat-carb bomb.
Some nights we'll be watching a cooking show and Olof will query, "Could we make that?" We are very clear who "we" are. I pointed out that unlike the Pioneer people who work long hours out on their ranch herding unsuspecting cows to their slaughter, people like us just don't burn enough calories to eat that way. Surely, I queried, there must be some healthier cooking channels out there? And lo and behold, Olof found one.
The first episode we watched was the Healthy Cooking Lady (our name) helping a beleaguered working mom find something healthier for her kids who were basically getting a handful of nuts for breakfast on their way out the door.
As a former divorced working mom with young children, I can tell you that the ideal breakfast menu is self-serve (cereal) or if cooked, under three ingredients (scrambled eggs and toast), and takes less than 4 minutes to make, start to finish. So no chopping. Chopping takes time.
Healthy Cooking Lady showed this mom how to make a super-healthy oatmeal dish that had 15 ingredients, including "1 cup chopped pecans, 1 medium Golden Delicious apple, cored and cut into half-inch pieces, and two medium carrots, scrubbed well, then shredded."
Healthy Cooking Lady must have servants. News flash: Beleaguered working moms do not shred.
Worse, this oatmeal dish takes 40-45 minutes to bake once its multitude of labor-intensive ingredients are painstakingly assembled. I could see the eyes of the Working Mom get increasingly glassy. "This is probably something I'd have to make on the weekend," she offered diplomatically. I knew that look well. Translation: "I will never ever make this dish. On weekends, I plant the kids in front of the TV and let them watch all the cartoons they want and binge on Cocoa Puffs while I try to get another hour of sleep. When I get up, I am not going to make an oatmeal dish with 15 ingredients, and pigs will fly before I shred carrots before 5 p.m."
Maybe that show is a little TOO healthy for us. I think we're back to cheddar. (Sorry, Dr. No.)
— Inga's lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in La Jolla Light. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org