Thursday, February 11, 2010

Video Killed the Cookbook Star?

My first culinary love was cookbooks. I used to paw through my mom's books and become enchanted with the photos of food and the idea that a book could help you become a killer cook. As I grew up, I watched food shows on PBS. Now, of course, there's the Food Network. I'll get to that later, but I still like to watch food shows--when I'm not watching reruns of Law and Order, that is.

My absolute favorite foodie television comes from the people over at America's Test Kitchen. I think it's their nerdy approach to food that I like so much. They spend hours and test dozens of recipes to come up with the best way to make whatever dish they're focusing on.

The America's Test Kitchen folks also do Cook's Country--a show shot in a lovely New England farmhouse that centers around down-home American food (like the best mac and cheese, the best pork chops, etc.). They take their time and explain why they altered classic recipes to make them work better.

The America's Test Kitchen people do two other things I love: 1) they test kitchen equipment and 2) they do a ton of taste tests. They're not snobby to their approach. If they're testing out skillets, they'll try a wide range of products from super cheap to insanely expensive. They're fair and thorough, and you can really trust their advice.
The hosts all have good chemistry with each other, so they're fun to watch. Christopher Kimball is a nerd in the highest degree (he wears bow ties, after all!) and Jack Bishop, the food taste tester (the one on the left, smiling in the photo above), is one of my favorite food tv personalities of all time. I have no clue why!

America's Test Kitchen also sells books, magazines, and hosts websites that act as companions to their shows. In my humble opinion, they blow the Food Network out of the water.

I'll get to the Food Network soon enough--there's plenty of good, bad, and mediocre to examine on that channel, but in the meantime, if you want good foodie porn, tune to your local PBS and check out America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Country. You'll be fully satisfied!

Oh, and if you have opinions on it, tell me: what's your favorite food tv to watch?


Lynn said...

We don't have America's Test Kitchen on the air here. But I did subscribe to the magazines and I loved them - especially the lack of ads. Lots of good practical knowledge. A couple of years ago my daughter was watching lots of food network and you're right there is lots of shows we don't like and like to criticize. But my favorite is Charm City Cakes (of course).

phairhead said...

Giada, she's great! And of course Julia :D

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on the ATK being the best foodie show on the tube! (and the interwebs, too) Since the culinary talent gene is turned off in my ancestry, ATK has taught me to cook, I've stocked my kitchen w/their product recommendations, the expensive and the not so much, and subscribe online. Well worth every minute and every penny!