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The Jew and the Carrot » Television - Voice of the New Jewish Food Movement
Tomorrow night on the Food Network, Amanda Cohen will become the first vegetarian chef to compete on Iron Chef America. After seeing an episode of Top Chef last year in which chefs had to make a vegan dish for guest Natalie Portman, I can see that the combination of a vegetarian and a reality cooking show is going to make for good television!
Here’s what I wrote about Cohen after she was named as one of the Heeb100 in 2009:
For those of you with basic cable and can stay up until 11:30pm, may have caught this interview last night. If not, here is the bit including the end of the interview where Colbert eats bacon in front of Foer. It’s worth checking out and worth checking out his book too.
So we all know that eating together is as much a social lubricant as anything else. And without too much of a stretch we can turn cooking into a social affair. And thanks to the Food Network, we even get our high definition voyeuristic fill of “food porn.” But can all these mediums be massed up, and if they are would it be any good?
Yesterday, my friend and author Max Gross invited a few folks to join him for the first night of the reality show Top Chef – a show favored by other Jew and the Carrot readers and writers. Will this season highlight any important food issues like the short-lived Chopping Block brought up sustainable fish or how Iron Chef America took on kosher cuisine in one of its episodes? We don’t know yet what this season will bring, but from his account below he did get some folks together to not only eat, but to (try and) watch some reality TV food porn together. According to Max,
Thanks so much for this hilarious guest post from author Max Gross. Besides being a dead ringer for the actor Seth Rogen, Max is a writer for the New York Post and the author of From Schub to Stud. He blogs at fromschlubtostud.com
If you haven’t seen Seth Rogen recently, you might be disappointed.
He looks really, uh, good.
Svelte. Clean shaven. Neat. Not the slobby stoner that schlubs like myself could identify with.
What the hell happened, Seth? (I have a special interest in Rogen’s slovenliness – his appearance in the movie Knocked Up inspired me to write my own treatise called From Schlub to Stud about how we are living in the golden age of slobby man-children.)
But apparently sometime in the last few months, in preparation for his role in The Green Hornet, he dropped what looks like a good 30 to 40 pounds. And I, for one, was worried that his good cheer might be wrapped up in his weight. The thing that was so endearing about Rogen was the fact that he was so unapologetic about his excesses — a little like a young, Jewish Jack Falstaff.
It turns out, my worries are (I think) unfounded. If you saw him on The Daily Show last week, you would note that his good cheer is still in tact. More than in tact — his wit seems as sharp as ever. And Rogen fully acknowledged the 800 pound gorilla in the room: Namely that it is tough for a fellow tribesman to deny himself the pleasures of the plate.
I admit I’m a Top Chef junkie, so when season 5 ended, I found myself going through a bit of withdrawal. While the Food Network doesn’t really do it for me, I decided to tune in to The Chopping Block, a newer show on NBC that features two teams going head-to-head, trying to run successful restaurants in New York City.
It’s not worth describing how the competition works, or details about the show, but I will say that it’s nowhere nearly as entertaining as Top Chef. Nevertheless, after being pretty bored with the pilot, I tuned in this week to see the second episode, to see if it picks up.
It didn’t. However, I was proud to see that for the first time on one of these shows, some food awareness actually played a role.
Is it just me or is there something not quite right about Burger King’s “Whopper Virgins” campaign currently gracing our television screens? For the uninitiated (you “Whopper Virgins virgins” out there), the ad campaign features members of various isolated ethnic groups participating in a burger taste test. The marketing shtik is that since the Romanian villagers, Greenlandic Inuit and Thai Hilltribesmen that star in these commercials have never been exposed to ‘burger culture,’ they can be utilized as objective voices in the Whopper vs. Big Mac debate.
Although I’m a total Top Chef junkie, except for the occasional Iron Chef episode, the Food Network usually doesn’t hold my interest. But the other night, while channel surfing, I came upon a promo for an upcoming episode of Dinner Impossible. The basic premise of the show: put a celebrity chef in a very difficult situation, with an unrealistic time limit, and see if they can get the job done.
This season’s star is Michael Symon, a motorcycle-riding, tattooed Iron Chef who, I have to admit, I would put in that “sexy-ugly” category, but I digress. Anyhow, Chef Symon was shown in a kippah as a rabbi explained to him the laws of kashrut, and that he was expected to cook a Passover seder for 100 of his hungriest congregants Uh, Food Network people: We’re coming up on Rosh HaShanah, not Pesach, but never mind.
Naturally, I had to record it, while I nearly wretched my way through Sarah Palin’s speech (sorry, I digress once again).
Little known fact: I was actually on the Food Network once. The show was an Al Roker on the Road special about food clubs, and I was featured in a segment about a group called Girl Friday in Iowa City. Unfortunately, the episode aired on the first night of Pesach in 2004, so I’ve never seen it.
We made a bunch of great recipes the night they filmed us, and one of them has become a standard in my kitchen. It’s really easy, gorgeous, and very tasty. The recipe comes from Thisbe Nissen, who co-wrote The Ex-Boyfriend Cookbook, and is generally awesome. While we were boiling the beets she kept encouraging someone to use the water to dye her hair purple. Also, I’m pretty sure she got me to say on camera that beets are really sexy.
Anyway, this salad is perfect for brunch or Shabbat lunch. Adding the cheese at the end saves it from turning pink, but if you’re not bothered by fuschia cheese you can add it whenever you want.
I’ll admit, I’m pretty neutral when it comes to the Rachael Ray divide. I’ve seen her show, sure, and have been annoyed by her “Yum-O!” as much as everyone else, but when you don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen, I can think of a lot worse things than using pre-made ravioli in a recipe.
Mark Bittman leads an exciting life. Best known as The Minimalist Chef at The New York Times (and truthfully, wouldn’t that be enough for one lifetime?), Bittman is now teaming up with a scrappy band of gastronomes – uber celebrity chef Mario Batali and just uber celebrity Gwenyth Paltrow – on an eating tour of Spain. Their new show, which seems equally intriguing and confusing, will air on public television this fall.
Yeah, Bittman pretty much has it all (jealous sigh…) That said, you can’t say he doesn’t deserve it – the man’s got chops. Check out his articulate, Pollan-esque explanation of what’s wrong with the way American’s eat. Wonder if Batali would agree with his critique?
Like Thanksgiving and just about every Jewish holiday (aside from Yom Kippur of course), the Super Bowl this Sunday offers a major opportunity to join together in thanks and celebration stuff your face. And with nachos and beer dominating the typical menu, it’s not the most stomach-friendly fare. Roz Cummins over at Grist came up with a plan for healthier and more sustainable TV-watching foods. Her suggestion: take a traditional Superbowl comfort food (sausage ravioli) and make it vegan.
Last week, an alliance of consumer groups and environmental organizations in the UK called on Heinz to drop its bogus million-dollar advertising campaign that its soups contain: “ingredients that you would find at a Farmers’ Market.” It reminded me of a similar commercial I recently saw that advertised Campbell’s soup as made from “farm-grown” vegetables – something that sounded so delicious and wholesome that even my finely-tuned (read: cynical) advertising ear almost missed the deceit.
When it comes to attracting customers, some food companies will bend over backwards to connect their products to the current zeitgeist, even if the link is tenuous at best. Sustainweb reported:
As it turns out, Hazon is not alone in slaughtering animals in a public way to help people get a sense of where their meat comes from – and where it might come from if meat production was signficantly more humane and responsible.
An New York Times article today by Julia Moskin, “Chef’s New Goal: Looking Dinner in the Eye, features British chef Jaime Oliver (as well as American chefs Dan Barber, Tamara Murphy and others), going to great lengths to educate themselves – and their customers – about the meat industry. Moskin writes:
LAST Friday, in front of 4 million television viewers and a studio audience, the chef Jamie Oliver killed a chicken. Having recently obtained a United Kingdom slaughterman’s license, Mr. Oliver staged a “gala dinner,” in fact a kind of avian snuff film, to awaken British consumers to the high costs of cheap chicken.
“A chicken is a living thing, an animal with a life cycle, and we shouldn’t expect it will cost less than a pint of beer in a pub,” he said Monday in an interview.
This week and next, PBS is airing a 3-part series called “The Jewish Americans,” covering everything from the country’s earliest Jewish settlers to the experience of being Jewish in contemporary America.
Chef and Rabbi Gil Marks (author of The James Beard award-winning Olive Trees and Honey) is featured on a segment that addresses the question “what makes food Jewish?” Unfortunately, it was cut from the final series ( he’s in good company - portions of Tony Kushner, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Mandy Patinkin’s segments and are also listed among the outtakes.) But all footage (including Rabbi Marks) is available online for your viewing pleasure here.