Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Shopping Redux

Grocery shopping is not an Olympic event. Though now that there are so many guy shoppers and ESPN has so many channels with programming needs, this could be a reality show just waiting for a sponsor. When men get involved, a contest will soon follow. Consider the Food Networks Iron Chef competition.

Ever heard of speed golf? There’s already a grocery bag packing contest, and contests for packing as much food in a cart as you can in a limited timeframe. Why not speed shopping?

But until that time comes, grocery shopping is not for mag wheels and 100-horse-powered carts. If you must set records, compete against yourself. Just remember that there are old ladies and children in the aisle. Most of them have lawyers.

Be patient moving up and down the aisles, even if you’re on a timetable. For many shoppers it is the highlight of their day and they treat it as a special occasion, bordering on a religious experience. Those will be the ones always in front of you.

For guys, it is a hunt (consider it gathering), strictly for pre-determined essentials, with no browsing or impulse buying permitted.

Make a list. Remember to take it with you. Check it thrice. After a fashion (if you forgot the list) you can remember most if not all of the items, especially if you make the trip up and down each aisle. (Be alert - - just when you’ve figured out where most things are, they re-merchandize the store.) I cannot emphasize enough the need to make a list.

First, you’ll be less tempted by spur-of-the-moment purchases, and you can blow right by the end-aisle come-ons. Second, check it again when you think you’re finished. Don’t just scan it, READ IT! Otherwise this drama will play out. You are in the middle of a sauce preparation. You read the next ingredient and realize you forgot to buy it. Sauces are sensitive. Turning off the heat and rushing to the store makes for sorry sauces, let alone the three other courses you were in the midst of preparing. You could send your wife, but if she’s anything like PJ, she’ll take an hour to do what you could do in 15 minutes, and she will return with a bag-full of stuff you don’t need.

Check to make sure she didn’t stow something somewhere before waltzing into the kitchen. Snackers are notorious for hiding snacks.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Foodie Shows

Food Network can be addictive. I’ve watched my fair share of Emeril Live*, and even use several of his recipes. His Turkey Day turkey is now my standard. Emeril’s recipes can be a bit challenging and lengthy. I would hate to have to clean up after one of his cooking shows. Emeril’s Cowboy Chicken Casserole recipe has 26 ingredients, one of which is his Southwest seasoning requiring another 10 ingredients. Preparation takes three days.

Diners, Drive-ins & Dives is entertaining, and useful for the traveler looking for that quirky place where the locals go. You just have to deal with watching the host.

Sorry, I am not a Rachel Ray fan. A better name for her show would be A Valley Girl Does Dinner.

True confession time - - I’m a Giada groupie, head over heels in like with Giada De Laurentiis, and her show, Everyday Italian. Watching her taste her creations could go on any highlight reel. She can sell me anything, though I stay away from pasta most of the time. Her Stracoto with Porcini Mushrooms (that would be pot roast) has assured me a long-term marriage contract. Each preparation is worth two free get-out-of-the-doghouse coupons.

Food Network is currently programming several shows touting speed and competition - 30-Minute Meals (which seems like it airs 10 times per day), Quick Fix Meals, Iron Chef America, and Food Network Challenge.

Yes, if time is of essence and you know what you’re doing, speed matters.

If, like me, you cringe at the number of ingredients and steps of some recipes, size matters. That competition thing is just jumping on the bandwagon of the popular reality and stress shows. Apparently we feel better about the stress in our lives watching others in stress.

Not for me. Even if I am short of time, I enjoy the joie de vivre of cooking - - except of course those times I muck something up or have forgotten a shopping list ingredient. That’s enough stress for me. If I wanted constant stress in the kitchen I’d become a sous chef in a high-traffic fine dining establishment.

I’m more of a shoo chef, as in get out of my kitchen.

* We chef-wannabees should raise our spatulas to half-mast. Emeril Live is no longer on Food Network.