I don’t have cable television so when cable able members of my family started carrying on about Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri and Rachael Ray I had no idea what they were talking about. In fact, when Paula Deen was a guest of the Georgia Center for the Book, I was able to get a signed copy for my aunt, who likes biographies. I had no idea what I had done until she got the book and called me, all but squealing in delight. My aunt, who does not like to cook, is a huge Paula Deen fan, thanks to cable.
All of these folks have made huge places for themselves in the cookbook, cookwear, take a cruise with a chef world. To me, however, their shows aren’t nearly as much about teaching people to cook as they are pure entertainment. Don’t take this wrong, because I assure you, when I do have access to cable you cannot pry me away from Iron Chef, and I think Guy Fieri is just darling, plus the show is okay too. No, for me at least, the true royals in the world of television cookery are Jacques Pepin, Lidia Bastianich, those crazy kids in America’s Test Kitchen and of course Julia Child. I have gained so much knowledge from watching their programs over the years and even own a few of the companion cookbooks. Jacques Pepin in particular, with his interest in healthy cooking (but not at the cost of flavor) and his frugal ways, is my personal favorite. His most recent book covers all his favorite recipes from a long and celebrated career, but it is the DVD in the back that was my favorite part. He demonstrates his sublime skill as a teacher as he takes viewers through the basics of peeling vegetables, cooking eggs, deboning chicken and many other things. Another of his books that is a personal favorite is Julia and Jacques Cooking At Home, which was the companion book to the PBS program of the same title. The friendship between these two devotees of French cooking was so obvious it made viewing a delight and having their opinions in the book, side by side for each recipe, gives great direction to any home cook while leaving lots of room for creativity. As for Julia Child, I have four words for you. Eggs baked in cream. Get your hands on a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (which needed no companion PBS program) bake the eggs, wolf them down and then sigh in contentment. Beat that, Rachael.