For the past few years, I’ve had a minor ongoing argument with my now nine-year-old daughter over what constitutes appropriate television fare. For a short time, she watched Hannah Montana and The Suite Life, until I realized she’d finish watching an episode and stroll back into the living room speaking like those pre-pubescent brats. Forget that: I have years of teenage rebellion looming ahead, and I don’t need to put up with verbal obnoxiousness early.
One of the things she had noticed about us, her parents, was that we love food. We cook at least four nights a week, usually from scratch. We take her out to eat at interesting restaurants all over L.A. And, like many foodies, we watch shows on The Food Network (mostly Good Eats). It’s not that we think we’re really getting any great cooking skills out of the shows, but we do like looking at the food.
Lo and behold, our daughter is now obsessed with The Food Network. She regularly DVRs shows like Chopped, in which four chefs compete in a three course meal using mystery ingredients. The food is then judged by rather famous chefs, most of whom are based in New York. Anna is mesmerized by the fast paced competition. There’s food flying, stuff catching on fire, fingers cut, and she sits in judgment herself.
“Mom, I’m pretty sure that chef is going to get chopped,” she informed me solemnly. “His meat was definitely overdone, and his sauce seemed thin. Still, I just don’t understand why Geoffrey Zakarian always has to be so mean.”
The drama continues for Anna with Iron Chef America. She is well acquainted, at this juncture, with all of the Iron Chefs, and her favorites are Michael Symon (because he’s a nice guy), and Cat Cora (because she’s cool). In fact, Anna has discovered a whole new world of female role models through the shows. Reverently, she recites the names of Cat Cora, Alex Guernaschelli, and Donatella Arpaia. These are some strong women, tough women who hold their own with the guys in the kitchen and on a judging panel. At one point, Anna said she would like to be the youngest judge on Iron Chef America, but she’d only do it under two conditions: no alcohol would be served (she’s underage, after all), and that one of her fellow judges would be Ms/ Arpaia. She would also prefer that the episode be called Battle Cupcake.
One of the other advantages to this foodie TV habit is that Anna can no longer really put up a fuss regarding trying new foods. After watching two chefs beat a bunch of animal insides into submission on Iron Chef America’s Battle Offal, very few food mysteries remain. She certainly has her preferences, but there’s no longer that massive suspicion of any food that doesn’t look like a chicken finger (a short but totally frustrating phase).
I realize that a lot of what Anna likes about these shows is the competitive nature; at heart, these are really game shows. I don’t think she’d be interested in watching Julia Child bumble around a kitchen by herself for a half an hour (like I did when I was a kid). But, I think she’s learning something beyond the idea that there’s a winner and loser, a concept that these people are actually creating something wonderful. She’s helping a lot in the kitchen now, and is mastering basic knife skills (she fries a mean egg, too). And I’d way rather have her want to be Cat Cora than try and emulate Miley Cyrus.
Anna was very excited to learn that there’s going to be a Chopped All Stars series, in which the judging chefs will compete against each other. Just think: all her favorites coming together. She can hardly wait to see what they’ll make, and to watch Geoffrey Zakarian get his comeuppance.
“We’ll see how he does on his plating,” she said.
Jenny Heitz has worked as a staff writer for Coast Weekly in Carmel, freelanced in Los Angeles, and then switched to advertising copywriting. She now writes about gift ideas and products on her blog, Find A Toad (www.findatoad.com). Jenny’s op-eds on education have been published recently in the Los Angeles Daily News (www.dailynews.com). Jenny also writes for the Los Angeles private elementary schools blog, Beyond The Brochure (www.beyondthebrochure.blogspot.com). She has also been a guest blogger on Mamapedia,The Well Mom, Sane Moms and other sites. She has a BA in Journalism from UC Santa Cruz and an MS in Mass Communications from San Jose State University. Jenny has a nine-year old daughter and teaches Pilates. She lives in Hancock Park, Los Angeles.