Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Gaining Weight with Ina and Paula

March 27

I love watching FoodTV. I've gotten cozy with Tyler Florence, matter of fact man of food; observed Bobby Flay transition from awkward and camera-inept to cool, offhand and even charming; endured Emeril's obnoxious personality in order to commit to memory a particularly tantalizing recipe. Michael Ciarello is handsome and I want to go to one of his parties. I love seeing a man bake -- when any of these guys gets out a stand mixer and starts to cream butter and sugar, I am riveted.

On the distaff side, I have trouble with Sandra Lee, because she is doll-pretty in a way that I find difficult to like, and besides I don't like short cut cooking. Obviously for the same reason and for her incessantly cheery personality, I give short shrift to Racheal Ray, the flavor-of-the-month who seems to think cooking hamburgers in 30 minutes is an achievement no one could manage without her interference. Giada di Laurentiis bothers me because of that insane-looking smile, that body so clearly owned by someone who doesn't like to eat, and perhaps because with that name I suspect she doesn't need the job.

You may guess that I do cut Paula Deen and Ina Garten some slack. These are women with rich, full lives that revolve around their kitchens. They are both beautiful, in a way that only a woman with years of loving to eat and cook can be beautiful. I wish Ina would make something besides cupcakes -- I don't know anybody who likes cupcakes. Even kids, who get the most cupcakes, have the sense to lick the icing off and throw away the cake part. But I respond to Ina's spirit and what we might refer to as her lifestyle, all those happy people who love to help her test recipes and the like. I think the uneasy laugh that floats from her in her talk with Jeffrey and her party guests will abate after the intervention of an aggressive tv coach (although she's had her show for years and it must have been pointed out to her by now).

Paula Deen has a Southern accent. She is so herself up there, mixing food and gossiping with me as if there were nobody else she'd rather be cooking with. And her recipes, although a little heavy on the canned soup and mixes, are interesting and have a Southern heritage, just like me. I think the network is making a mistake by putting her into the new setting of the "Paula's Party" show, which makes her seem self-conscious and silly. I hope they yank that one and keep her churning out those little intimate kitchen fests she does so well -- her daily show. I hope she learns some new recipes and shares them with me and y'all.

There's something pleasant about having Ina and Paula in my living room, talking food with me. I've had to rein myself in from the temptation of going into my own kitchen and whipping up some of those cream-laden (Ina) butter-and-mayonnaise-laden (Paula) recipes as I watched my own girth expand. I've had to learn how to enjoy them without eating like them, by reminding myself that I don't want to literally look like them. Not that I don't like their looks, but something tells me that they don't go to the gym as often as I do either.

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