Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Saturdays With PBS

     Some weekends (every weekend) I will find myself sitting on the couch with nothing to do. That is a lie. There are a million things I could do, but the thought of willingly going out into the world and coming into contact with other people seems to go against every reptilian survival instinct that ever flashed through my brain. No, I won't be doing any of that. 
     Instead, I find that by noon my day has ground down to a tedious hum, flipping through the TV channels hoping to God I won't have to watch another Lifetime movie. 
     I have watched an embarrassingly large number of Lifetime movies. They all seem to involve wayward teenage girls, teachers seducing students(or vice versa), evil husbands concocting convoluted schemes to murder their wives or wives murdering their husbands in self defense.  
The self defense murders usually occur within the first half hour, and the rest of the movie tells of the trial and aftermath. This usually involves the wife being demonized by the community and the press, and when all hope seems lost a plucky female lawyer appears to take the case and get her acquitted. 
     Usually Tyne Daly is involved. 
     There was a time when it seemed that an actress named Kellie Martin appeared in every other Lifetime movie. I hate that I even know who she is. I mean, I'm sure she's a very nice person, and a serviceable actress, but whenever I hear her name it fills me with shame. And I'm a guy that proudly owns every Bangles album ever made, so it takes a lot to shame me. 
     Never mind that I get 200 + channels on satellite. Forget that I have hundreds of hours of unwatched programming on my dvr, or instant access to every show On Demand. Also, forget that I subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, or have access to YouTube on my TV. 
I have a weird quirk (the word we use when we don't want to sound like we're skirting the edge of insanity) where I don't ever feel like watching something that I could watch any time I wanted to. Perhaps I'm afraid I will miss something that's on now and will never get a chance to see again. Which of course, is impossible, due to the On Demand and Netflix and YouTube etc. 
     I'm the same way in my car. I don't even have a cd player. I like to listen to the radio, to be surprised or discover something new, or get that warm feeling when I hear an obscure song that seems like it was played just for me. Or because, you know, the insanity. 
     At any rate, I invariably end up watching cooking shows on PBS. Don't ask me why. I like to think I'm a big fan of PBS, but I probably only watch about 10% of their programming, if that. How many eccentric, turn off the century sleuths were there? Why do I care about a bunch of stuffy, boring wealthy people and their poor, boring servants? What in the hell is a Tavis Smiley? 
I like Nova and some of their other science shows, and the Sherlock series, and Austin City Limits. Also, apparently, their cooking shows. 
     On a side note, I think it's hilarious that whenever they have a pledge drive week, my local PBS channel only shows doo wop reunion concerts from 15 years ago, self help programming and Australian Pink Floyd cover bands. It's as if they know that no one would give them ten cents for their regular programming choices. 
     My parents love the oldies concerts, and they usually end up donating when they break into “Duke Of Earl” to solicit money. I'm curious how many people give money to support them based on the temporary programming during pledge week, only to tune in next week and wonder who Ken Burns is and why he made a sixteen hour documentary on Millard Fillmore. 
     Back to the cooking shows. There's America's Test Kitchen, which sounds as exciting as its name implies, and a spin off(!) called Cook's Country, where the annoying not quite a hipster but way too much a hipster host has to act like more of a hipster by moving the show to his Vermont farmhouse. 
     America's Test Kitchen usually shows you how to prepare two or three recipes, but never the way normal people normally cook them. There is always some complaint about the how some aspect of every recipe leaves some element of the dish too dry, or too creamy, or too delicious. 
As they prepare the food, they make all kinds of humorous quips, told in the hilarious stylings of PBS hosts, which is to say that they are not even remotely funny. 
     They are witty, but such a dry wit that if the jokes were recipes they would devise a change in the recipe to infuse them with chicken broth, or brine or crawdad squeezins. Of course they would never say crawdad, they would say crayfish, like they did today when they related an interesting anecdote about something some chef said 100 years ago about preparing a bisque. I am playing fast and loose with the word “interesting”.
     They also have a segment where they have the host taste test various products that they have already tested with a panel of ordinary people (yuck), and he smugly gives you his opinion and why these plebeians that dared offer their opinions on whether or not they liked a certain cream cheese have no idea what they are talking about. 
     For some reason, this is better than watching an American Pickers marathon. 
     The show that follows these shows is A Taste Of History, where they make authentic dishes from bygone eras, usually involving whole birds of varying species and desserts made from root vegetables. 
     Now I have never in my decade of watching America's Test Kitchen ever felt the desire to try any of the recipes. I am certainly not going to try to recreate some horrible dish from ancient times with ingredients that if I asked for them even at Whole Foods I'd be laughed out of the store. 
     No, I won't be making Fried Lake Perch with Sally Lunn Croutons, accompanied by Chestnut Fritters. I don't need to eat the things George Washington ate, thank you. Cooking has come a long way since then. I'm not looking to relive past culinary experiences. I don't go to an 18th century dentist, do I? No, because dentistry is much better in modern times, just like food preparation is. 
     There are a bunch of shows that have the chef’s name in the title.  Lidia’s family table, which is Italian food.  I live in Pennsylvania, where people pronounce Italian like Eye-talian, and whose idea of Italian cuisine is spaghetti and meatballs.  I grew up eating Italian food, so I spend the half hour criticizing and berating Lidia for not preparing her meals the exact way my family did.  It’s as annoying and heartbreaking as you are imagining it.  More so, in fact, counting in my poor descriptive skills and your lame imaginations.  
     Then there’s Simply Ming.  Ming Tsai is the host, and I assume he does some sort of Asian fusion thing, but that’s horribly racist because I am basing that solely on his name.  I immediately zone out the moment the show starts, and I although I stay tuned in the entire time it is on, I really could not tell you one thing about it.  I don’t even know if Ming is indeed Asian, but he has to be, right?  Right?! Fucking Ming, making me realize something about myself.  That’s just like PBS to make me feel bad for something as minor as a little racist name association.  
     I feel I should mention that I don’t zone out because Ming is Asian.  I don’tW even know for sure if he is Asian.  I just zone out because the presentation bores me for some reason.  Not a racist reason! I can’t stress that enough.  I better stop trying to explain myself, I’m just making it worse.  
     There is the Jazzy Vegetarian, which I always think I would like, but of course, I don’t.  Being a vegetarian, I always think it will be great to learn some recipes for dishes that conform to my chosen lifestyle.  Well first off, she’s not that jazzy.  I realize that jazzy is a relative term, and everyone probably has a different definition of what being “jazzy” entails, but she’s just not it.  To me, she seems like one of my mom’s friends that pretends she has a cooking show, but because of some mix up at the studio, someone actually is filming her.  
     One of the things I discovered when I became a vegetarian is that you really don’t need to do a lot to learn how to cook without meat.  Just cook things without meat.  That’s it, really.  I don’t need to sit and watch some self-proclaimed “jazzy” woman figure it out for me.  Yet I do.  I sit through all these shows, and I have no reason for doing it.  
     There are several shows with Jacques Pepin, and I feel safe in assuming he’s French.  Again, I kind of zone out whenever he appears, and that’s because I hate all French people.  Just kidding.  I just hate most French people, like any normal human being.  At any rate, Jacques cooking shows are like most cooking shows on PBS. They involve complicated gourmet meals that I really couldn’t be bothered cooking.  
     Not that I should have to explain this to anyone that is even remotely familiar with me, but I am not married, have no family, and do not entertain much.  And by entertain much, I mean not at all, unless you count various miscreants stopping by occasionally to drink or do drugs.  I don’t even do that anymore.  So while my life has become this sad existence where I watch cooking shows all day about meals I will never make, I feel that it could be much sadder.  I could actually make the meals, and sit at my lonely table with too much food, crying into my Fromage Blanc Jean-Victor with Roasted Garlic. 
      Or whatever horrible thing they try to get me to prepare.  I am actually a pretty good cook, and I go back and forth between jags where I will cook healthy, tasty meals every night of the week and when I will just order pizza five nights in a row.  It’s like culinary manic depression.  
     There are other shows, some which I only see one or two times before they are yanked off the schedule.  I remember a show about mexican food, hosted by a woman that claimed to be mexican, but clearly wasn’t.  Or maybe she was, what do I know?  I’m apparently racist.
     Luckily, I fall asleep by the late afternoon, and I will wake up in a panic because it has gotten dark while I was sleeping and now I don’t know what time or day it is.  
     But then I remember.  It is Saturday.  Another Saturday I have wasted watching smug, elitist cooking shows that remind me that I am alone and unwanted.  Now it is Saturday night, and I don’t even have that.  
      So I segue into phase two for Saturday.  I turn on TBS and order a pizza.

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