I tend to watch TV shows about people doing dangerous, improbable stuff I would never do. Car chases, running for office, applying eyeliner, murdering mob bosses.
So, no, I don’t usually watch cooking shows on television.
I did like Julia Child, but only because she seemed to be having such a good time. Plus, that was a long time ago, before I had 842 cable channels, which on a good day, offer up at least three things worth watching.
Yet, as out-of-touch as I am, I still know about Nadia G. of the Bitchin’ Kitchen.
She’s in the big time: the Cooking Channel, and has been on YouTube for some time. The latter is great. That way you can quickly shut it off when someone comes into the room where you’re supposed to be working.
Nadia at first appears to be a proud member of the always-she-talks-with-her-hands New Jersey Italian-American club that is so prevalent on the tube. She’s actually a smart, media-genic kitchenista who speaks at least three languages. (She grew up in Montreal and her folks are Italian.) She, as did Mrs. Child, makes cooking look easy and seems to be having fun, but unlike Julia she’s often doing it in very, very high heels, so right there you know she’s faking the good-time part a bit.
If you think about it, this journey from Julia to Nadia says a lot about our relationship to food. Back in the day we wanted to make classier food. Not fancy, but just classier. French-like. Now we want to make healthier food, faster. And we want it to be the healthy food that everyone else knows is healthy. (If you’re going to interrupt now and say you were into flax seeds in the 1980s before everyone else, please refrain.)
So much of this thirst for food-preparation knowledge is all about improving one’s odds for staying young, or at least staying around. If you don’t believe me, go to your local market the next time the national news has a story on blueberries as antioxidants. By the time you get there, you’ll be lucky to find enough sad little blue fruit to dot your cereal.
But, back to Nadia. What’s her appeal? I can wonder about this out loud (or on a blog) without shame now. Even The New York Times is curious. (If that link goes to a login page, then cough up the money for a NYT subscription. Come on!)
But I think the truth of the matter is that we’re poised for another shift in our relationship to food. We outgrew classy food and we’re soon to move on from our food as age-weapon period.
I predict that next up will be food as parlor game. Nadia, who changes costumes like a budget version of Lady Gaga, cooks against backgrounds of brightly colored, wacky sets. She talks as fast as an auctioneer, she’s goofy, sexy and without seeming to, she teaches viewers a thing or two about cooking. (You will never again fail to adequately strain your chicken broth after watching and listening to her do it.)
Let the games begin.
–Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett