I love to cook. I love to do it, read about it, watch the preparation of it, buy the gadgets, compare endless reviews of the gadgets before buying them, create recipes, try others’ recipes, compare endless reviews of the recipes before trying them. You get the idea.
When I lived in the US and enjoyed the basic amenities – namely, cable – I watched The Food Network constantly. FN watchers all tend to use a similar classification when it comes to shows and their hosts: the good; the bad; the annoying but harmless; the pure entertainment even if we will probably never cook their food; and the bizarre. For me, Ina Garten, Nigella, Giada and Michael Chiarello are pure, perfect genius; Mario is pretentious to the point of distraction which makes him a terrible host; Emeril and Rachael Ray are annoying but don’t quite make you want to peel your skin off and eat it; and Paula Deen is lovely to watch and quite cheery and mellow: probably because she is now made entirely of butter and cream after having cooked with just those two ingredients for the past 150 years.
And when it comes to the bizarre, no one occupies that category more wholly and maniacally than the exquisite Sandra Lee. You know Sandra Lee. She’s the tall, blonde, perfectly made-up, Semi-Homemade host who always looks like she’s seconds away from knocking back a shot of something. And she usually is. Never is a show complete without a themed cocktail and a mad, themed tablescape. But the food! The food is the genius of it. The premise of the show is to combine seventy per cent ready-made products with thirty per cent fresh ingredients, thereby allowing the harried, time-poor cook to create awe-inspiring…..
…..piles of mud and vomit.
What prompted this entry, though, was the rediscovery of Sandra’s famous Kwanzaa cake, tweaked for 2008 from an old holiday episode. Watch it yourself above. To make it, she takes a store-bought angel food cake, hacks it apart, fills and covers it with sludge-dyed, canned frosting, and stuffs the center with apple pie filling. At key moments, she cautions us to be ‘careful’ or ‘delicate’ as if she’s using actual cooking techniques. Lady: you aren’t making real food. You could make this thing with your toes and a cricket bat and trust me, it would not turn out any worse.
Then comes the decoration: acorns, pumpkin seeds and giant candles. And there you are: moist, hair-flavoured and partially-hydrogenated on the inside, the salty crunch of the forest on the outside, with a healthy garnish of cultural insensitivity. Happy Kwanzaa. Here’re some Andrew’s salts.