Excerpts from

Food & TV

By Elizabeth M. Tamny

The Kitchen Sessions With Charlie Trotter–It’s always good to see a cooking show from Chicago (with a vaguely Prairie School set and jazzy end credits, no less). I say this despite the fact that traffic in front of Charlie Trotter’s restaurant blocks the way to my therapist’s office every other week, despite his slightly off-putting uber-ambition and also despite his goofy and confusing cameo in My Best Friend’s Wedding (he was supposed to be in New York?). Charlie Trotter is an appealing, buttoned-to-the-neck, intense, cute, hunched-over culinary nerd, with the requisite intense culinary mania you might expect from a man who runs a 5-star restaurant. He speaks in the zealous, fervent, but strangely bland (despite the barrage of adjectives) language of restaurateurs; he uses the word “product” a lot. It’s kind of the foodie equivalent of police lingo. He comes across as friendly and unafraid of anything gastronomically, which is appealing (don’t often see people use duck fat in vinaigrettes). Altogether a very fun, somewhat inspiring show. He knows his stuff. Obviously.

Gourmet Ireland (With Paul and Jeanne Rankin)–The word “sportif” bounces through my mind every 2 seconds when I watch this show. It is hosted by a very tall and energetic skinny married couple on a futuristic, blue-ish set, intercut with location shots. They seem determined–at the same time that they work with a lot of traditional Irish foods–to demonstrate that Irish cooking doesn’t have to be: (fill in the blank: boring, bland, stodgy, uninspired). I probably would like the show much more if they would focus on boring traditional Irish fare. On some level contemporary cooking from every country starts to look the same–seared on the outside, rare inside, on a bed of mesclun, with infused oil blah blah blah. But they really do crack me up. The wife, especially, is very afraid of pauses, and chatters herself into corners sometimes, as if the whole show would come to a crashing halt if she didn’t stop talking. Sportif! Sportif!

Emeril Live!; The Essence of Emeril–By accident I saw Emeril Lagasse in person for the first time before I knew who he was; this fact is probably what keeps me from completely disliking his TV persona. Once while waiting to eat at Heaven on Seven, where he was cooking that day (he’s friends with the owner), he came out with a plate of onion rings to pacify the waiting folks and I responded predictably to his impish grin and wooly black hair…that is to say, I thought oooo, what a cute thing he is. But, oh Lord, I just can’t stand his shows. It’s everything I dislike–the ooo-ing and ahh-ing audience, the “bam”-ing, the need for congratulations and applause, the dust around the edges of the plates (pet peeve), the vertical food…I can’t stand it. So all this pressure to worship at the throne of over-extended Emeril…forget it. I still think he’s cute and I bet he sells a lot of gumbo from that twinkle in his eye, but it sure ain’t my bag.

Send zines to the Zine-o-File, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.