Posts tagged ‘Food Network’

September 28, 2008

Feasting on culinary programmes

Another Sunday, another day of working with Giselle, Ria and Nadine and another evening of watching the food programmes on cable. News was great today and we managed to pull the newscast together primarily because of Giselle’s uncanny ability to remain unruffled in the face of anything. I swear if civilians heard the bawdy conversations we have while creating a newscast they would probably throw holy water on us. Giselle did an excellent job of reading this evening as usual and I was happy to be able to just behave as the conductor.

 

I made it home to revel in another evening of watching food programmes. The main event for me this evening was Alton Brown’s Feasting on Waves which, as it turns out, was the final part of his four part series. Before that I watched Challenge on Food Network with some dreadful display of odd cooking in what seems to have been a beef cooking challenge that resulted in a few winners with rather yawnable dishes. At least I managed to grab dinner and have a shower during the programme. This was followed by a difficult time for me when I was confronted with Iron Chef America ( a poor imitation of the Japanese version of the show) running against Anthony Bourdain with his No Reservations. Normally I am glued to Iron Chef America but dammit Jim …it was Anthony Bourdain and an episode I had never seen before on the Travel Channel with him in New Zealand. I flipped back and forth and then saw that the challengers on Iron Chef chose Bobby Flay and ..well…Bourdain won.

 

Bourdain was his usual self as he bombed at a culinary speech in New Zealand and proceeded to find the ethos of the country before venturing into his next presentation. I know it was all staged TV ( I work in the medium – after all) but it was well done and there was wild boar involved and Bourdain did the butchering. I think I adore the guy because when i watch him and his sarcastic and cynical ways I see myself and in a world when I often feel I am the last caustic person on the planet  – it comforts me. His insatiable curiosity also strikes a chord with me. Bourdain was happy with his visit to the Antipodes and I was pretty darned happy too. BTW I managed to catch the last minute of Iron Chef and was pleased to see that Flay lost the challenge.

 

I was going to make this entry a detailed discussion about the last episode of Feasting on Waves but despite my extensive note taking on Scrivener  I feel that would miss the point of the last episode. Yes, he spoke of pelau and had more johnny cakes which, inexplicably, seem ubiquitous in the upper Caribbean but not Trinidad. And , yes, he insists on pronouncing Anguilla as “angweela” as opposed to “angwilla”. He also continued his concentration on the smaller territories ignoring the islands that really dictate the cuisine of the Caribbean but it was a four part series so I can only assume he has a plan for a larger series.

 

My views on the the series after seeing the final episode are actually quite basic. I am happy I have seen another side of Alton Brown. A less perfect and much more interesting side that…dare I say it…makes him more human. I saw our region force Alton to relax and just be himself which I guess is what we are best at doing. We break people down and force them to realize we are ultimately about being human and that involves the fun of learning we are not perfect and that life is really about a little bit of this and little bit of that and damn the exact measurements. Caribbean culture, built on African, Indian, European, Chinese, Arabic and heaven knows what else is about just doing what feels right. That is what I love about living here. Then Alton, the most uptight person on the Food Network made the ultimate announcement in his last episode. He said that in the Caribbean ( in local food places) we cook food with love and that is very different from cooking it “lovingly”. Ding ding ding Alton….you got it. That is what we are about as a people and a region and most observers miss it but you didn’t. So I now have a new respect for Alton who was always struck me as a soulless but very knowledgeable food expert. He clearly has soul and after seeing him barefoot in a kitchen and seeing him taste  a dish by sucking it out of his hand ( I always thought that was normal) he is now fully OK with me. I love the line he said in the BVI regarding a great coconut fish chowder passed down to the cook by his grandmother which he described as “drinking  his history out of a cup”.

 

Ironically, living in the Caribbean I now see that one of my best friends Bruce, who is also a travel writer but times 100, is facing Hurricane Kyle in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. How odd that I am safe in the Southern Caribbean and he is now dealing with one of our most infamous exports – bad weather.

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September 8, 2008

The ultimate melting pot.

 

Though my intention is to write a bit about the Caribbean as a region I must say today was not a shining example of what most people would expect from us in terms of sun, sand and rum punches. It was a work day so that pretty well puts paid to the alcoholic beverages and being at the office pretty well eliminated the sand thing though my office desk was feeling a tad  gritty. 

 

It is my custom to walk straight to one of my Macs upon waking to check my newsfeeds and check the weather satellite images at the lovely NHC site. Today I was faced with an inadequate level of info about Turks and Caicos and how they fared and with what appeared to be an ugly red weather system about to descend on Trinidad. By the time I rounded the Queen’s Park Savannah on the way to the office I could see ugly black clouds emerging over the tips of the Northern Range. While disturbing it was also possessed of a terrible beauty that almost led me to crash the Mondeo ( well, that and some interesting human sights on the savannah). I phoned Mookish the cameraman as I was about 30 seconds from work and told him to catch the clouds as they would make useful archive shots for any storm coverage we might want to do. As I parked I met up with him and we managed to capture some great shots including lightning bolts in action. 

 

It turned out that that was just the beginning of a day of extreme weather for us. It poured to the point that much of Port of Spain was underwater  and our offices turned into an island of sorts as flood waters reached all the way up our driveway. After that it poured some more and didn’t stop pouring for several hours. Apparently we had the lead story for today and, as it turned out, we got off easy as roofs blew off houses in some parts of the country. I must say our crew got some amazing shots of submerged cars, flooded streets and, yes, our shots of black clouds sneaking over the Northern Range complete with lightning. It was still a pretty hectic day and I only got the news script finished four minutes before I had to run into studio to read. Thank heavens for Wong who can view a tape and write a story faster than most people can deny having viewed porn in their browser.

 

I came home looking forward to a quiet evening of quality Food Network programming only to discover that Alton Brown has a new programme called Feasting on Waves. It is an interesting programme for several reasons not the least of which is that Alton Brown, for all his annoying foibles and smugness, has an amazing knowledge of food. The programme has him and his crew sailing the Caribbean ( at least it seems to be based on our region) and investigating the foods of each island. It was fascinating to see him investigating the foods we take for granted such as soursop, lemongrass, dasheen and salted cod. His first programme was set primarily in St. Kitts which is an interesting island that manages to bridge the dominant influence of Jamaica with the rest of the Caribbean …just hearing their accent was a treat. There is something remarkably pleasurable about watching a food expert like Alton drinking something as Caribbean as bush tea made from lemongrass ( also called vetiver or fever grass here) and enjoying it. I love being reminded that the things we take for granted are considered exotic by much of the rest of the world.

 

Alton said an interesting thing. He described the history of our region and the various races and ethnicities that make up the wondrous pastiche we call home and he noted that we are probably the first part of the world that understood and embraced fusion cuisine. I don’t necessarily agree as I am pretty sure Southern Europe beat us to the punch but he has a point. The food of our region is spectacularly diverse. We think nothing of dining on a mixture of African, Asian and European cuisines. Many a time I find myself ordering lunch at a nearby fast food establishment and having a container full of curry, creole root vegetables and macaroni pie. To be honest, one of the reasons I moved back here was that I missed the food and the amazing ingredients.  One of my greatest joys is turning classic French or Italian cuisine on its head by substituting local ingredients. I draw the line at screwing with some dishes such as cassoulet but many other things are fair game.

 

I am happy to hear now that Turks and Caicos did not suffer as badly as they might have and I am hoping that Cuba ( despite my normal distaste for the Latin world) escapes with minimal damage. I have to say that floods, hurricanes and corrupt politicians notwithstanding we are still an incredible part of the world and I am happy I live here.

 

Now when will Anthony Bourdain deign to come here and make my life complete?