Wednesday, December 28, 2011

19-Hour Food Network Running Diary: The Whole Thing and Various Conclusions

This piece first appeared in 2009. Happy New Year!

This past Wednesday, I watched an entire broadcast day of the Food Network and blogged about it. Then I slept for 67 straight hours.

The experience changed some ways I felt about FN, and reinforced others. For one thing, I always assumed The Powers That Be didn’t pay attention to financial matters, which they clearly do. There weren’t any outrageously expensive dishes all day, and some shows (Throwdown, 30-Minute Meals) made a point of frugality.

On the other hand, I thought FN would give a modicum of time to healthy cooking, and it just wasn’t there. Bobby Flay’s fruit marinades were the closest anyone came to nutritionally-minded meals. Granted, it’s Christmas, which tends to highlight baking and various indulgences, but when Paula Deen chops the only pepper of the day, you know we’re in trouble.

Finally, I thought there would be more 3/4-sleeve sweaters. Turns out, the chefs prefer long sleeves rolled up. (Except Giada. You can always count on Giada.)

The whole thing is attached below, in chronological order from 9:30am to 5am the next morning. You can see I fell into a coma during Food Network Challenge, but revived just in time for Paula’s Cookie Swap. It’s the important things, you know?

Anyway, here goes. Merry Christmas.

THE SHOW: Nigella's Christmas Kitchen
THE HOST: British cook/woman I'd date if I went that way, Nigella Lawson
THE CONCEPT: homemade Christmas gifts

Nigella is sploshing cider vinegar into sugar. I enjoy sploshing. Someday, I hope to splosh my way into college.

Nigella's casual vocabulary is my favorite. She's making jam, and has described it as "fiery crimson" and "volcanically boiling." This is the stuff that goes with peanut butter, right?

This entire show is candlelit and set to saxophone jazz. I think Food Network is trying to seduce me.

"Let Dad school you with a vertical rotisserie." is a sentence I never hoped to hear, in a commercial or otherwise.

A Nigella haiku:
Oh, metric system
You make baking funny with
your grams and liters

Nigella's cake batter is "perfectly plain, but anything but austere." Husband-Elect just kissed me goodbye and went to work. Are these related somehow?

Unconsidered when planning 19-hour blogging marathon: when do I go to the bathroom?

Her strata is (direct quote): "Like a toasted cheese sandwich, but a celestial one, as if eaten by angels." If heaven is filled with grilled cheese sandwiches, I will feel a lot better about death.

It's not even time for Price is Right, and Nigella's guests are eating Christmas tree cakes and getting sploshed on espresso martinis. I want to go to there.

We're up to fully loaded baked potatoes. Cooked by candlelight, naturally. I've never been attracted to a potato before today, but somehow, Nigella is making them look sexy. Maybe because she just "splodged" them with sour cream, and now - I swear to god - is "forking them together."

Nigella ends the show scarfing potatoes on a crimson couch by a roaring fire, while angels play smooth jazz in the background. This is a Luther Vandross video.
FRUGALITY QUOTIENT: nothing too expensive here
HEALTH QUOTIENT: We'll let it slide. It's a Christmas show.
VERDICT: 10/10, for sexiness

THE SHOW: Emeril Live!
THE HOST: Emeril Lagasse
THE CONCEPT: The godfather of TV cheffery hosts a cooking show in front of a live audience, says "BAM" a lot. There's a band, too.

The theme of the show is cheese. I can get behind this.

First tip, from an at-home video segment with a blonde mom: "Never walk away from your pine nuts." Truer words, never spoken. How many times have I set them to toast and sniffed the air three minutes later all like, "What's burning?"

We're watching a split screen of the blonde mom and Emeril blending a dressing. It's still more interesting than golf.

Speaking of golf, what happens now that Tiger is in the permanent doghouse? I imagine curling will finally have its day as THE sport for people who don't like sudden movements.

Emeril is running a "Say Cheese" recipe contest. Pam from Maryland is a winner, and she reminds me of every nurse or teacher's assistant I've ever met. Pam is using crab in her macaroni and cheese, which "kicks [it] up to notches unknown." NOTCHES UNKNOWN.

Emeril is both a "spoon guy" and a "whisk fan." Can you be both? Is that like rooting for the Yankees and the Mets?

Augh! The vertical rotisserie ad is back so "Dad" can school us some more. I think I've found my nemesis for the day.

Bathroom dilemma, solved. Thank god for commercials. Did you guys need to know that? Also of note: my computer is resting on a hummus tub so the bottom won't overheat. In Brooklyn, we work with what we have, folks.

Emeril is stirring white-gray crabmeat into a yellow-gray macaroni and cheese mixture. You know that scene in Empire Strikes Back, when Han makes Luke a bed out of TonTon intestines? It looks like that. Which is okay, because sometimes ugly food is the best food. (See: eggplant.)

Re: Emeril's accent. He's from Boston, right? Because it sounds so Brooklyn sometimes, I imagine him selling me knockoff sunglasses on the corner by the Halal Chinese Food place.

Food Network Drinking Game, Rule #437: take a shot every time you wonder how a food show can pay for a full band. You'll be sploshed inside an hour.

Emeril is making tamales con queso, and keeps asking for "lahwd." I wondered why he would be using the lord in his cooking, until it occurred to me that he's saying "lard."

Another ugly-but-delicious food: refried beans. We can all agree it looks like baby puke, right?

As Emeril rolls his second tamale, I find my mind wandering to faraway places. Like Morocco. Were fez hats just decorative, or did they have a purpose? They don't shade the eyes or protect the head very well, so I'm figuring they were invented for aesthetic purposes. In a related story, I think it's time for some coffee.

Time for a multiple choice question! What kind of degree does Doc Gibbs have?
A) Funkiness MD
B) A PhD in smoothosity
C) A doctorate in jazz hands
D) Gastroenterology

Holly from Ohio is the next winner of Emeril's Say Cheese contest, and she has a very, very red kitchen. Like, all her appliances and countertops are a fiery crimson. Wouldn't that make you angry when you're cooking? Like you're in Hell's Kitchen? "Don't TALK TO ME when I'm making CHEESECAKE, DAMMIT!"

Can I tell you how much I love it when Emeril adds alcohol to recipes? Everyone in the audience cheers like crazy, as if to say, "WOO! This flan is gonna get us totally sploshed!"

Have you seen the ice cream sandwich bench? It's $950, though if Trading Spaces has taught me anything, you can make it at home with $15.62 and a bedsheet.

Emeril's jacket has remained perfectly clean through the entire show, despite making salad, mac and cheese, tamales con queso, and cheesecake. No mess at all. I would look like Pizza the Hut after a day like that.

End of show.
3/4-SLEEVE SWEATERS: a shocking 0
FRUGALITY QUOTIENT: good - salad and tamales are pretty cheap
HEALTH QUOTIENT: nada, though points for trying with the salad
VERDICT: 7/10, for gratuitous shots of blending.

THE SHOW: Easy Entertaining
THE HOST: Michael Chiarello
THE CONCEPT: "Formal fare in your formalwear." Clever boy.

So far, this is an onion- and beet-heavy show. Not kid food, apparently. In first grade, either of those words would have thrown me into total gag reflex failure.

Coffee procured! Urge to kill ... fading.

Chiarello isn't wearing a 3/4-sleeve sweater, but his pullover sleeves are rolled up to just under the elbow. Does that count?

Currently, he's adding a TON of ground fennel to already fennel-heavy roast. Moderate amounts of fennel are always appreciated, but this looks like it's going to taste like a bag of black licorice exploded in your mouth.

Up next: a Peppermint Chocolate Tiramisu. I have never heard a finer collection of words. (P.S. Did you know "tiramisu" means "pick me up"? Me neither. Thanks, Mike!)

Food Network Drinking Game, Rule #5739: Drink whenever a host claims he/she is "going somewhere," "checking the market out," or "has some errands to run" during the commercial break. We know you need more than four minutes to hit up the orchard, Chiarello.

While I like Michael Chiarello, he suffers a bit from John Kerry Syndrome: you know he's totally great at what he does, but you don't necessarily want to have a beer with him.

He just poured about a cup of red wine into risotto, making it look like brains. Delicious, delicious brains. Again, the ugly/tasty paradox has been proven.

Why don't the Food Network hosts ever wash their own pots and pans? They should have a show made up entirely of Ina Garten and Bobby Flay doing dishes. I guarantee it would be a ratings winner.

End of show. How you know: the wine comes out, and Mike changes into a red t-shirt under a charcoal grey blazer. Very Napa.
VERDICT: 8/10, for Peppermint Chocolate Tiramisu and general attractiveness

THE SHOW: Quick Fix Meals
THE HOST: Robin Miller
THE CONCEPT: Week-long dinners for busy families, with Oprah-esque theme song.

Robin is searing some scallops, and she just poured a dang gallon of olive oil into a large skillet. Look, I know olive oil is one of the healthier cooking fats, but 1/4 cup per serving doesn't do anyone any good. (Now getting off my high horse before I hurt myself.)

Robin is having a tough time lifting her skillet. I can relate, having the upper body strength of a fetal chihuahua.

We've moved on to Mexican fondue, meaning cheese, spinach, artichokes, and salsa melted together. I'm still deciding how I feel about this. Also: "take it to a whole new level" should be retired permanently, as should "outside the box."

Once and for all: is cumin pronounced "keeyou-min" or "coo-min"?

Good tip from Robin: make vinaigrettes and dressings in the bottom of the salad bowl, then toss everything afterward.

Chopping montage! In general, wouldn't cooking would be much more awesome if all our chopping was set to Michael Jackson? Here, try it.

Robin blended strawberries and yogurt, and I thought for sure it was going to be a smoothie. But she poured it in a bowl, so now it's a soup. If she poured it in a votive glass, would it be a candle?

End of show.
3/4-SLEEVE SWEATERS: 0 (it was full-length)
FRUGALITY QUOTIENT: high - nothing was outrageous
HEALTH QUOTIENT: very low - I question serving some of these to kids as dinner
VERDICT: 6/10, for questionable usage of vessels

THE SHOW: Paula's Home Cooking
THE HOST: Paula Deen, y'all!
THE CONCEPT: Today, it's cookies. But most days, it's butter. Just butter.

How you can tell this is an early episode: wrinkles, natural lighting, no cackling, zero appearances by Bobby and Jamie. I miss the cackling, y'all.

Analogy time!
Paula Deen is to Fantasy Grandma as George Clooney is to _______.
A) Fantasy Boyfriend
B) Fantasy Shortstop
C) Fantasy Island

Paula's making Gingerbread Men, and "when we come back, I'm gonna show you how we bring these little [guys] to life." This is going to involve lightning and tiny brain transplants, isn't it?

Edit - Paula is making gingerbread men AND women. Later, they will create gingerbread babies together, unless they use gingerbread prophylactics.

Gingerbread Michael (Paula's husband) has white chest hair, a mohawk, and appears to be wearing a diaper. How does Real Michael feel about this?

End of show.
3/4-SLEEVE SWEATERS: 0, though her blouse has shorter sleeves, y'all
HEALTH QUOTIENT: super, super low, y'all
VERDICT: 9/10, for gentility, y'all

THE SHOW: Everyday Italian
THE HOST: Giada DeLaurentiis
THE CONCEPT: Hot, talented chef makes authentic Italian dishes and funny tasting faces.

Giada starts out with panna cotta, or translated, "there's a cot in my pan."

My Ma is as Irishiest of Irish ladies, but insists on pronouncing Latin and Italian foods as they would be in the native language. This means "mozzarella" is "mooz-a-dell" and "parmesan" is "parrrr-mi-jhan." Giada also does this. Giada is my Ma.

Giada is frying some oysters. When she's done, they will be "sweet and tender, which is how your date will act after he eats them." I assume this means my date will also be breaded and covered in marinara sauce.

Giada's "this is so good" claw: check.
Giada's tasting O-face: check.
Still waiting for first pronunciation of "pan-CHET-tha."

This is the 37 millionth time the Le Cordon Bleu commercial is airing, and it's only 12:46. If I hear, "Get your career cooking ... LITERALLY!" one more time, I will literally jump through the TV and broil that guy.

Champagne Risotto with Asparagus is G's next date night recipe. (P.S. The theme of this show is "Date Night." Now you know.) Served with Chiarello's Peppermint Chocolate Tiramisu and Nigella's Espresso Martini, there is a 100% chance you will be pregnant by the end of the night.

I love that PR folks think well enough of CHG to send us offers, but ... uh ... my name is Kristen. Not Christine. And I don't have kids. And I hate mayonnaise. Just sayin'.

For dessert, it's Raspberry Limoncello Champagne and an Espresso Panna Cotta. Forget plain ol' pregnancy. These will get you a Duggar-style reality show on TLC.

End of show.
3/4-SLEEVE SWEATERS: 1 (You can always count on Giada.)
FRUGALITY QUOTIENT: medium; risotto is cheaper than you think
VERDICT: 10/10, for much-appreciated gratuitous use of champagne

THE SHOW: 30-Minute Meals
THE HOST: Rachael Ray
THE CONCEPT: A nice woman from Western New York makes a meal in an unmentioned allotment of time.

Rachael is making sausage, and her accent ("sah-sidge") is making me miss my friends in Rochester and Buffalo. (*sniff*) You guys, lean ground chicken breast reminds me of you.

Whenever RR asks us to "eyeball" something, I picture pouring the item (fennel, cloves, oil, etc.) on our actual eyeballs. This is not the intended meaning, I understand, but ... need more coffee.

We're having "ahh-some wanh-ffles" here everybody, but not before we eyeball the molasses.

A haiku for Rachael:
You carry so much
but is that nutmeg ever
a burden too heavy?

Rachael is excellent at remaining upbeat. When you're makin' TV, it's really, really tough to turn on the cheer when you're not feeling it. But she manages. I dig that.

Toffee Hot Cocoa was just described as "SUPER delicious." Just once, I want a TV chef to say, "You know what? It's a broccoli recipe. It tastes slightly better than burlap, but if we don't get some veggies in our diets, we'll die."

On a related note, do you ever wonder if RR narrates her everyday movements when she's at home? "Well, I'm goin' to pick up my toothpaste like this. Awesome! Then I'm going to grab my toothbrush like this. Yummo! Now I'm gonna bring it up to my mouth, and run it back and forth across my teeth. All right! And we end by spitting the froth into the sink. Big finish!"

End of show.
3/4-SLEEVE SWEATERS: 0, though the sleeves of her regular sweater were rolled up
HEALTH QUOTIENT: negative numbers
VERDICT: 7/10, for too many "yummos'

THE SHOW: Barefoot Contessa! WOOOO!
THE HOST: the lovely Ina Garten
THE CONCEPT: incredible food served by a woman you want to hang out with ALL THE TIME

She's making chocolate gelato. For Jeffrey, of course. CURSE YOU, JEFFREY!

Husband-Elect, are you reading this? If so, can we go to Ina's kitchen for our honeymoon? I will let you have the Gandalf ice carving if you say yes.

Ina is wearing a black button-down instead of her usual denim one. If you're not a regular viewer, this means nothing to you, but if you are, it's a plot twist on par with The Sixth Sense.

Ina is visiting her fishmonger. I like to picture her being personal friends with her various mongers, and at the end of every year, they all have a giant monger party. Where they mong, presumably.

She is now making lobster pot pies. I was taught to appreciate fresh-from-the-animal lobster meat from a very young age, and always hesitate to use it in any recipe. I mean, what if I mess it up? And why would I want to dilute lobster flavor? But I'm going with this, Ina. I trust you. Be careful with my heart.

Ina wants us to place pastry dough in the fridge for 30 minutes "to chill and relax." Unmentioned: "to light up some doobage and listen to Steve Miller albums on shuffle."

The lobster pies were just dubbed "rustic." In cooking, is "rustic" a synonym for "messy"? If so, my apartment is very rustic.

Jeffrey is playing a trick on Ina, to make her think he ate all the food. This is cruel and unnecessary. Also, I don't know how to spell "unnecessary."

End of show.
FRUGALITY QUOTIENT: er ... pretty low
HEALTH QUOTIENT: um ... also low
VERDICT: 10/10. It's Ina, and dissent will not be tolerated.

THE SHOW: Semi-Homemade ... you knew it was coming.
THE HOST: Sandra Lee
THE CONCEPT: 70% store-bought ingredients, 30% fresh ingredients, 100% yarg.

The theme is wisteria. So naturally, the first dish is a Fig and Goat Cheese Quesadilla. Leave your logic at the door, ladies and germs.

Aunt Sandy's hair is styled very Farrah Fawcettly. Which brings another question to mind: when I don't wear my hair back when I cook, it gets in the food. (Mmm ... hair chili.) Is this a concern of TV chefs?

"I want to talk to you about making great potato salad without all the work." She is starting with pre-cooked potatoes already seasoned with rosemary and garlic. This is like saying, "The first step is making an awesome cake is to buy an awesome cake."

On microwaving the potatoes: "You didn't have to do any of that peeling, any of that monkey business." I think she just compared potato peeling to sex. I guess both are dirty? And can take a few minutes? And at the end, you get delicious fries?

Sandra is spooning hot apricots on to a delicate cream. You can see the cream itself dissolving as this happens. It looks like, in the following shot, the desserts have been replaced with new ones. I can't say for sure this happened, but I think it happened.

Multiple choice question time! Sandra is currently:
A) Showing us a tablescape with a three-foot, 30+ pound vase of flowers at the center.
B) Showing us ANOTHER new plate of those apricot cream desserts.
C) Showing us the molecular representation of sodium chloride.

End of show
3/4-SLEEVE SWEATERS: 0. It was a lavender blouse.
VERDICT: 5/10, for unexpected attention paid to health and frugality, but also making a potato salad out of a potato salad.

THE SHOW: Boy Meets Grill
THE HOST: Bobby Flay
THE CONCEPT: Bobby Flay and a grill in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

Bobby's background music sounds like the chillout room at a '90s rave. We have fallen into a K-hole of flavor, everyone.

Unexpected, terrifying glitch with Blogger, seemingly overcome for now. If it craps out 10 hours into the marathon, I will go on a killing spree.

If Bobby wasn't a cook, he'd be a ballplayer - probably a journeyman outfielder with a .270 average and 15 or 20 home runs a year. Fans would like him because he shows up early to practice, and managers respect him for his knowledge of the game. Three years after retiring, he'd take a job managing Double A, where he'd stay until the majors call him up in his mid-50s. After a few years as a hitting coach, he'd get the full-time manager's job and win the World Series within three years. He'd always have a secret love of mango salsa, but would't know why.

Chickpea Polenta, which Mr. Flay is making, is something I would like to eat right now. In my mouth. With my teeth and gums.

Bobby is now mixing figs and red peppers in a delectable-sounding marinade. However, it looks like Buffalo Bill's bathtub in Silence of the Lambs. "It puts the marinade on the skin or it gets the hose again."

Random people show up on Bobby's rooftop to eat. If only such deliciousness was waiting at the top of every NYC fire escape, instead of the tar paper and Wire-style Mexican standoffs that are usually there.

End of show
3/4-SLEEVE SWEATERS: 0, though Bobby's sleeves were rolled up.
FRUGALITY QUOTIENT: medium-low; steak is pricey, yo
HEALTH QUOTIENT: medium; points for lots of fresh produce
VERDICT: 8/10, for the creative use of fruit and being able to smell the grill smoke all the way in my apartment.

THE SHOW: Guy's Big Bite
THE HOST: Guy Fieri (pronounced "Bob Jones-Smith")
THE CONCEPT: Huge freaking food for giant freaking guys.

The More You Know: I'm wearing no makeup, ill-fitting jeans and my beloved hooded sweatshirt, Big Green. If anyone saw me right now, they'd immediately turn to stone.

Props to Guy: he doesn't settle for saying an ingredient "will make this taste great!" He explains why you add certain seasonings and why you cook food a specific way. And he uses way less "Dude! This onion is radical awesome gnarly, bro!" than I thought he would.

He's explaining why he didn't salt Kalamata Couscous ahead of time: "because I wasn't sure what the olives would bring to it." This is the kind of information I want from a cooking show. From Guy Fieri. Who knew? (Also, it helps that he's making dolma [stuffed grape leaves], one of my all-time favorite foods.)

I'm calling it: TV chefs calling pieces of food "bad boys" is officially over. Stuffed grape leaves are delicious, not delinquent.

Return of the rotisserie ad dad! He reminds me of Prince Humperdinck from Princess Bride. Somewhere (Gilder), a village is missing its cowardly noble.

Guy's dolmas are "doing time" in the oven. 15 to 20 for assault and grand theft auto, to be specific. Maybe they ARE bad boys.

There is no elegant way to talk, whisk furiously, and sound composed at the same time. Everyone's voice rattles like they're riding a vacuum cleaner.

End of show.
3/4-SLEEVE SWEATERS: 0 - again, the rolled-up sleeve dominates
FRUGALITY QUOTIENT: medium-high, dude
HEALTH QUOTIENT: medium, bro
VERDICT: 9/10, for being unexpectedly pretty great, dudebro

THE SHOW: Tyler's Ultimate
THE HOST: Tyler Florence
THE CONCEPT: Tyler shows us how to make a classic dish in the best possible way.

Tyler is kicking the show off by berating a rubber chicken. This is gonna be good.

Ack. He just called all-purpose flour "A.P." (Or, "apey.") How you know when acronyms don't work: when they sound like another, more disgusting word.

"What would life be without bacon?" Tyler asks. A futile existence, my friend. A futile existence indeed.

Tyler is making Coq au Vin, and his lapel mic is picking up the sound of sizzling every time he gets near his Dutch oven. You can hardly hear him above the noise, and it's kind of hilarious.

Also of note: Tyler hits food a lot, as in, "We're gonna hit this with Cognac." and "I'm gonna hit this with Herbs de Provence." No lie, he just said it like, six times. Food abuse!

"Boom!" is another one he's uttered about 70 different times. Methinks Tyler Florence is actually Guy Fieri, and Guy Fieri was replaced with a lookalike English teacher. Up is down, left is right, people!

End of show
3/4-SLEEVE SWEATERS: 0 - rolled up sleeves again.
VERDICT: 7/10 - it's been over for a minute, and I barely remember it. There was a rubber chicken, right? (Is that mean? I don't want to be mean. I actually like Tyler a lot.)

THE SHOW: Cooking for Real
THE HOST: Sunny Anderson
THE CONCEPT: Cooking, really. For real. With realness.

Sunny's telling us about her tattoo. True story: in college, I was out with a friend, and came fairly close to getting the Chinese symbol for moon tattooed on my lower back. I decided not to, went home and told my dad about it. His response: "So, let me get this straight. You were about to get a MOON tattoo two inches above your ass?" I have never been tempted by tattoos again.

Fill in the blank time!
"Flauta" is the Spanish word for ______:
A) flute
B) to flout or express disdain
C) flatulence
D) ex-Bills quarterback Doug Flutie

The last three - possibly four - shows have involved tempering/whisking eggs into a hot mixture. Is that intentional? Does Food Network pick really specific themes like that? Today, it's tempering eggs. Tomorrow, it's grinding coriander. The day after that, it's sectioning a lemon on a snowy day if you live in a state ending with the letter "O."

Heh. It's 4:20.

19 hours of straight blogging, and there will be no Ace of Cakes. The lack of Duffness depresses and frightens me. So I will look at this dog making cookies to cheer me up.

Sunny is a very sunny person, yes? If she was named Frowny, this would be an entirely different show.

She's making Mexican soda! The bodegas in my neighborhood have these, and the colors are insane. They're like drinking a B-52s album.

End of show.
3/4-SLEEVE SWEATERS: nada - cute short-sleeved pink top
HEALTH QUOTIENT: very low - flautas were deep fried
VERDICT: 7.5/10, for the fact that I want Mexican food now

THE SHOW: Everyday Italian
THE HOST: Giada DeLaurentiis
THE CONCEPT: This episode, Giads makes easy Italian-style cookies.

Giada just described a "decadent and deliciously adult cookie," meaning the next half hour will see her either making Florentines or directing a porno.

Didn't this woman just have a baby? How does she still look like a tiny Italian hourglass? (*curses the heavens*)

A Giada haiku:
Little big head chef
makes cookie log so pretty
we forget claw hand

We live down the block from a pizza place that sells single slices in individual boxes. Our front stoop has become the garbage pail for the neighborhood kids, all of whom buy one on the way from school to the subway. Short of water guns, how do I solve this problem?

Giada is rolling out dough, and trying to fill the time with words. "I'm rolling out the dough. Rolling. Rolling. Uh ... more rolling. Hm. Nice day today, right? How 'bout them Mets? More rolling."

Giada is hosting a cookie tasting party, and her friends and family are all abnormally hot. This is probably because they usually have asparagus tasting parties.

End of show.
3/4-SLEEVE SWEATERS: 1! Finally! I thought I was taking crazy pills.
FRUGALITY QUOTIENT: high - baking is cheap
HEALTH QUOTIENT: low - it's a cookie show, man
VERDICT: 8/10 - for having biscotti that looks like it might actually be very good

THE SHOW: Barefoot Contessa
THE HOST: Ina Garten
THE CONCEPT: For this episode, it's treats for people and their dogs.

Food Network Drinking Game, Rule #83892: chug every time a TV chef adds nebulous "flavor," without describing the qualities of said flavor. Ex: "This cupcake could use more flavor." "Potatoes are great when they have flavor." "My socks have a flavor."

Remember, like, four hours ago? When Sandra Lee made potato salad using potato salad? Ina don't play that way. She's got her Adidas and Kangol on, she has her ghetto blaster turned to 11, and she's cooking those dope spuds from scratch. Word.

Ina has chopped at least three large onions, and is visibly tearing up. That's no good. I will kill the onion that makes Ina cry. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED, ONIONS.

A chocolate sheetcake is in the process of being baked. Normally, this would sound awesome. But I don't know if it's good to combine dogs and chocolate in a party setting. Y'know? The pugs have one drink too many, then they start teasing the Boston terrier, and before you know it, all the shih-tzus have poisoned themselves. Party over.

The more I watch this show, the more I think Ina looks like my mom. Maybe this is why I like her so much, and why I keep asking her for money.

Did you know Ina used to work on U.S. nuclear policy in Washington? I think that's why her recipes don't bomb. (HAHAHAHAHA ... sorry.)

Joe Lieberman is a terrible, terrible person. Just sayin'.

First the onions made Ina cry. Now she's grilling on the beach, where it's clearly windy and freezing. If she's attacked by one of those labradoodles, I'm boycotting the Earth.

End of show.
HEALTH QUOTIENT: umm ... look over there! A shiny thing!
VERDICT: 10/10, for the appearance of the StandMixer. If Barefoot Contessa is Cheers, the StandMixer is Norm.

THE SHOW: Down Home with the Neelys
THE HOST: Gina and Pat Neely
THE CONCEPT: A couple you might otherwise like is forced to yell as loudly as possible while making soul food.

There's a guest! A brother of Pat's! And I like him! He's speaking with his inside voice, is why.

They're smoking pork butts in the kitchen. We used to smoke butts in the kitchen in college. Then we smoked too many butts and had to quit. Smoking butts, I mean.

An analogy!
The Neelys are to total deafness as Kate Hudson romantic comedies are to _____.
A) brain damage
B) drooling
C) incontinence
D) all of the above

You know what? Maybe I'm looking at Down Home the wrong way. When I cook, it's usually alone, and it's usually quiet and methodical and relaxing. Others are more gregarious and make it more of a group activity. If that's what the show is aiming for, it's doing okay.

Brother Neely is making pulled pork, a secret diet food. By that, I mean: if you're on a diet and find yourself at a barbecue joint, go for the pulled pork. It's usually the lightest of all the meat choices, and you can customize the flavor with various sauces.

Liveblogging health update: nine hours in, my back is starting to get a little twingey. I call it Futon Spine.

Gina's making margaritas. She's into the tequila. We're about to enter migraine territory.

End of show.
HEALTH QUOTIENT: barely visible from space
VERDICT: 4/10, for Pat's brother and his ponytail.

THE SHOW: Paula's Home Cooking
THE HOST: Paula Deen, y'all
THE CONCEPT: This episode, it's slow cooking.

BEAR WITNESS! Paula is chopping a vegetable, y'all! I'm already in contact with Washington and lobbying for a national holiday.

As a New Yorker, I have never had chicken fried steak. But I've also never had malaria. Is it worth it?

Paula melted half a stick of butter with several cups of grated cheddar cheese, dumped them into the crockpot, and spooned through it wearing an expression I can only describe as total human contentment. She is simultaneously delighting and scaring the crud out of me.

The show has stopped while Paula feeds the mac and cheese to the camera. I LOVE THIS WOMAN.

Limerick time!
There once was a lady named Paula,
"More buttah, y'all!" she would holla,
Her restaurant took off-o
And her show was so boff-o
She earned a million and one dolla.

Blueberry Peach Cobbler is distinctly American in a great way. Eating it with Swiss steak and macaroni and cheese is distinctly American a not-so-great way.

Paula says the cobbler requires some "one on one personal time." Between her, Nigella, and Giada, this is the sexiest day of food programming in history.

End of show.
HEALTH QUOTIENT: infinitesimal
VERDICT: 8/10, for the face. I aspire to make that face someday.

THE SHOW: 30-Minute Meals
THE HOST: Rachael Ray
THE CONCEPT: Dunno. Never heard of it.

How you can tell this is late-period Rachael: much more eye makeup, shorter hair, increased fresh foods, better knife skills, a voice that's clinging to audibility, motions exaggerated to the Nth power.

Rachael's making gorgonzola-stuffed meatballs. If there were more recipes based on meat stuffed with cheese, we'd have world peace, a public health option, and money leftover for universal foot massages.

Fun fact: food commercials use women in their 20s to play the mothers of tweens and teenagers. While this is totally possible, it makes it seem like real-life mothers should look much younger than they actually are. Which isn't cool.

Finally, something I can criticize without feeling terrible: Big Top Cupcake is the dumbest thing I've ever seen. IT'S A POINTY CAKE PAN, EVERYBODY.

I stand corrected. Micro S'mores is the dumbest thing I've ever seen.

Rachael makes a good point: always pull the bay leaves out of your food. Who among has not forgotten, and ended up with a mouthful of pointy leaf? (Uh ... anyone?)

End of show
VERDICT: 7/10, for being easily distracted by BigTop Cupcake

Halfway done!

THE SHOW: Food Network Challenge - Edible Ornaments
THE HOST: The guy with the glasses and spiky hair who isn't Guy Fieri
THE CONCEPT: Cakemakers are taking real trees and covering them with edible ornaments

Today's competitors are three New Yorkers and a dude from L.A. whose "mother would cry if [the tree] wasn't pretty enough." Has mom trained him well enough? Will the New Yorkers bring their crowbars? Can everyone make nice flowers? FEEL THE EXCITEMENT.

There is a shocking lack of Carrie Whats-her-face, the terrifying British judge that usually reduces the contestants to weeping piles of mushy goo. It's going to be up to the guy with the glasses and spiky hair who isn't Guy Fieri (TGWTGASHWIGF), and I don't think he has the cojones.

Lisa Simpson is trying to find her way north, and Bart has a faucet stuck to his ... damn, this isn't the right channel.

Food Network brought in the contestants' parents and siblings in as special assistants, and there is immediate friction between the Staten Island mother/daughter pair. I hope this doesn't devolve into Jersey Shore-style shenanigans. There's not enough spray tan in the world.

In New York, there's a children's behavioral adjustment program commercial that promises to fix your kid's bad habits. One part claims it will even "turn your child's attitude around in one minute or less." Imagine the possibilities there. I imagine it will involve threats to send kids to China.

One baker is making garland out of metal tubing and cream puffs. Another is doing it with amber sugar-covered chestnuts. These may end up tasting like roofing material, but they sure look good.

Another baker basically took some lasagna ingredients, spray painted them, and threw them up wherever they'd fit. I'm not sayin' I could do that, but I'm very good at sticking lasagna in trees.

Food Network Drinking Game, Rule #2893752: If something can go wrong with a Food Challenge ingredient, it will. And it won't be something you'd ever expect. "Oh no, my tortilla is too flaky!" "Oh no, my edible silver beads are too roll-ey!" "Oh no, my cream puffs are becoming too moist, which will disconnect them from the adhesive chocolate!"

The Long Island baker's brother is hilariously inept.
Interviewer: What do you like, David?
Brother: Sports and ... uh, sports.
Brother (holding up ornament): Where should I put these?
Baker: It's a Christmas tree, David.

Question for readers: would you want to eat ornaments that have been shoved in a sap-filled Christmas tree? Where squirrels and birds might have lived? I suck on tinsel every now and then, so no judgment.

Staten Island baker is using an edible film paper, which I had no idea existed. I will be licking a lot more random paper now. Y'know, to test it out.

How I know the Husband-Elect is the right guy: he saw me after ten hours of blogging and didn't scream "CRONE!" and run away to Timbuktu.

L.A. guy just told his mom to clean up his mess! It's a shocking parent/child role reversal and it's making me uncomfortable. The familial hierarchy exists for a reason, people!

Edible Film Baker is getting reamed by the judges. (A pun! It's a pun!)

End of show.
HEALTH QUOTIENT: n/a, unless you're into eating trees
VERDICT: 5/10, for lack of terrifying Carrie judge and bizarre four-level pineapple tree topper that will never leave my nightmares

THE SHOW: Paula's Cookie Swap
THE HOST: Paula Deen
THE CONCEPT: Friends and family of the Deenster are dropping by with their favorite cookie recipes. Jamie and Bobby are here! Finally, y'all!

Paula 2009 is SO MUCH MORE GLAM than Paula 2006. Whereas Paula 2006 probably enjoyed bridge and 60 Minutes, Paula 2009 would wear leather pants and tour with the Scissor Sisters.

Time for another multiple choice question! Paula is wearing:
A) a brightly-colored shirt
B) Jimmy Buffet
C) several pomegranates
D) a Polynesian barbecue

Paula 2009 is the kind of grandma you'd introduce to all your friends, and then take to a champagne bar/drag club to hang out with ladies with names like Barbara Ghanoush and Honey Crisp. The next day, she'd disappear back to Georgia and you'd be sad for like, 100 years.

Hee. The lady cooking with Paula now is named Mrs. Susie Butts. In college, I worked making cold calls to hundreds of people with (really real) names like Warren Peace, Homer Simpson, John F. Kennedy, and Mrs. Shitrit.

Also, they're toasting nuts. Hee. Toasted nuts.

The further we get into this show, the more apparent it's become that Paula might be partaking in some Christmas spirits. I wish I could join her, but there are EIGHT HOURS OF BLOGGING LEFT. Eat your heart out, Jerry Lewis.

Seen today: Ina, Giada, Bobby, Tyler, Rachael, lots of Paula
Unseen today: Mario, Ace, Sara, Anne Burrell, Santa Claus, James Bond

Jamie and Bobby sighting! They're making ... sand tarts? What the hell are they saying?

How do the Deens have so many family recipes? It seems like every dish has been in their family since the beginning of time. We have one family recipe, and it's for wallpaper paste.

If our first child is a boy, we're naming him Paul Dean. He will be Southern, super gay, and totally delightful.

Crossover alert! Paula's brought in Bobby from HGTV. He's teaching her how to wrap cookies all pretty-like, with ribbon and such. History Channel wishes it was this riveting.

Y'all, we're not done yet! Paula's decking the halls in a tasty way. Or something. It's late, and I just ate two pounds of sesame noodles.

Reader Robyn has an excellent question: "What happened to the lady who won the last Food Network Star?"

Paula is calling her decorator out for bringing store-bought cookies to the swap. The decorator looks mortified, like you just told her she has toilet paper stuck in her teeth.

Michael's here! He's dressed in a Santa suit to enhance his natural Santa-ness, and even in the jacket, it's apparent he's lost significant weight. Paula has too, come to think of it. Anyone know what they're doing?

End of show.
3/4-SLEEVE SWEATERS: none - but the bird of paradise blouse made up for it
HEALTH QUOTIENT: below absolute zero
VERDICT: 10/10 - insanely entertaining, y'all

THE SHOW: Throwdown
THE HOST: Bobby Flay
THE CONCEPT: The Chef of note challenges a renowned Chicken Cacciatore cook to discover whose version is best.

New York City firehouse chef Keith Young is 6-foot-6, and has a Long Island accent that's almost as big. He loves "protectin' prah-petty" and "caw-melized onions." I love his bald head.

Do you have a distinctive accent? Does it get worse when you're around your family? Mine does, and Bobby's is too, the longer he hangs out with these New York firefighters.

Chicken cacciatore literally translates into "hunter's chicken," or "chicken that you caught with a big gun and then soaked in tomatoes until it's bloody-looking."

Big difference between Bobby and Keith's cacciatore: Flay uses red wine, while the firefighter opts for white, figuring it goes better with chicken. I think I have to go with the Iron Chef here, folks. Red wine + tomatoes = party in my mouth, and everyone's invited.

Bobby walked into the firehouse to propose the challenge and Keith ate him. It was awful.

Oh, how I jest. Both men are still alive. Their fight will be fought in an arena of food.

But seriously, Keith ate him.

If my ears doth not deceive me, Keith just called his poultry "chicken bosom." I'm using that from now on and claiming it as my own. No one will ever know. MUAHAHAHAHA.

Bobby's adding honey to his tomato sauce. I've never seen that before. Italian grandmamas that read this blog: does this happen?

The fire chief/referee has an incredible handlebar mustache not unlike this Emperor Tamarin.

End of show.
3/4-SLEEVE SWEATERS: none - will the mustache suffice?
FRUGALITY QUOTIENT: surprisingly relevant - there was a budgetary aspect to the challenge
HEALTH QUOTIENT: uh - okay, I guess
VERDICT: 7/10, for the mustache

THE SHOW: Throwdown
THE HOST: Bobby Flay
THE CONCEPT: Bobby's challenging a priest for the Best Fajita crown. Expect a lot of holy plays on words.

Leo's a breakdancing Catholic priest who loves cooking and has a third-degree black belt. He also has many, many religious cooking puns in his back pocket. Bobby is a dead man. And his soul isn't too safe, either.

A haiku about Father Leo:
Awesome ninja priest
preaches peace but will nunchuk
you if provoked, dude.

We have entered Hour 12 of the blogathon. There is a butt-shaped jello mold where my actual butt used to be.

Father Leo is a ham of the highest order. Can I say that? Will I still get into heaven?

Father Leo's secret marinade ingredient: "holy water." And he was taught to chop by Mother Theresa. What a cool life, Batman.

Dear Pope Benedict,
Hi there! How are you? So glad you seem to be doing well. I was just wondering - is there a way to incorporate more fajitas into the average mass? I promise I would go more often.
P.S. I understand if you don't want to dignify this with a response.

The bed music sounds like it's excerpted from Rocky 16: Rocky Goes to Crate & Barrel.

End of show. Father Leo won, duh.
HEALTH QUOTIENT: fairly high, I guess. I'm flustered
VERDICT: 9/10, for avoiding the obvious holy cow jokes

THE SHOW: Dinner Impossible
THE HOST: Robert Irvine
THE CONCEPT: The Chef has to feed 1000 volunteers in Biloxi, Mississippi. He has nine hours.

At the end of the show, they're giving Brenda keys to her renovated home, which was ruined in Katrina in 2005. Y'know, we've been looking at pictures from the hurricane for three years now, and it's still infuriating and sad.

Robert is squaring off/doing a dance of love with the local soul food restaurant owner. If they're not making out by the end of this, I will eat my own socks.

Does everyone in Mississippi play banjo or blues guitar? Is that a prerequisite to live in the state? On Long Island, you have to know the lyrics to every Bill Joel song.

This show ends in 13 minutes and no one's started cooking yet. They're about to have some very angry Habitat for Humanitarians on their hands. And they have hammers.

Ooo - I lied. This is an hour-long show. Irvine is safe ... FOR NOW.

Sweet and sour sauce spill. Back in a minute.

Our brown rug is now a brown rug with red spots. Merry Christmas!

The manufactured drama in this show is freakin' killing me. Have they ever not finished in time?

In regard to Bobby Flay's repeated Throwdown drubbings, reader Kat writes: "Challenging anyone and everyone to a Throwdown is getting slightly embarrassing, especially when you lose every dang time. I'm only trying to protect you, man."

Irvine is hilariously reluctant to yell at his fellow volunteers. It's like watching a pit bull with a Barbie jump rope tied around its muzzle.

Fill in the blank! There is a disturbing amount of food _____:
A) stitting outside without refrigeration
B) in close proximity to the ground
C) being prepared by men whose primary talent is sweating

Miss Brenda just got a look at her new home, and she's stunned. The dining room almost knocked her over. What a sweet lady.

End of show.
FRUGALITY QUOTIENT: pretty high - they're volunteers
HEALTH QUOTIENT: they've been working out, so it's okay
VERDICT: 6/10, for the lack of yelling.

THE SHOW: Good Eats! Finally!
THE HOST: Alton Brown!
THE CONCEPT: Cooking nerd schools us, is generally pretty great.

Alton is explaining flour, and he's uncomfortably close to the camera. He has 257 eyebrow hairs.

This is brilliant. Alton's given us the show recipe's ingredients, but hasn't revealed the name of the recipe itself yet. We have to figure it out ourselves. He is the Will Shortz of TV chefs.

Oh! He's buying a popover pan. He's making popovers. I'm a genius. All hail me.

Have those popover signs been popping up throughout they whole show? They have, haven't they? I'm not a genius, then. I'm merely brilliant.

The popovers are being filled with all kinds of disturbing things - fruit, ice cream, broth, etc. Where's the butter? Where's the jam? They are afraid and alone. Unfrozen Caveman Popovers.

We have suddenly jumped to Yorkshire pudding, as defined in the 1500s. We have gone Back to the Future, and Doc Alton Brown is our guide, Marty.

Holy ... the recipe for Yorkshire pudding is almost exactly the same as the recipe for popovers! This show makes everyone smarter. Is there any doubt it's the best on Food Network?

How much I wanted to see "It's Complicated" at the beginning of the day: 54%
Number of commercials for "It's Complicated" seen today: approximately 30
How much I want to see "It's Complicated" now: -4%

Alton now preparing a Dutch Pancake, or, as it's more commonly known, a Pancake That Pays for its Half of a Date.

End of show.
3/4-SLEEVE SWEATERS: zero - Weird Al Yankovic shirts is Alton's preferred look
VERDICT: 12/10, for being my TV boyfriend (with apologies to Tim Riggins).

THE SHOW: Oh god ... Unwrapped.
THE HOST: Marc Summers
THE CONCEPT: How boring mass produced food is boringly made.

The Husband-Elect and I have a private joke about this show in that sometimes, we have entire conversations using Marc Summers vocal inflections:
Me: "Hon, can you get me ... a cup of coffee?"
Him: "Would you like ... a little milk?"
Me: "Maybe also ... a paper napkin?"
Him: "Of course, I'll ... be right back."

Alternate names for Unwrapped: The Conveyor Belt Show, People in Hairnets, White Owners/ Non-White Employees, and Drippy Chocolate.

It's a quarter to midnight and I'm drinking iced coffee. The hallucinations should start soon. My Christmas tree is already starting to look like a Tim Burton movie.

Unwrapped is profiling organic grocery store Whole Foods, a.k.a. Whole Paycheck, a.k.a. That Place Where I Can't Afford Apples. They're trying to "dispel the myth that organic has to cost more." Unmentioned: "sell $40 chicken legs."

Now profiling snackmakers Pirate's Booty. It's the same damn conveyor belt with different food on it. You won't fool me, Summers!

End of show.
VERDICT: 2/10, for infuriating me with ... factory line footage.

THE SHOW: Oh no ... the same Throwdown we saw three hours ago.
THE HOST: Still Bobby Flay
THE CONCEPT: Still the Chicken Cacciatore thing.

Oh man. I'm gonna need a different angle for this one, fast. What if we made up a song to the tune of Bob Dylan's "The Times, They Are A-Changin'"?
Come gather 'round firemen
Wherever you drink
And admit that you left your
dish in the sink.
And accept it that soon
You'll be forced to think
About whose chicken
you're pickin'.
So you better start eatin'
'Cause it'll be done in a wink.
For the Throwdown, it is a ... goin' down.

Okay, maybe not that.

It's now 12:17, and I don't have a bit for this yet. Unless this running bit that I have no bit is actually the bit. Oh crap. The Le Cordon Bleu commercial again. Have I fallen asleep without knowing it? Is this a nightmare?

Okay. FN is airing repeats (Dinner Impossible, Paula's Cookie Swap, etc.) straight through 4am. SO, I'm gonna break for a few hours and continue this then. That's not cheating, right? I don't think so. Either way, thank god I JUST DRANK A CUP OF COFFEE.

THE SHOW: Tasty Travels
THE HOST: Rachael Ray
THE CONCEPT: Rachael eats her way across the Northeastern seaboard.

This narration is far too chirpy for four o'clock in the morning: "For a true Kennebunkport experience, cast your net at Mabel's Lobster Claw!" It's only missing a cheerleading pyramid.

I woke up with "Do They Know it's Christmas?" in my head. Tonight, thank god it's me, INSTEAD OF YOOOOOOOOOU.

Also on TV at 4:07am:
CW: Frasier
ABC: News
CSPAN: An old man complaining
TV Guide Channel: an infomercial for Dermawand, the stick you put on your face.
PBS: An old man complaining

Holy cow! It's a commercial for The Clapper! This has to be at least 15 years old. Is that a cassette player in there?

Back to Rachael, who's eating lobster at the Algonquin. It is, as you might imagine, "ahhhb-so-LUTE-ly dah-LISH-ous."

My heat's off. Is my heat always off now?

Rachael is in Portsmouth (literally: "there is port in my mouth"), New Hampshire (literally, "there is a shire in my hamp"). She's at the Muddy River smokehouse, where men are men and women are also men.

Was that mean? I don't care. It's 4:20 in the morning.

"Locals are enchanted with the cuisine." This phrase is not used in Brooklyn very often. Here, it's more like, "Locals will not shiv you over the cuisine."

Next, Rachael goes to Gloucester, the Massachusettsiest of all the Massachusetts-sounding towns in all the world. It is wicked Massachusettsy. Red Sox.

Commercials at 4:24am in the morning:
AARP Medicare Supplement Insurance
Hair transplants
... that's it. It's me and balding old people awake right now.

We're now at Halibut Point restaurant, where Rachael is eating CHOWDAH next to FISHAHMEN. All this trip is missing is a Kennedy.

End of show.
3/4-SLEEVE SWEATERS: I forgot to count. It's cold in here.
FRUGALITY QUOTIENT: medium - she mentioned some numeric thingies.
HEALTH QUOTIENT: low - what?
VERDICT: 4:29am

THE SHOW: How'd That Get On My Plate?
THE HOST: Sunny Anderson
THE CONCEPT: Unwrapped, but with fresh food and no ... Marc Summers.

Sunny kicks off the show in an open field. If Martin Scorcese taught me anything, the only people in open fields at 4:32 in the morning are about to be whacked by the mob. Run, Sunny!

Did you know: industrial garlic bulbs are peeled by something called a clove blower. In college, the words "clove blower" had a very different meaning. It usually involved a Phish album.

Food Network is pushing the White House Iron Chef HARD. Do you think Mario and Emeril will accidentally bump tummies on the floor? Like jolly dueling Santas? Because oh, how I'd giggle.

In 2001, my job required that I pull into work right about now. New York is always eerily silent this time of the morning, but I did see a guy get jumped from my cab once.

Was that story not riveting enough? My judgment of interesting stories is a little off right now. I'm 20 seconds from babbling about the coldness of my nose.

There is a vat of Bloody Mary mix being made on my television. It looks like the scene from Nightmare on Elm Street when the bed eats Johnny Depp. Did you know - and this is not a joke - that he was credited under the name "Oprah Noodlemantra" for his cameo in the sequel? ABSORB THIS KNOWLEDGE, YOUNG PADAWAN.

Sunny is back at the garlic factory. You know how you come home sometimes smelling like work? That must be a genuine work hazard for people who work in a garlic factory.

Now she's standing next to a 5000-pound garlic mountain. There are 5000 vampire jokes just waiting to be made here. I'll be a gentlewoman and let y'all handle it.

I can taste garlic in the air in my apartment all of a sudden. This means either this show is really effective, or there's an old pizza stuck in my walls. Both are equally likely.

Sunny is currently wandering through a tremendous warehouse, stacked floor-to-ceiling with barrels of dried garlic. I assuming the Ark of the Covenant is also in there somewhere.

It's roasted garlic hummus now, which has an inherently hilarious texture. You guys don't know what you're missing. But it's okay - no worries. You can stay asleep. That's why I'm here.

End of show.
3/4-SLEEVE SWEATERS: zero - Sunny stuck to overalls
HEALTH QUOTIENT: astronomic - garlic is good for you, y'all
VERDICT: Who am I? How did I get here?

Folks, 19-1/2 hours later, we are DONE! It's been a trip. I'm going to bed. Hasta la pasta.