Photo: Courtesy of The Food Network.
Food Network is like therapy. Whenever I'm even mildly under the weather, I gravitate to the culinary-focused channel. My television remote (somehow) understands my need for the Barefoot Contessa's decadent and delicious peach and blueberry crumbles and Giada De Laurentiis' savory orecchiette with mini chicken meatballs. Don't mistake me for a foodie, though. I'm not. It's just that cooking (or, rather, watching other people cook) is the comfort I crave when I'm feeling especially crummy. There's nothing better than a Pioneer Woman marathon after a long day at the office, right?
Boasting those rustic kitchen sets and easy-to-like personalities, the Food Network serves up a piece of home; the good eats are simply the icing on the cake. Cue a healthy helping of childhood nostalgia: As a kid, my mom always had the channel playing in the background — back then it was Emeril Lagasse's Emeril Live and Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Meals — while fixing dinner. To date, some of my favorite recipes are ones she took from these TV chefs and made her own (meaning she added a little extra cheese, of course).
These days, I’m cooking my own meals (albeit on a miniature stove, because ... Manhattan). I make a mean mac and cheese, and my black-bean burgers are pretty addictive. As far as technique goes, I credit Rachael Ray for teaching me how to safely dice an onion (fingers curled away from the blade), juice a lemon (stick it in the microwave first), and abbreviate extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO, naturally). Then, there’s Giada, who has my back when it comes to prepping hearty, but healthy, Italian dishes — a mainstay of my diet. And, Ina Garten requires no explanation, except she is my culinary spirit guide.
In truth, I could go on all day. But, ultimately, the Food Network is better experienced oneself, not by listening to me ramble on about Ree Drummond’s monster cookies . (They are heaven, though ... ) There are endless recipes, cuisines, and skills for aspiring chefs or amateurs (like me) to not just watch, but do.
And, even if you can't do (but you can), there's this: If ever you find yourself unable to fall asleep at night, there's always an episode of Chopped and Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives to tune into, too. Talk about comforting.
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