Fun and Festive

I admit it. I sometimes have the food network turned on over across the room while I work at my desk. I like food and cooking and watching people cook good food. Also, I sort of feel as though I’m communing with my mother who watched the food network a lot during her last months.

Does anyone but me remember Carol Duvall? She didn’t do food shows; she did craft shows. I think it was Frank’s Nursery and Trims that was her major sponsor so maybe this was just a Detroit thing, but she was always busy making styrofoam snow people and wine cork lighthouse villages. If you were seven, it was absolutely riveting: all that glue, glitter and tin foil turned magically into holiday schmaltz.

I know it seems like I changed topics abruptly, but here’s the connection. The food network has some sort of neat shows- for example, a pleasantly plump barefoot contessa waltzing around her lavish east coast kitchen preparing four course dinners for her passive and appreciative monosyllabic husband. There’s the fried green tomato lady, up from nothing and now she has a very popular show with fans watching her cook grits eighty different ways- and oddly, they all look pretty tasty. The perennial favorite, Emeril, slinging crawfish and yelling “Bam!” I think male viewers tune in for this hot little Italian dish that comes on in the afternoons, cooking “every day” Lobster Fra Diavolo. I grind my teeth every time this one show comes on where the host uses, “extra special E-V-O-O” in everything from soup to nuts; it sounds vaguely obscene. Mostly, I like these shows as background noise that sometimes triggers a meal inspiration.

But then there’s this show: Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee. This woman makes Carol Duvall seem as sophisticated as Jackie Kennedy. What is up with this show? I really want to know. I want to know who’s in her audience (besides me, when I occasionally get seduced into seeing what god awful concoction she’ll make next with Miracle Whip and Nestle’s Quik).

Have you seen this show? The woman dresses in clothing purchased- where? Sears formal wear department? I just don’t know. She’s a ditzy ditzy blond. She squeals and she oozes. Most everything is “fabulous” and the few things that aren’t are “just fantastically delicious.” The menus are not exotic, they’re bizarre. And they look really really gak. Today she took those teeny tiny rubbery frozen shrimp that are so close to krill they would slip between the gaps in your teeth and she coated them with some dough stuff, deep fried them and THEN tossed them in a sauce of mayonnaise, strawberry yogurt and cayenne pepper. And threw them on a bed of lettuce. (You think I jest. Look it up) This cannot possibly be on any kind of human diet, save a lobotomized Inuit. I KNOW she’s not eating that schlock or else she has a roaring case of bulimia.

One of the highlights of each show is when she presents a little seasonal theme in the form of a “tablescape.” I guess she’s got an advanced degree in tablescape architecture. Today she flattened out a Fruit Roll-up and filled it with Starburst candy and then tied it up like a little sack with red licorice and arranged it on a graham cracker and canned frosting Santa sleigh. Cute,huh? AND ‘semi-homemade’, too.

The other major feature of this particular show revolves around alcohol. She makes a new martini or two every show and then she swills them down and squeals, “just fabulous!” Today she made three: a Frosty Cocktail, a Candy Cane Cocktail and a Gingerbread Martini. You think I’m kidding? Here’s the recipe for the last one:

Gingerbread Martini

Recipe courtesy Sandra Lee

1 shot vanilla vodka
1 shot hazelnut-flavored liqueur (recommended: Frangelico)
1/2 shot butterscotch schnapps
4 ounces ginger beer (recommended: Reed’s Ginger Brew)
Float dark rum
Ice cubes
Gingerbread man cookie (recommended: Pepperidge Farm), for garnish

Pour first 4 ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well. Strain into high ball glass or any 8-ounce glass filled with ice. Top with ginger beer. Pour a little dark rum over the back of a spoon and float on top of the ginger beer. Garnish with a gingerbread man cookie.

Just reading that recipe makes me want to down a straight shot of single malt. She drank all three martinis. I watched her- she poured all that alcohol, mixed it up, garnished it with cookies and candy and then she drank them, one after the other. And then she gushed: “Okay! Now I want to show you my most fabulous, fantastic, favorite, fun and festive Christmas tree EVER!” And she wobbled across the set and did a tipsy Vanna White thing as she flung her arms out and back in the general direction of a giant Christmas tree.

“Do you know how I made this special sensational silver and crystal tree? DO YOU??? I just took the contents of the bar and hung them upside down in the branches! SEE?”

Sure enough, it was an entire 8 foot Christmas tree decorated with wine and martini glasses. There were some martini shakers, too. It was topped with a disproportionately large Nutcracker (made by Carol Duvall out of a Pringles can and glitter) who was holding- I kid you not- one of those bright blue Frosty Cocktails.

Someone needs to report this to the FDA.



9 responses to “Fun and Festive

  1. Now that sounds like my kind of TV! What a riot!

  2. I’ve not seen this! I do remember Carol Duvall and her kitsch was kinda fun. Now, I avoid food network because IZ is a huge FAN is and is always trying to suck me in. 🙂

  3. I am a non-TV watcher these days. Do you remember GRaham Kerr(the Galloping Gourmet) He used to swill wine through his whole show. He ended up in AA, I believe. The show sounds pretty fascinating in a train wreck kind of way.

  4. I always thought Julia Child seemed a bit sloshed on her cooking shows. Mom loves to watch Paula Dean. She used to be right there when 4PM rolled around…. but that was before she discovered eBay. There is much she used to do before eBay.

    The angiogram went well. Blockage in a very, very small vessel, so medication in order instead of angioplasty this time. She did so well that she went straight in to check her eBay bids when she got home from the hospital.

    I had retrieved the tree from the storage unit and put it in the garage. I moved it to the house and put it up. No ornaments yet, but I can only take a small bit of holiday spirit at a time. Mr. Rhett helped. After he realized I meant business when I said, “no, no don’t chew it,” he stretched out in a chair beside the tree and went to sleep. The others were just as helpful.

    How cold is it there tonight? They say it gets here tomorrow night and then the highs won’t be out of the thirties… the problem is, I took what I thought was Nyssa’s dress wool coat up to her. Only, it isn’t. It was mine. Her coat doesn’t fit me. If she puts mine on she it will fall off of her.

    When does Abby get finished with the semester?

  5. When cooking for a crowd, I pretend that I’m Nigella. So, daily, come dinnertime, I become Nigella. Is that healthy, Dr. Vicki?

  6. Jast. Can’t. Handle. Sandra. Lee. And the woman needs to purchase an underwire bra. Badly.

  7. And her voice is annoying too.

    The thing I like about the Barefoot Contessa and Paula Deen is that you can tell they enjoy their food. I like the Italian girl, Giada, too, but no one should be that thin.

  8. We have the TV on in our house like most people use a radio – not really watching persay, just background noise. The two most watched networks are FoodTV & HGTV. You’ll find Carol Duvall on HGTV most weekday mornings.
    As for Sandra Lee – I believe she may be semi-homemade and if I see one more tablescape I might just poke my eyes out. However – like a car wreck I can’t look away as she boozes it up on every show. I wonder when the intervention show is scheduled.

  9. The HGTV episodes of Carol are re-runs. She’s on the DIY network now, but I sadly don’t get that channel. Most of her projects can be found on either network website or by a google search. I could watch Food TV all day. I love Nigella and Tyler Florence, and on PBS I love Rick Bayless. Oh, and I do remember Graham Kerr.
    Your blog is so fun. Food and architecture are two things I’m passionate about also.

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