There is a rapidly-spreading endemic in the United States. Many of us are already carriers, yet some of us may not even know we have it. The name of this mystery plague? Food Network addiction.
If you think about it, many of you Food Network addicts are using terminology that you saw on “Iron Chef America” when you cook. You can be expected to yell “Behind! Behind!” when you’re running through the kitchen to grab an ingredient from the pantry. We involuntarily shout “BAM!” when throwing a pinch of spice into a bowl or dish, carrying on the legacy of Emeril Lagasse. A few years ago, it was unlikely that such a high percentage of the population would be so intimately acquainted with some of these Food Network specific colloquialisms. Yet here we are, college students, julienning our carrots, dicing our potatoes and mixing together faux rouxes and quick gravies. We know if pasta is al dente, if a steak isn’t precisely medium-rare or if there’s too much or too little salt.
Not only do we know the terminology, but we also know the techniques. Alton Brown taught us how to hold our knives so we don’t cut off our fingers. Rachael Ray instructed us how to blanch spinach by taking the leaves out of boiling water and placing them directly into iced water. Alex Guarnaschelli, Scott Conant, Marcus Samuelsson, Amanda Freitag and Geoffrey Zakarian told us what makes a good dish taste as good as it does. We watch “Chopped,” “Worst Cooks in America” and “Beat Bobby Flay” to catch up on our competitive spirit. Then there’s also “30 Minute Meals,” “The Kitchen” and “Barefoot Contessa,” which influence the food we make at home. Inspired by watching these shows, my second grade sister gathers ingredients from the pantry and the spice garden in our backyard and creates improvised meals for my parents (who politely take a bite and say it was delicious).
Outside of cooking, we’ve created a new method of determining where to eat. Previously, when traveling, most families would find a restaurant after arriving in a town. However, the modern adventurer or amateur critic knows weeks in advance where the best meal is. We’ve actually begun to demand a higher quality of food. Even in colleges and universities nationwide, we have begun to see this change. Twenty years ago, you could expect to get a halfway decent meal perhaps once a week, but now we have access to dozens of meal options three times a day.
The Food Network has become a cornerstone in the consumption of food in the U.S. Those who appreciate it have higher standards, know the cooking lingo and are inspired to throw together our own creations as a result of this collaboration of chefs. We, as home cooks, are greater because of it.
Jimmy McKenzie is a freshman music education major. Contact Jimmy at firstname.lastname@example.org.