I Want to Pull Back the Curtain on the Food Network

As published in The Week on November 21, 2013

Because I lost control of the clicker about a decade ago, I spend November watching a lot of football and a lot of the Food Network.

My husband flips back and forth between the NFL and home-style cornbread stuffing, mesmerized by the way these TV chefs prepare elaborate meals in perpetually clean kitchens. I suspect he thinks an onion comes finely chopped and in a perfectly sized glass bowl. I don’t want to burst his bubble, but as Thanksgiving nears and I find that none of my vegetables chop themselves, I’d like to see a little more reality on this reality TV network.

The programming is pretty much the same every year. The food celebrities invite us into their shiny kitchens and urge us to take it up a notch. Why not make a mosaic out of fresh herbs under the skin of your turkey? Why not use a blowtorch on your apple pie? Or my personal favorite: Why not take three different kinds of birds, debone them and tie them all together, separated by a thin layer of stuffing? This, the hauntingly named “Turducken,” signals the fall of civilization.

Just for once, I’d like to see the army of choppers, measurers, and cleaners that seem to disappear just before the cameras roll. If you’re telling me to add my 40 cloves of garlic, I’d like you to acknowledge just how long it takes to peel 40 cloves of garlic. I’d like a bunch of kids to run into the kitchen tracking dirt and blood and Fritos while you’re slicing the pancetta for your stuffing. I’d like to see Ina Garten look kind of annoyed because she just found out that she has a vegetarian coming for Sunday dinner. I’d like, just once, to see Giada De Laurentiis stand there with her 24-inch waist and eat and entire portion of her cheesy mashed potatoes. We can see you, Giada. We can see you.

But what I’d really like to know is exactly what Bobby Flay’s been up to behind the scenes. In fact, I’d pay $69.95 to see the fight that preceded his most recent show. Recently, he invited us into his kitchen to watch him prepare breakfast in bed for his wife. Shhh, he reminded us, she’s still sleeping upstairs. He started by making homemade sausage and biscuits. By homemade, I mean he started with meat bits and flour. Then he made scrambled eggs, homemade doughnuts, and homemade strawberry jelly. From actual strawberries.

How early do you have to wake up (or how late does your wife have to sleep?!) for you to make homemade sausage for breakfast? Pretty early, I’m guessing, and Bobby confided to the audience that he always makes this breakfast when he’s “in trouble.” Trouble? What did he do? This isn’t like an I-forgot-our anniversary apology. He actually carries this stuff up on a tray with a cocktail of tangerine juice and gin to wash it down. I’m hard pressed to think of what my husband could possibly do to make him feel like he needed to wake me up with gin. I had to watch the show all the way through to the credits because I was sure the police would be cuffing him at any minute.

The only thing I can think of is that he deep fried a turkey and burned down the garage. I have been mentally preparing myself for this eventuality ever since my husband first watched the Deep Fried Turkey Marathon on this evil network. Deep frying a turkey appeals to my husband in a visceral way. And I get it. The only thing missing from this, the fattest day of the year, is something fried. It’s only a matter of time before I own a deep fryer large enough for a 30-pound roaster, and I’m pretty sure we’re not insured for what ensues. At least I have breakfast in bed to look forward to. Thanks, Food Network!