I’m always annoyed when the host of a cooking show tastes her food at the end of the episode, rolling her eyes back in ecstasy. Not only does she magically create beef rolls, arugula salad, and a pear tart in under twenty minutes, but then she brags on herself. “Oh my gosh,” she says into the camera. “This is so good. Seriously.” Her hair is all blown out and she wears a size two but she takes a glorious bite of something with a face full of Chanel make-up. Honestly, it does look amazing, and if she says it’s the best pizza ever it must be. But I am at home at 4 pm staring into my refrigerator, wearing sweatpants and my daughter’s vanilla cupcake lip smackers with not a stitch of real adult make-up on. I glance back at the television and see this beautiful person still standing, doing all kinds of lovely dicing and chopping, and I watch in a trance as her curls are still in place. The cabinets are white and all the dishes are white and she never seems to run out of spoons.
But meanwhile, back in real life, dinner happens. While I desire to produce homemade chicken stock on a Tuesday afternoon, or make stuffed peppers with a side of beet salad, serving it to grateful children who ask for a double helping of roasted squash, I end up making scrambled eggs with cheese. The little song I made up about it being breakfast for dinner! (it comes with a dance) is so overused and nobody likes wheat toast anyway. So it’s milk with no chocolate, eggs before ice cream, and please sit down at the table because we aren’t wild animals eating our kill. Which ends up in a rendition of accurate wolf howling and a discussion of how much we all hate eggs and me bemoaning the fact that I could only find two spoons. My daughter shrugs like she is completely unaware that there is Lenox silverware hidden in the garden being used as tiny shovels for the dirt-fairy nymphs.
Where is my make-up artist? Where is my blow-out? Why are my children so resistant to toast, I’d just like to know?
One of these days, someone will create a real cooking show, where the chef runs out of time and keeps getting interrupted by a toddler trying to climb the cabinets to get into the shelf for old Valentine’s Candy. You’ll see her start to sweat because she’s embarrassed about her child’s behavior and ends up using baking soda instead of cornstarch or throws in way too much salt. Then at the end of the show, when she can’t quite make it to the pear tart because her son keeps trying to grab power bars from the pantry to curb his imminent starvation, she tries to cover for herself and says that you can just eat a whole piece of fruit for dessert like she planned it all along. But no one believes her because come on. No one wants a stupid pear.
At the end, she’s supposed to taste what she made. While she’s lifting the spoon to her mouth she slips on the dog’s water (who sloshed it all over the tile? I swear) and her daughter walks in and grabs a bruschetta from the presentation dish. “Oh my gosh,” her daughter says into the camera. “This is the nastiest thing I’ve ever had. Seriously. Don’t ever make this again. I’m going to Shelly’s to eat macaroni and cheese.” Then the poor little chef cries and gives her toddler an old piece of candy after all and we see her sneaking a beer in a red Dixie cup.
I’d be like YES! I love this show! I’m a huge fan! You managed to make a crappy version of stir fry, sure. But look at that salad! That’s good! And you tried so hard, and you didn’t totally lose it with that dog water spillage thing, which is so impressive and shows how calm you were under pressure. So what that your daughter didn’t like bruschetta? She wears hot pink shirts and eats macaroni with powder sauce, so her credibility is nil. It’s cool. I’ll send you a recipe using a can of soup, some Ro-Tel, and some crumbled up chips and we can all feel like normal people. Then I’ll go skipping off to the garden to find all my spoons and thank the stars that I’m not alone.
NBC, take note. One of these days, just allow the chef to say what’s she’s actually thinking, which is “please don’t eat this. I just tasted it, and honestly it tastes exactly like cardboard because it’s only pasta and peas with unsalted butter. Next time I’ll find a sauce or a cream or something. Really. Trust me on this.” I would. I so totally would.
Let’s face it. Despite our best intentions, you just sometimes have to eat toast. Put butter and salt on it if you wish and call it garlic bread. Add a song about how toast rhymes with roast and how the ghost gets the most. Then forgive yourself for having breakfast for dinner, or the fact that you gave your kid candy, and that you have been wearing work-out gear for three days with no Chanel in sight. Honestly, your kids don’t care. They’re too busy eating to notice.