Food for Thought: What's Your Favorite Cooking Show?

After reading a review of Kathleen Collins’ new book Watching What We Eat: The Evolution of Television Cooking Shows, we started to think about food programs. The info in the review pretty much matched our expectations — public television crafted smart, instructive programs in the early days and the Food Network turned the genre into a semi-pornographic celebration of gluttony.

While we watch some of the PBS classics, we’re generally not into cooking shows. Maybe we’re judging too harshly, but the Food Network kind of freaks us out. Case in point: we once saw Paula Dean single-handedly raise the national obesity rate by stuffing a bacon-topped cheeseburger with a mixture of blue-cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream. It was like watching a train wreck. We wanted to change the channel, but we couldn’t look away.

That said, we accept that we might be missing the point. If any of you are cooking program enthusiasts, post your favorite shows below with an explanation of why they aren’t awe-inspiring examples of American decadence and over-consumption. Or, if you don’t want to get all political about it, just tell us why you like them (we won’t judge you too much…). We’ll put ourselves out there and divulge three that we kind of dig.

1. Julia Child- We weren’t old enough to catch this program while it was on the air, but our respect for the mother of cooking shows is limitless. Without her easily accessible approach to French cuisine, we might still be eating tuna casserole and creamed chipped beef on toast*. Not even a vat of Rachael Ray’s Super Bowl chili can dismantle her legacy. You can catch her baking and great chef series at PBS.com.

2. Lidia Bastianich- She schooled America out of the belief that Italian food comes out of a jar labeled “Prego”. We’re also into the grandmotherly vibe of her show.

3. Anthony Bourdain- Okay.This one’s a stretch. But, nothing says entertainment like watching the New York chef eat fecal-encrusted wart hog with a tribe in Namibia (it also makes tuna casserole sound like Julia Child’s Cheese Souffle).

*We’re not actually sure what this is. Our grandma assures us that’s a good thing.