Random thoughts

I read a while ago on someone’s blog (maybe Racialicious?) that Food Network was one of the whitest cable stations and after a week of watching I have to agree it’s pretty bad. Most of the major celebrity chefs are white. Other than the new host of a show that features Latin food, it’s all white hosts. What happened to Martin Yan from Yan Can Cook and his heavily accented, chop-schtick antics? Even Al Roker went missing. It seemed like it was show after show of white men and women cooking their fusion-style, All-American dishes.

All week, Food Network showed clips of it’s upcoming show, Down Home with the Neely’s. Now, I’d heard the Neely name mentioned in at least three different shows, because they are a big name in BBQ. So yesterday morning the premiere episode came on, and I’m watching it. Part of me was skeptical right away, because this show seemed to be straight out of a program developer’s notebook on "Southern Black Family 101." They showcased BBQ ribs, slaw, strawberry salad. Everything looked great, the food, the personalities of the Neelys seemed genuine, all good. Why am I crabbing?

I just hope that this isn’t going to be the sum total of what Food Network thinks is "Black" food. Just like "Asian" food is much more than Tyler Florence showing up at a family’s house to show them how to cook Korean food as he did in one episode of Food 911. So glad for Lisa that Tyler was there to show her how to make authentic Korean-style BBQ! Whew, poor Lisa would have been so screwed if Tyler wasn’t there to show her how to be more authentic Korean!!

And what made me wince in pain more than my stitches was when Pat Neely, in a little bit just before commercial break, announces that February is Black History Month.

Woah, Food Network, you sure fooled me. Really – February is Black History Month? What an ingenious time to introduce your one and only show featuring an African American family who actually COOKS! I’m just saying, it’s time to give that program assistant a huge gigantic raise!

(I have to say, HGTV, for some of your schmaltzy shows, you do a far better job of featuring hosts of all diversities, both as designers and in real-life families. And without the stereotypic "ethnic" design segregation. What a relief that your African American designers are not limited to only featuring African masks and animal prints in their designs, or that Vern Yip isn’t forced to place bamboo in every re-design. That they actually get to design what they want is refreshing).

Yes, it seems Food Network is very behind the times here. All the white cooks can do all kinds of different ethnic foods. Ingrid Hoffman only gets to cook Latin-inspired dishes since she’s Latina. And since Giada and Mario identify with their Italian heritages so they must cook everything Italian. Guess the philosophy of Food Network is if you want the freedom to cook whatever you want and cross those ethnic boundaries, don’t let it be known what your racial or ethnic heritage is – or you’ll be forever segregated into a cooking ghetto.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

7 thoughts

  1. I watch little or no TV myself, but I have kept a keen eye on what my children are exposed to. Unfortunate to hear that about the Food Network.
    For a (short) time I thought I saw enough diversity, but when I recently sat down and examine exactly what it is they watch, I came to the conclusion that while diverse, the nature of that diversity was not what I would hope it would be.
    I want them to see a combination of ethnicity and culture, but also just people who are whatever they are in whatever roles they happen to be in.
    Most of the Asian influence on children’s shows is heavily stereotyped. You look like THIS, therefore you do THIS. Of course that is a natural thing to some extent, but not reflective of the people I know in the real world.
    I do enjoy the amount of ethnic TV one can see here in Northern California. My wife will watch Spanish language TV to bone up on her Spanish and when they were younger my boys and I would enjoy the occasional Bollywood film. We never knew what the story was about, but the dancing around the livingroom was a blast.

  2. Glad to hear things went okay during surgery!
    When I was about six or so my grandfather had his gallstones out, and he put rocks from the garden in a glass jar and actually had me convinced that they had been growing in his body. (I am only slightly less naive today.)
    Maybe you could look for a 4cm rock just as pseudo-souvenir?

  3. Somewhat off-topic for your post, but Martin Yan is still around, although not on Food Network (I don’t think)—there’s a show called Martin Yan’s Chinatowns, which I like because it’s food-shopping and virtual tourism in addition to cooking.

  4. I’m glad to hear everything went well. I wish you continued good recovery! And your post here about the Food Network (along with my increasing desire to have ESPN) is seriously making me want to order cable or DirectTV. Haven’t had it in fifteen years, but maybe it’s time.

  5. I’m glad to hear everything went well. I wish you continued good recovery! And your post here about the Food Network (along with my increasing desire to have ESPN) is seriously making me want to order cable or DirectTV. Haven’t had it in fifteen years, but maybe it’s time.

  6. Hi JR, you have my sympathy and hope for a speedy recovery. Nonstop TV can be fun for awhile but eventually it does start making you want to pull your eyeballs out of your head and juggle them. I got caught up in America’s Next Top Model reruns one night and had to swear it off after that because it was SO addicting and made me SO ashamed of myself for caring about the next episode.
    I believe TV is the most racist influence on my kids lives. I am not proud that I let them watch so much of it. The stereotyping and objectifying of POC in their regular shows is just heinous. Pretty much across the board, American TV is white ruled, even the shows that feature POC are filtered through a white lense. I really should throw the TV out the window. But then I would have to entertain the kids myself! Oh my! Thank god for school.
    At some point in the next year, I will probably be having a hysto and I would LOVE to see my uterus. I kind of doubt they will let me though.

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