Women Cooking on TV

December 23, 2008

I learned to cook watching food television, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Back then, there was more Sara Moulton, less Sandra Lee. And of all the women I loved watching put spoonula to a cake batter, no one has influenced and inspired me more than Nigella Lawson, whose book How to Eat is a cherished favorite (though not the most used) in my collection.

What I love most about Nigella is that she’s uncompromising. She’s all-out sexy, all-out greedy, round as a renaissance sculpture, and totally confident. It’s like no one ever told her she’s a little overweight. Earlier this year, when writers and bloggers were criticizing her for gaining a few pounds while testing recipes for a new book, she said that her husband likes her figure and who cares what anyone else thinks?

I also loved watching Stephanie Izard kick dude and skinny-girl tush on Top Chef last season. From the moment the show debuted, people starting telling me I resembled her. We do look something alike. But if she struggles with not being thin, it never showed. (Or so it appeared on the show; maybe she, too, weeps in department store dressing rooms.) If she ever lands her own TV show and loses 30 pounds, I will be very disappointed.

The new crop of ladycooks on Food Network (including Alex Guarnaschelli, Anne Burell, and Sunny Anderson) all outweigh the new faces of seasons past.  (And none of them fall into the Paula-Deenish fat clown role.) Sunny, in particular, looks curvy, fit and fashionable–not like someone who thinks she should drop a few pounds.  All seem comfortable with their bodies and ready for the spotlight.

Could this mean that women in the audience like watching normal size, beautiful woman teach them how to cook? My female food heroes actually look like they love to cook and eat. There’s a limit on how much a I can trust a food expert who looks like she hasn’t eaten since the 90s. Give me more Barefoot Contessa and less Robin Miller please!

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