We got a family tier option for cable tv--it includes CNN, The Food Network, Nickalodeon, HGTV, The Weather Channel, etc... for just a few dollars more than we usually pay.
My favorite so far is The Food Network. Don't act so surprised. I usually rent these cooking shows on DVD for free from the library, but after awhile, I've watched them all. It doesn't take long. Watching other people cook is almost just as fun as cooking myself.
Did you know that cooking can be a sport? Yes, there is Iron Chef. It originally came from Japan, where a challenger and an Iron Chef compete in dual kitchens in an arena, featuring a "mystery ingredient" they find out right before they begin. With the special ingredient, they have to come up with fives dishes within an hour. The American version shows the activities of the sous chefs who compete as a team with their head chef, I don't remember seeing much of the sous chefs in the Japanese program. There is a panel of judges, who taste each dish and rate it in terms of originality, taste and presentation. The judging is just as fascinating as watching the dishes being cooked. They really have a hard time being honest about what they think about dishes that don't work, so they are working hard at not sounding too negative (which is never a problem in the Japanese show). The biggest gripe is when something is too salty, which is the mistake made most often.
The other shows feature "celebrity chefs". I never like their recipes, but they entertain me. I actually bought one of Rachel Ray's cookbooks--it was focused on get-togethers and had menus for different themes. When I made some of the dishes, none of them tasted all that great even though I carefully followed directions. But even with that experience, I still enjoy watching "Rache" talk a hundred words a minute as she does her 30 minute cooking routine. Bobbie Flay just put together the grossest looking hamburger I've ever seen, and I really don't believe him when he raves about his creation after taking a bite. What I like about Rachel and Bobbie is that they'll try anything and believe that it's all good.
Then, my all time fave is the "Dinner:Impossible" show. I forget the chef's name--he has an amazing career history as a cook--but he gets a few hours to pull off a meal for 100 or 1000, whether at Graceland or on a cruiseship. And half way through, something always goes wrong. Something involving a deep fat fryer breaking, usually. Or at the last five minutes, he grabs a couple of unsuspecting, drowsy dishwashers from the backroom and put them to work in the middle of the last second rush to finish the 100 varieties of dishes still undone. And you know, whatever the obstacles, dinner gets served to rave reviews. Yes, whenever I think I'm stressed out, I think of this guy's job and feel better.
Which is the main reason I watch this station. Thanks, Rachel, Bobbie, Iron Chefs, and Dinner Impossible guy.
Enjoy the Iron Chef Youtube Video.