Why do I hate Sandra Lee so much?

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sandraleeTruth be told, I do not really hate Sandra Lee. She has never done me, or anyone I love, harm. For all I know she may be a perfectly wonderful person, someone who spends her every off camera waking hour working to make the world a better place. I do, however, despise everything about her public persona and what it represents. Her culinary perspective is reprehensible and a total affront to my own. Her tablescapes make me want to vomit, and her food certainly would. She epitomizes everything that has gone wrong with my formerly beloved Food Network.

Many times when I go on these rants people ask me why I don’t just change the channel and shut the %@#& up. On the surface that would seem to be a quite legitimate question. Why waste my breath ranting and raving about some Prozac addled Stepford wife whose claim to fame is that she can’t cook, and writes cookbooks for those who don’t want to cook? I could just change the channel, but what would I change it to?

Once upon a time I would put the Food Network on for hours on end and learn all kinds of interesting things. Marc Summers would come on and I would change the channel. Then they added the Barefoot Contessa, who is harmless but bores me to tears and rarely cooks anything that interests me. So I changed the channel again. Rachel Ray was initially fascinating, kind of like your best friend’s kid sister when you suddenly notice she has grown up to be pretty hot, then you realize that she still annoys you just as much as she always did, and a great ass doesn’t change that at all. Click, the channel is changed. Giada, the Zorak impersonator? Click! Guy Fieri? Puke and click! The Neeleys? Click! Big Daddy? Click! Adam  Gertler? Click! If Alton Brown ever retires I will have no reason to ever turn that channel on again.

Sure, my raging against the machine is a pointless exercise, the Food Network will continue to look for new Rachel Rays, and real chefs like Batali and Bourdain will take their considerable skills to places like PBS and the Travel Channel. Speaking of PBS, their Saturday morning cooking line-up is even better than the Food Network’s ever was, but that is only a few hours out of an entire week. I miss being able to get a foodie fix 24/7, and I know that it is gone forever. So I bitch about it, and Sandra Lee is the most obvious and heinous symbol of everything that is wrong with, not just the Food Network, but popular culture in general.

I am a huge music lover and for most of my life I just took it for granted that I would always have the over-abundance of choices that had always been available to me. Being born in the 60′s meant that, as a small child, almost every radio in the world produced wonders. The 70′s gave birth to Metal and Punk when I was just the perfect age for it. The 80′s will always be New Wave, Prince, and an amazing underground scene spawned by the short-lived Punk movement. In the 90′s that underground bubbled up into something incredible with the stupid label of Alternative. It was probably the most diverse time in musical history where Punk, Pop, Reggae, Hip Hop and even Folk all existed side by side, even in one notable case, Sublime, all in one band. Record sales went through the roof, and there was something for just about everyone.

How could anyone think that it would ever be any different? There were Rock Stars before I was born, and for 30 years of my life there was always something new and good coming along. Sure, when I was listening to Punk, most folks were doing the Hustle. But Patti Smith, Blondie, Television, The Ramones and Mink DeVille all had recording contracts, and a disaffected kid in Toledo, Ohio could walk into any record store and buy his or her music. And the 80′s that I nostalgically remember as Devo and Prince? Hair Metal was also omnipresent. Even the Alternative scene gave us insipid crap like Dave Matthews, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Sugar Ray mixed in with groundbreaking acts like Jane’s Addiction, The Replacements, and Fugazi. There was crass commercialism in all of those eras, and it produced a lot of crap, but not to the exclusion of everything else. Like what we have today.

How did it all get taken away from us? How did we get from the days when a skinny kid from Hibbing, Minnesota or Asbury Park, New Jersey could become the voice of their generation to a time when Disney and American Idol force feed us crap so bad that it almost makes me nostalgic for Hootie? Because we let it happen.

No, we did not personally let guys like Clive Davis and Ahmet Ertigun be replaced by weenies with ponytails and MBA’s who believed that they were the real talent and the artists were just the product. We also were not responsible for laws being changed that allowed for the consolidation of almost all media outlets into the hands of 6 highly conservative corporate entities. It is not on our heads that these media conglomerates manufacture crap and then make sure that it gets played on our radios and TVs. Our choice in these matters was taken away without our knowledge, against our wishes, and sometimes even despite large public outcries.

Our cuplability lies in the fact that accept all of these things. Instead of letting the powers-that-be know that we want quality by rushing en masse to buy ridiculous quantities of CDs by the Black Keys, most Americans huddle around their TVs watching the spectacularly talent-free freakshow that is American Idol. Even worse, we pretend that the “talent” on the show matters. Try and imagine Miles Davis or Janis Joplin attempting to gain the approval of a sodden, over-the-hill, barely-was pop tart like Paula Abdul. Yeah, we’re guilty as hell.

What does any of this have to do with my personal bogeyman, or bogeywoman in this case, Sandra Lee? America, in recent years, has finally begun to develop a real food and wine culture. Ingredients that were once very difficult to find for most people are now readily available in every supermarket. Many kitchen shelves that once held Betty Crocker and church cookbooks chock full of tuna casserole and cupcake recipes might now be filled with tomes by Thomas Keller and Masaharu Morimoto.

Whenever this new food and wine culture is discussed a lot of credit is given to people like Alice Waters and Charlie Trotter, and they definitely deserve credit for creating “foodie” culture, but I would submit that the Food Network is responsible for the masses getting it. So when we accept them replacing the real chefs with Sandra Lee it is no different than when we traded Jimi Hendrix and the Talking Heads for Taylor Hicks and Clay Aikens.  Just like the abundance of music choices in the 90′s evaporated into our current cultural wasteland, so our current love of fresh, well-prepared, seasonal foods could just as quickly return to canned tuna and overcooked noodles held together with a glue made of Campbell’s mushroom soup and dried onion crumbs.

So telling me to change the channel misses the point. I have already changed the channel, and  you probably have too, but unless we get everyone else to do the same thing the Sandra Lees will win. Unless you enjoy green bean casserole and Wonder bread, perhaps you could find someone who actually can change the channel, and encourage them to do so. Not only will you be doing your part to keep food and wine culture alive, but you will also get me to shut up about this subject, which is what you really meant by “just change the channel, will you?”

  • Jim

    You just put The Black Keys and a completely correct culinary critique in the same blog entry…thank you for restoring by belief in awesomeness.

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com jpower

      Thanks, Jim. Restoring awesomeness is my mission in life. ;)

      Btw, your final phrase had me and my teenage son rolling on the floor. Nicely done!

  • http://www.redcook.net/ Kian

    My objection towards these type of cooking show and recipes is not so much the distressing influence of American pop culture, but the promotion of such highly processed food in our diet. Delicious food can be made with fresh simple ingredients.

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com jpower

      I would take it a step further; delicious food SHOULD be made with fresh simple ingredients.

  • http://www.debohobo.com Debo Hobo

    Groovy post!!!

    I am so over Sandra Lee…and many of the shows you referred to. I am a FN addict and normally watch the channel up until those annoying Neely's come on…

    I remember they had shows like The Melting Pot which taught food from other cultures, and several other shows actually hosted by restaurant chefs. What they have now is nothing more than a bunch of hacks just throwing crap in a pot and it is very predictable, nothing original. I actually do like watching Giada though she is still somewhat creative.

    Anyhooo….there is a new show Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, it's pretty good…

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com jpower

      I like the Anne Burell show too. She knows her stuff.

  • http://WineHarlots.com WineHarlots

    Spot on.
    I couldn't have said it better myself.
    (And I'm a little envious that I didn't).
    Keep on, keeping on!

    Cheers!

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com jpower

      Thanks! Glad you liked it.

  • http://www.NoCookieCutterWines.com Ron McFarland

    Right on! It is time for everyone to take a few minutes and understand the who, what, where etc of what they are eating and drinking.

    I think getting to know the people behind the products we choose to buy is worth the effort.

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com jpower

      Very good advice. It doesn't take all that much effort to do what you suggest.

  • Laura

    Ummm… just to make you feel better… Sandra is a bitch in person, too. Don't feel bad about talking bad about her. Maybe one day she will get over herself, her hideous ideas, and sad excuse for her inability to cook and do something genuine with her life. For now, we let the anorexia and preservatives do their work.

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com jpower

      LOL! Nicely put. I should have had you co-author that with me.

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  • parttimecook

    I totally agree with your assessment of Sandra Lee's “cooking.” However, I would like to defend some of the other shows you trashed a bit. I don't know about the rest of the people reading this blog, but I have a job (that does not involve cooking), a family and a life and I don't have the time to spend 2 days making french toast.
    I love Alton Brown but I also appreciate Giada, Rachel, and some of the other cooks on foodnetwork who show average people how to prepare those “fresh simple ingredients” without giving up our day jobs.

    • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

      Hi parttimecook,

      It doesn't take a full time job as a cook to be able to practice proper technique and put good ingredients together. Alton Brown (and to a considerably lesser degree, Giada and Rachel Ray) are the only people in heavy rotation who teach those things. If you try really hard you can find Tyler and Anne to add into the mix.

      My kids couldn't learn from the rest of the bunch. The network is no longer about cooking. Guy Fieri is their new poster child. I'd rather eat at Burger King than anything he cooks.

      A non-pro can just as easily cook from Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook, or Mario Batali's latest masterpiece, as they can from Rachel Ray's or The Neeley's. The food will taste much better and they will have learned the proper way to cook and have a foundation that will allow them to experiment and grow. We should stop settling for less just because our (formerly) favorite network has.

      That said, you do have a valid point…Giada and Rachel stand head and shoulders above a lot of the other people I trashed. Then again, that just amplifies my point too.

      Cheers,
      Joe

  • parttimecook

    I totally agree with your assessment of Sandra Lee's “cooking.” However, I would like to defend some of the other shows you trashed a bit. I don't know about the rest of the people reading this blog, but I have a job (that does not involve cooking), a family and a life and I don't have the time to spend 2 days making french toast.
    I love Alton Brown but I also appreciate Giada, Rachel, and some of the other cooks on foodnetwork who show average people how to prepare those “fresh simple ingredients” without giving up our day jobs.

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Houstonwino

    Hi parttimecook,

    It doesn't take a full time job as a cook to be able to practice proper technique and put good ingredients together. Alton Brown (and to a considerably lesser degree, Giada and Rachel Ray) are the only people in heavy rotation who teach those things. If you try really hard you can find Tyler and Anne to add into the mix.

    My kids couldn't learn from the rest of the bunch. The network is no longer about cooking. Guy Fieri is their new poster child. I'd rather eat at Burger King than anything he cooks.

    A non-pro can just as easily cook from Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook, or Mario Batali's latest masterpiece, as they can from Rachel Ray's or The Neeley's. The food will taste much better and they will have learned the proper way to cook and have a foundation that will allow them to experiment and grow. We should stop settling for less just because our (formerly) favorite network has.

    That said, you do have a valid point…Giada and Rachel stand head and shoulders above a lot of the other people I trashed. Then again, that just amplifies my point too.

    Cheers,
    Joe

  • rexblueriband

    I am fully aware that this is an old post, but you have to be happy with The Cooking Channel???  It’s owned by Scripps like Food Network, but a bigger emphasis on instructional cooking.

  • Ieatrice424

    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/983/354/546/get-sandra-lee-off-food-network-permanently/#sign
    I made a petition to get Sandra Lee off food network and I really signature PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE! I really want this to be able to get enough signature so please sign!

  • Fyrgdds63

    What?

  • Steve

    Four years later, I stumble upon this. An episode of her show was on in the background while I was home recovering from a surgery. I glanced up, she’s making egg salad sandwich on crappy white Wonder Bread with the crust cut off. If I want cheap food that uses low quality ingredients, I can figure that out on my own. Actually, everything on the Food Network would be cheaper to make on your own as compared to pre-made or ordered in a restaurant, so why do they have show about saving money on meals by using garbage to do so? How does she even have a show?