Cheering for Chopped


Let’s take an inventory of all the TV shows that we like to watch as a family. This is more complicated than it seems, since there are four of us – leading to a complicated Venn diagram of shows each individual likes to watch, with some overlaps, and few shows in the intersection of all four.

Joy (8 yrs) mostly likes various Nickelodeon shows such as Spongebob Squarepants, iCarly, Victorious, Winx Club, and so on. Melody (10) likes some of these, but not all. Kathy likes the pre-teen / teen shows like iCarly. I like watching Spongebob with the kids, because I see it as holding the position of a modern Bugs Bunny – superficially aimed at kids, but with humor that adults can enjoy, too. Kathy does not want to watch Spongebob. Spoilsport.

Melody likes Big Time Rush, and several Disney shows like Jessie, Good Luck Charlie, and A.N.T. Farm. Joy also likes most of these, but they are not appealing to us adults. She pretends not to like Spongebob, but oddly won’t leave the room when it’s on.

Kathy likes to watch hours of Criminal Minds reruns in a row, and various reality shows involving animals (the Dog Whisperer) or people who act like animals (Hoarders). No one else likes those.

I like sports, sports, and sports. Sometimes I even tune back into pro wrestling to see if it has changed at all since I last watched devotedly in the early 2000’s. (It has not.) I watch Fringe out of habit (see another post about that one!) Other than that, I watch animation – Family Guy, South Park, Robot Chicken. No one else wants to watch the shows I do with real people, and the kids are not allowed to watch the animation I like.

Together, Kathy and I watch 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Big Bang Theory, and Modern Family. We watch these after the kids are in bed.

All in all, it looks like we fail at the American past time of watching TV as a family.  And this is true, with the exception of one show:  Chopped, on the Food Network!  This is a show where chefs compete to make the best courses in a meal (appetizer, entree, and dessert) using ingredients they do not know about ahead of time.  I have no idea what the magic of this show is, but all four of us like to watch it together.  The girls like to pick a favorite contestant at the start of the show, and root for him or her (usually a her) as the show goes on. They generally are in favor of chefs who do not have crazy hair and are not too obnoxious or full of themselves.  (I personally don’t like the chefs who present themselves as exaggerated cartoon characters.)  The girls also root for judges on the show.  Their favorites are Amanda Freitag and Alex Guarnaschelli.  If one of them is introduced by host Ted Allen,  the living room erupts in shouts of “Yay, Amanda!” or “Yay, Alex!” They are mostly indifferent to male judges, except for Geoffrey Zakarian, who they have decided is kind of a meanie who doesn’t like spicy food.

This show has affected our own dinner time; sometimes, the girls will critique one of the meals Kathy or I have made, as if they are judges on Chopped.  It has also made them slightly more experimental with the food they’re willing to try, which is a good thing.  Melody actually ate a dish made last week with kale and tofu!  (She doused it with soy sauce first, but hey, it takes what it takes.)  It has made me more willing to just grab something random from the produce section of the grocery store and decide what the hell I’m going to do with it later on.

My favorite aspect of the show is watching the contestants who choose to support each other even though they are competitors, rather than act like complete jerkfaces as do contestants on other reality shows.  (Often the players on Chopped will talk about how they are the best in the competition, and the other chefs are lame and inferior, but often I believe that’s at the encouragement of the directors.)  I think there’s a lesson in there about how there can still be respect and support among people even though they are vying for a common goal, and maybe the girls can apply that to their own interactions.

There is no studio audience for Chopped, but man, I imagine that room smells really good after a 20-30 minute round of cooking.  I wish they could find a way to bottle it!

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