Tuesday, September 11, 2018

beautiful but joyless

Since I don't have access to the Food Network on TV, I watch a lot of cooking videos on YouTube. These vary in quality: some have high production values while others feature bad video, lighting, sound, and editing; some have great, personable presenters while others feature people who are stiff and not at all camera-friendly. There is, moreover, a certain class of cooking videos with very high production values and good presenters that nevertheless strike me as joyless and antiseptic. Let me show you two examples below, both featuring obviously talented chefs as well as slick production designs. Yet despite those good qualities, these videos tend to leave me cold: they're too surgically precise, and maybe a little too slick for my taste. First up: Byron Talbott with a fascinating idea for potatoes:

Next up: a Korean presenter going by the moniker "honeykki" does boeuf bourguignon:

These videos are undeniably pleasant to look at, but for me, they somehow leave me feeling as if I've witnessed a medical procedure instead of actual cooking. Where's the fun? Where's the personality? (In French, the concept I'm looking for is called élan, which refers to vigor, energy, and verve.) I suppose you could say, in the case of honeykki, that she's to be commended for keeping the focus on the food as opposed to on herself, but I still think something gets lost in translation in the attempt to share cooking tips.

Now, I admit I do have fun watching Almazan Kitchen, but that's because the mad Serb has chosen to go all-in with the food-porny camera work. Plus, he's got style.

Otherwise, I'm fine watching Chef John:

And for my money, if the issue is one of personality, the Bon Appétit channel features plump, petite, nerdy Claire (with whom I'm falling in love) and loud, blustery Brad. Here's Claire, making her own version of Oreos, but amping up the quality:

Here are Brad and Claire making sourdough bread:

ADDENDUM: I wanted to note this earlier, but I forgot: in honeykki's stew video, above, she shows us what she labels as "stew beef" or "beef for stew(ing)." That is not stew beef. What she shows us is a cut of beef that is solid muscle; true stew beef is fatty, the idea being that, over time, the fat and connective tissue will render out and make the broth heartier, adding oil and collagen to the liquid. When the beef is solid muscle, it has the potential to soften into fork-tenderness, but it won't enrich the broth. Also, I saw that, when the cook pan-fried the beef chunks in bacon fat, she didn't coat the chunks in flour or cornstarch. Hmmm.

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