Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cheap Bastid Chewing on "The Chew" and Blasting Yahoo

Cheap Bastid has done enough Cheap Bastidly cooking and writing by now to be entitled to express an opinion or two. So that’s what I’m going to do today.

I’m going to take a swipe at ABC’s new food show “The Chew”, a cutsey play on “The View”, and take a swipe at an insipid piece that showed up yesterday on Yahoo finance.

First, “The Chew”. This new show features Karla Hall who was a contestant on Top Chef along with Food Network Iron Chefs Mario Batalli and Michael Symon. It’s been on for a little over a month now. And it’s all right although a bit vapid. They’ve even made some efforts at showing how to cook good food fast and on a budget.

But yesterday they managed to pretty much alienate me with their snarky, almost condescending, take on “Southern Cooking”. Sure, they paid some lip service to the traditions of Southern or country cooking but they also managed to insert a recorded “Yeehaw” everytime they mentioned the theme or took a commercial break.

Hey jackasses, southern or country cooking is the epitome of making food dollars stretch. It’s not fancy but its inexpensive and filling and good and, most importantly, is usually made with more pinches of love than the paid shills manage to add.

To stand up in front of America spewing fake southern/country/Texas accents in the cause of entertainment demeans what they do and disrespects the food that they’re supposed to be extolling.

Certainly it’s entertainment but there are people from all over watching—not just foodies from the East coast. I thought it was offensive. Oh, and remember when earlier I said the show was all right? Too bad, because their audience (including me, at least for now) deserves something better than “all right”.

Now on to Yahoo. There was an article yesterday in Yahoo Finance—Financially Fit titled “How to Feed a Family on $15 a Day”. OK, not bad. It got my attention—I’m the Cheap Bastid. Fifteen bucks seems a bit generous, but it’s for a family of 4.

The article rubbed me the wrong way with its lead which said that the “average family of four” spends upwards of $1200 a month on groceries. Say what? The author was citing data from the USDA on monthly food costs—the $1200 a month comes from the column titled “Liberal Plan”. Even the “Thrifty Plan” at $615 per month struck me as high.

More particularly, the author was interviewing some expert who had “stopped by her kitchen” to share some advice. This expert, Allison Fishman, contributing editor to “Cooking Light”. Fishman was right when she said the important thing is to plan menus and plan shopping. I started doing that when my kids were little. Planning a menu prior to shopping was the key to making sure that ingredients were on hand and, even better, it had the result of significantly reducing the total grocery bill.

But Fishman was also suggesting that meat be used “almost like a condiment” rather than as the main feature of a meal. Huh? Meat, a condiment? She suggested that beef at $5.99 a pound and chicken breast at $5 per pound was out of reach for many to be able to provide other than a sampling of it in a meal.

That’s all well and good. But where the hell is she buying her boneless, skinless chicken breast? I pay $1.97 a pound for it. The same with beef. I now buy “lesser” cuts such as bottom round (London Broil). I can get ground beef for about $2.50 a pound by having my grocer’s meat department grind it for me when chuck or round is on special. And maybe Southern California (or at least my neighborhood) isn’t as expensive as someplace like New York City but it’s still plenty expensive.

The way this expert was presenting herself, I kind of got the impression that she was trying to educate the ignorant masses to eat a diet based on beans and squash and legumes along with using the same chicken bone for a couple of weeks to flavor the meager soups.

The “average family” spends far less than $1200 a month on food. The average family spends less than $600 a month on food. Who are they kidding. And this kind of advice does little, if anything, to enlighten or encourage or educate. What it does instead is frustrate and infuriate.

And Cheap Bastid sees that as a disservice not as being helpful.


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