I opened up my copy of this month's Food & Wine this weekend and balked at what I saw in editor Dana Cowin's opening letter. It appears the magazine is getting in on the reality craze. They're holding a contest called America's Home Cook Superstar; I think you can guess the premise. Essentially, they are accepting submissions via their website to find the best home cook in the country, who they'll name in March 2010. The reasoning? "This is the year of the home cook," says Cowin. "The lessons from TV chefs, the better-than-ever availability of incredible (often local) ingredients, the thrill of amazing restaurant meals -- plus the rotten economy -- have converged to inspire talented amateurs to raise their ambitions and try new flavors and techniques in the kitchen."
I agree with Cowin on most of those counts. I think people are cooking more at home and using better ingredients with an onus on local goods. Home chefs have also realized, through television shows and magazines like Food & Wine, that cooking restaurant caliber meals is actually easy, cheaper, and more rewarding than simply dining out. But I'm really against the idea of crowning an individual as America's Best Home Cook. I think it flies in the face of what home cooking is meant to be.
Cooking at home is something everyone should be able to do. As more
of America wakes up and sees processed and packaged foods for what they
are, people are turning to developing healthy meals for their families
themselves. They're taking control of their food destiny. This is a
good thing that should be celebrated, but it's not cause for celebrity.
The idea is not that there are certain people who are exalted, while
the rest of us just aspire to be like them. Everyone can do this stuff.
Isn't that the premise, anyway, of magazines like Food & Wine,
which are chock full of mostly recipes? Instead, we're constantly
gauging our abilities in some attempt to determine who is the best at
everything. In the back of our minds, there's some feable hope that we
could become a star too, if only we cook well enough, shop well enough,
clean well enough, sleep well enough.. well, you get the picture. It's
like some messed up version of the American Dream. Only, instead of
following Horatio Alger, we're all trying to be Guy Fieri. How fucked
up is that?
The grand prize, by the way, is a trip to Grand
Cayman to a wine and food festival hosted by Eric Ripert. Enter by
December 1, 2009.