I am a Food Network fanatic. Actually, I’m better then I used to be back in the days when TV chefs weren’t mega stars and focused on teaching you to cook. Then, I watched fascinated, as Bobby Flay, Tyler Florence and Mario Batali demonstrated techniques and recipes to their audience. I even rode Emeril’s bandwagon until over-exposure made him tiresome. This channel so captivated me that years ago, unaware that shooting pains foreshadowed emergency surgery, I spent an entire Saturday on the couch, unable to eat but immersed, watching show after show.
Over the years the network has evolved into competitive prime time episodes like “Next Food Network Star,” and “Iron Chef.” These contests don’t compel me to watch as those early programs did, yet, when nothing else distracts me, I click them on, knowing that at any moment I can turn the TV off without worrying about missing the next installment. After all, I can search recipes on-line.
In the same manner my passion for cooking shows has evolved, so has my husband’s love for baseball. Having spent formative years in New Jersey worshiping the Mets, memorizing stats he can still quote for Bud Harrelson, Tom Seaver, and Tommie Agee, he’s now lived in Massachusetts long enough to support our home town team. (Though not in 1986—imagine living through that married to a Mets fan.) Most nights now though, if he has nothing pressing to do, he’ll click through the channels to the Sox. If it’s close he’ll watch; if it’s a blow out, he moves on.
So while our viewing habits are alike, the subject matter couldn’t be further apart and we struggle to find a middle ground. Like everyone who grew up in Red Sox Nation, I call myself a fan, but my interest doesn’t heat up until the end of the season; and though my husband enjoys what I cook, he has no desire to watch with me as I learn how.
As a result, here’s how things go at our house. If there’s a game on, I sit on the couch reading a book with, as my mother used to say, “one ear open.” When the announcer gets excited or my husband yells: “Yes!” I ask him what’s up. If, David Ortiz just hit a home run that puts the Sox ahead, I put the book down for a while. If Jacoby Ellsbury hits a double in a game we are clearly winning, I smile and keep reading. Similarly, if a cooking show is on, my husband grabs a magazine and sits down. When I mutter to the TV, “You’re kidding, right?” he’ll ask me what it’s about, and good sport that he is, doesn’t roll his eyes when I explain that someone just decided that shaved chocolate would taste good on lettuce. If they’re cooking with squash though, he usually leaves the room.
There are ways however, in which we come together. Play-off time for instance--when I put the book aside and focus, or with our teenage daughter, who hated baseball until she turned 10, and then became a fan. Possibly this had to do with winning the Word Series, but whatever the reason, now, if the Sox are on when she enters the room, she’s glued. She checks the newspaper for scores over a bowl of cereal and asks “What is going on here?” when for example; in the weeks after the All Star Break the Red Sox are stinking up the joint.
But she will also stop and watch when “Ace of Cakes” is on, commenting, “I love this show” or ask me what Giada is making on a Saturday afternoon. In this regard, both my husband and I have a committed partner with whom to experience our enthusiasms, which means that food and baseball become fodder for discussion over family dinners. Over supper, they update me on recent trades, and my daughter and I tell my husband that it was Melissa who won the final of the “Next Food Network Star.” We bond as a couple via this child whose tastes in entertainment are more complex then either of her individual parents.
Here though, is where my husband and I play on the same team. We were both disappointed when our daughter chose not to play softball, but agree that when she makes my aunt’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, she scores an out of the ballpark grand slam. Oh yes, and in our mutual sighs of relief that Food Network finales occur in July and not in October.