My grandmother and the Food Network

Since she was released from hospitalization for a heart attack and a hernia, my grandmother has been under doctor’s orders to stay away from stress and physical effort—including cooking. Less time in front of the stove means more time in front of the TV, and she and my sister have been bonding over the Food Network.

It turns out, though, that English-language cooking shows pose some challenges for her. “Sometimes I don’t understand the ingredients they’re talking about. What’s the word he’s using for that pasta? I can see it’s noodles, but I don’t know what he’s calling them.”

They were rigatoni, and I explained to her that different shapes of pasta have different names. I left aside the issue of different uses, figuring she’d pick that up with enough watching. But I did notice that the Food Network had already taught her “pasta,” which she hadn’t known a few years ago, when her vocabulary there was limited to “noodles” and “fideos.”

She’s also having a hard time deciding what this “basil” thing is, sometimes deciding that it’s “bay leaf,” instead. But cilantro is a cinch–she was inspired enough by its television celebrity to ask me to buy her a few plants and pot them for her on her porch. And, prohibitions on cooking aside, she had a pot full of lovely poached chicken soup, with garlic, celery, potato, and cilantro, ready when I first arrived.

Another Food Network addition to her English vocabulary is “scallion,” as part of what they’re apparently calling GGS, or ginger-garlic-scallion: the Asian mirepoix. Garlic she got, no problem. Ginger, ok. (It’s familiar as a medicine, if not as a spice.) But, “What’s that last thing, mi’ja?” “Son cebollinas, Momo.” And maybe it’s time to see the eye doctor as well as the cardiologist…

In other news, this is the first Stuff White People Like entry that I’ve enjoyed in a long time.

2 Responses to “My grandmother and the Food Network”

  1. 1 Dave
    April 22, 2010 at 12:49

    I wonder if brown people now do all those midwestern farm jobs that went to 12-14 year old white kids when I was a kid like detasseling corn. All you had around were white people, so there really wasn’t a color line for that kind of work. But the area’s demographics shifted pretty heavily in the mid 90s. Alot of the non-union factory jobs that used to be the gateway to union factory jobs started going to Mexican immigrants and there was a net loss of those unionized factory jobs, so they were no longer gateways to a better life.

    • April 22, 2010 at 17:12

      I get the impression that they do most of them, that there’s been replacement. I’m not finding my notes on this one particular farm I remember reading about, but the owners addressed just that–the growth of the central migrant stream, their perception that white kids had become less willing and less reliable for that kind of temporary field work. I think that must have been a chapter in a book called The Human Cost of Food, which is on my list of books to ILL.

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