I’m almost embarrassed to admit the extent to which the Missus and I have become Food Network junkies. If you were to attach some sort of electronic transcription device to our Teevee Tuner—or look at what goes through our DVR, for that matter—you’d see that virtually all of our television viewing consists of a handful of shows on NBC (mostly their Thursday night lineup), American Idol (a guilty pleasure for the Missus), and Food Network for the balance.
Honestly, I don’t know why we pay for HBO. Now that Boardwalk Empire is between seasons, there’s nothing on any of the premium channels that grabs my attention like Guy Fieri cramming some sweaty chef’s meatball sub into his pie-hole.
I know it’s ridiculous. It seems that nowadays, most of the Food Network’s content has drifted away from useful material—actual cooking shows, for instance—toward reality television in which food plays an ever more peripheral role. Entertainment trumps information.
Inevitable, some would say. After all, watching Rachael Ray roast a rack of lamb with a side of sautéed broccoli rabe (nice rack, Rache!) may have been informative, but it’s more fun to watch a platoon of wannabe-Iron Chefs duke it out for the opportunity to be a regular feature on a show that is a goofy American remake of an even goofier Japanese show.
If you look at Food Network’s schedule hard enough, though, you can spot the occasional trend. Food trucks? Personal chefs? They’re all there. But the most glaringly trendy food seems to be the Cupcake. Those little suckers are enjoying a veritable craze right now.
Well, it’s a giant economy-size cupcake, anyway: the Mistress of Sarcasm enjoys a birthday Baby Cake from Savannah’s Back in the Day Bakery.
There are whole shows devoted to cupcakes, most notably Cupcake Wars. Think of it: Wars! Over cupcakes! (Sure, it’s just another “make-a-metric-buttload-of-interesting-food-in-no-time-flat-with-bizarre-ingredients-and-amuse-our-judges” show, but I like to imagine an actual war fought with—what?—cupcake grenades, perhaps.)
Cupcakes are lovable enough. They’re tasty, they’re cute, and they appeal to the little kid that lives in the back of your brainstem. But it’s only a matter of time before some other appealing nostalgia-laden food comes along and throws those dopey little cakes under the bus. Chef Michael Symon seems to think it’s the doughnut that will next take its place in the sun. I have an even better idea.
Yes, funnel cakes. What is a funnel cake, after all, but a free-form Jackson Pollockoid doughnut? Like any kind of sweet fried dough, funnel cakes start right off tasting great, and they can only get better with a little Cheffy Pizzazz. (Never mind the calories. With their high surface area-to-volume ratio, funnel cakes are grease-bombs of nuclear proportions.)
I can imagine Michael Symon’s funnel cake: made from batter impregnated with exotic spices, dusted with cinnamon, confectioner’s sugar, and ancho chile powder. Hell, I’d eat one in a heartbeat.
And it’s only a matter of time before the stores start popping up. Gigi’s Cupcakes? That was last week. Now, everyone’s flocking to Elisson’s Funky FunCakes™. (Even the name says “fun”!)
Just wait a few months and tell me I’m wrong.
[Article first published as The Next Food Network Craze on Blogcritics.]