The Bat Segundo Show: Kathleen Collins

Kathleen Collins appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #290.

Kathleen Collins is most recently the author of Watching What We Eat.


Condition of Mr. Segundo: Contending with traumatic cooking show associations.

Author: Kathleen Collins

Subjects Discussed: TK


kathleencollinsCorrespondent: I should probably start this conversation off by confessing something to you. I think that Rachael Ray is a bit on the crazy side. She’s not someone who really makes me comfortable. I’m actually quite frightened by her. You know, I don’t find her down-to-earth at all. And I think maybe we can start off by describing how we went from this relatively benign cooking show setup, in which you had a quieter, less frenetic impulse, to this more exhibitionistic cooking show that involves a Jerry Springer-like audience shouting for the EVOO and all that. How did we get from one extreme to the other? Do you have any fundamental observation throughout the course of your meticulous observations?

Collins: I do. Although first I have to address your fear of Rachael Ray. Of which I don’t think you’re alone. I can’t remember where I read it. But I heard somebody liken her to Shrek. I don’t know if it was physicality. Or the monsterness. But you’re not alone. I mean, there are people who absolutely adore her. And they’re usually moms. Somebody’s mom who loves her. But otherwise I think, yeah, she can be pretty scary. How we got to that from, let’s say, the home economists of the 1940s and ’50s?

Correspondent: Yeah.

Collins: Long story. I mean, that’s basically what I tried to cover. And it was just a gradual process from the early days of cooking shows where it was all about selling the sponsor’s products. And let’s just use this kitchen space that we have in our studio. Let’s sell this refrigerator. How are we going to fill the time? Well, this is a cheap thing to do. Let’s have some home economists in here and whip something up. Very dry. And then gradually though, they would add some spiciness. There were some shows in the ’50s that had a little entertainment in them. There was Chef Milani out of Los Angeles. And his show was almost slapstick. There was a lot of comedy in it. So for the most part, it was the home ec ladies in the early days. Very, very gradual. Adding entertainment elements. But things didn’t really change until the entertainment aspect really came on with Graham Kerr. The Galloping Gourmet in 1969. At least 1969 in the U.S. Julia Child, everyone will tell you they were in love with her. They were completely entertained by her. But that was not her sole purpose. That was not her purpose at all. She just happened to be extremely charming and lovable. And there’s been no one like her since. So, you know, as soon as the Galloping Gourmet came on the scene and people saw what you could do with the cooking show, it was sort of a light bulb going off. And then other people tried to do it. But none of them for a while. You know, there was a dry spell.

Correspondent: Yeah. But there’s a fundamental difference between Graham Kerr leaping over the divide.

Collins: And leaping over the chair.

Correspondent: Yeah. Leaping over the chair. That is something I can kind of accept. Because I can imagine a friend of mine cooking penne alfredo doing just that.

Collins: (laughs)

Correspondent: I cannot imagine, for example, Rachael Ray, who is bulging her eyes at the camera, holding the utensils in a manner that is completely unnatural — just from the start — and having this thirty-minute, almost exhibitionistic quality to what we’re doing. We move from something that is plausible. Something that is — okay, we’ve got this fourth wall between the television and us. And it’s just plausible for us to have a realistic connection. We can imagine Graham Kerr possibly coming into the kitchen with us.

Collins; That’s true.

Correspondent: But we can’t quite imagine Rachael Ray demanding that we conform to this thirty-minute rigid time. I mean, she’s almost like an HR manager controlling the exact conditions of your employment.

Collins: Yeah, that’s true. I mean, I think a lot of it has to do with the highly produced nature of the show. They have these sets that are just glistening with stainless steel and granite and all the perfect elements that we don’t — many of us don’t have in our homes. Most of us probably don’t have such nice stuff in our kitchens. So we can’t relate to that. And, you know, she doesn’t really cook a meal in front of us. She puts ingredients together in front of us. So it doesn’t look like a real activity. And as for the exhibitionism, I mean, it’s all about personality. I mean, that’s when the Food Network came into being. That’s what they quickly realized was the focal point of every show.

BSS #290: Kathleen Collins (Download MP3)

This text will be replaced

Recession Recipes: Veggie Corn Chowder

In an effort to encourage folks to whip up some decent eats during this economic downturn, here’s an improvised recipe for vegetable corn chowder. It will probably set you back about eight bucks or so at the market (assuming you already have flour, butter, and olive oil in the kitchen, like most folks). But this will feed about four people. It goes down well with corn bread and Heineken. And the wonderful thing about this chowder is that it’s quite filling. Deceptively so.

First off, you’ll need to make yourself some fresh vegetable stock. Because trust me on this. The chowder will matter more if you have really kickass vegetable stock. You can alternatively use water. But that’s not really much fun. So here’s a quick rundown of how to make the stock. If you’re a lazy bastard, you can skip all this. But I have a sense that you’re going to want to go the distance. Because good chowder is worth it. And since you’re going to so much trouble here to make veggie corn chowder from scratch, what’s wrong with another hour devoted to the stock?

Stock ingredients: One onion, three stalks of celery, three bigass carrots (I mean, you need circumference here), ten cloves of garlic (or one big bulb), ten or so peppercorns, a bay leaf, and water (of course!).

1. Chop up all the produce. Now the segments should be substantially sized. Because keep in mind that you’re essentially filtering the flavor of the vegetables when you’re cooking this sucker. So you don’t want to chop the produce into crazed little bits. (If, like me, you love chopping shit up with knives, well, you can save your mad dicing skills for the chowder, which we’ll get to in a minute.) That goes for the garlic too. You should just be using the stripped cloves. You’re going to want carrots of about an inch or so in thickness. And you’ll only really need to halve the onions. Anyway, throw all this into a big pot (probably the same pot you’ll be using later for the chowder). Then throw in the peppercorns (could be ten, could be fifteen, don’t stress over it) and the bay leaf.

2. Fill it all up with water. You’re going to want all the vegetables to be under the agua. Once you’ve done that, fire up the burner. Once this all boils, let it simmer. Then let it sit for about an hour. Try not to go too much beyond an hour. I mean, if you’ve got a DVD you need to watch while the stock is doing its thing, make sure it’s an episode of The Wire or something (assuming you can confine your viewing experience to one episode at a time). Not some two hour movie. Because if you let the stock go beyond this, you’re going to have stock that isn’t optimal for the chowder.

3. Alright! It’s been an hour. You’ve been uplifted by some important television episode from David Simon. You’re angry at the world, probably less so than David Simon. Or maybe you’re just enthralled. Anyway, whatever your emotional state, you’re now ready to drain your stock! Now if you’ve made noodles, this is essentially noodles in reverse, in that you’re disposing of the veggies and keeping the water, which as its glorious yellowish green tint will indicate, has transformed into stock! Now be careful. You’re going to want to preserve as much of the stock as you can. Don’t beat yourself up if you spill any of this into the sink. Just make sure you get at least a cup or two of this stuff into a measuring cup or a Tupperware bowl or something.

4. Seal the stock. Refrigerate. Voila! You’re ready to make some kickass veggie corn chowder tomorrow. But you’re going to need to make sure this refrigerates for at least a few hours. Ideally, you should probably make the veggie stock the night before. And keep this in mind. If you have no intention of using the stock this week, you should probably put it into the freezer. It lasts a week in a fridge and about a month in a freezer.

Okay, so now we’re onto the corn chowder.

First off, here’s what you’re going to need.

— Two potatoes (peel and dice into small bits)
— Three or four bigass carrots (peeled and chopped; now don’t go crazy like you did with the stock; you need about 1/3 inch chunks here)
— One onion (diced into very small parts; go with a Spanish onion if you can, but I must warn you; Spanish onions are a pain in the ass in the tears department; nevertheless, they give the chowder the kind of pep that a regular yellow or white onion can’t quite do; so it’s worth crying over)
— Two thirds of a yellow bell pepper (chopped and diced)
— Three stalks of broccoli (chopped; try cutting these into thin slivers or florets; be wary of the stems; they are sometimes a pain in the ass)
— Three cloves of garlic (chopped, pressed, or what have you)
— A little bit of red bell pepper (you’ll want to grate this)
— Your veggie stock or, for the lazy bastards, water
— Some flour (about a tablespoon or two; you can eyeball this)
— 2 cups of milk (you’ll want to heat this up; it’s okay if you pop it in the microwave for about two minutes)
— Some butter and olive oil
— A can of corn kernels (or, if you’re really hard-core and you’re in a place where corn is cheap and in-season, you can use about two or three fresh ears and scrape off the kernels after you boil it)
— Fresh cilantro (okay, if you need to save money, if you’ve got some ground cilantro in your spice rack and it’s between the $2 they sometimes charge for fresh cilantro and getting fresh veggies for the stock, I’d opt for the veggies; really, you need good stock to make this work)

Now that seems like a lot of work. But once you have everything prepped, this will all get done in about an hour.

1. So you’ve got your big pot. You’re going to want to put in a dab (roughly half a tablespoon) of butter and the same amount of olive oil. Make sure you get the entire bottom of the pot coated with this wonderful concoction. Because you’re going to be zipping around later.

2. Into the pot: the potatoes, the onions, the garlic, the carrots, the ground bell pepper, the diced yellow bell pepper. Saute all this for about five minutes or so. (Don’t worry about the hardness of the potatoes. Because when you add everything else, they will cook quite marvelously.)

3. Stir in the flour after you’ve sauteed this vegetable mix well. (Don’t worry. We’re about to get to the corn and broccoli. Hold your horses.)

4. Here’s the part where you’ll need to have some care. You’re going to gradually add the warm milk and the stock (or water). Do this in increments. A little milk, a little stock, stir. Don’t go crazy because you’re going to get some bumps if you throw it all in at once. Keep doing this until you’ve exhausted all the milk. Now you’ll likely have leftover stock. Here’s the thing. If you’re a stickler for thickness, your chowder’s going to appear thicker than it really is. So you’re going to want to have a thicker chowder here while you’re letting all this boil. But be sure to use all the milk! Or else you won’t have a decent chowder!

5. Stir everything around. Keep doing this until it comes to a boil. Again, the constituency of the chowder is the most important. So you’re going to want to make sure you stir this.

6. While the chowder is congealing, add the salt, pepper, and the cilantro and stir it in.

7. When the chowder boils, reduce to low heat. You can let this simmer for about 30 minutes. And while you’re waiting, make some fresh corn bread if you like.

While the chowder is simmering, be sure to stir it every so often. You’ll then start to see what I was talking about in Step 4. The chowder is thinner than you expected. But it’s thick enough because it should be coming together.

Voila! Vegetable corn chowder! And it’s also very good for a potluck.

Now if you’re eating alone, I wouldn’t recommend this recipe. Because it is a lot of chowder. Unless you’re the sort who enjoys eating the same thing four nights in a row. But it’s not bad for a couple who likes leftovers the next day. And if you have two kids, I think that they’re likely to go crazy over this chowder with some corn bread. Certainly I have witnessed a few extraordinary reactions to this chowder. It is quite healthy. And if you’re a carnivorous type wooing a vegetarian, well, I assure you that this is a hearty enough chowder to fill your stomach.

Vollman Ain’t Got Nothing On This

“Our goal was to give you a book with every recipe you want.” Apparently, that’s the purpose of The Gourmet Cookbook, which weighs six pounds and runs 1,040 pages but will only set you back a mere forty Washingtons. As the Times reports, the book’s authored by Ruth Reichl, editor of Gourmet. Perhaps this cookbook’s length was another reason Reichl commissioned the now infamous DFW article on the Maine Lobster Festival. Even so, we’re grateful that such a grandiose depository exists. If we calculate five recipes to a page, that runs to about 6,000 possibilities. Or enough new dishes and appetizers to last (one per day) for about 16.44 years.

Who the Hell is Emeril?

While trying to score some bakeware this afternoon, I ran smack dab into a huge display that read “Emeril.” Physically, I was unharmed. Emotionally, however, I was quite devastated. “Emeril,” you see, was photographed with his arms outstretched on the various boxes. I did a quick search on the Internet and found the following photos:


There doesn’t appear to be a single photograph of this man with his arms close to his body.

Can someone tell me who this Emeril guy is? I don’t have cable television. I’m completely in the dark about his show. But what I do know is that it’s morally wrong to photograph a chef as if he just dismounted from a high beam. It does not, shall we say, inspire others to have fun in the kitchen.

To be perfectly frank, I’m alarmed by this man. His arms are so long that I wonder if they’re mechanical enhancements. While one can look into Emeril’s face and see that he’s just a giddy, harmless bastard, what of the moral costs?

All I needed was an extra baking sheet. Instead, the Emeril display had me sobbing like an infant.