Woody: Cooking shows half baked

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Every time I turn on the TV, there's a new cooking show. There are celebrity chefs and reality-show cooking and even an entire cooking channel.

I never considered cooking to be a form of entertainment, or some sort of kitchen soap opera ("As the Biscuits Burn.") I always thought it was just a way to get a cow from pasture to platter, with the cook being the middle-man.

I came across a cooking show the other night that's based in exotic locales and features unique cultural cuisines. The chef was whipping up some sort of dish that appeared to be primate parts fried in coconut bark. I think I'll pass on the Monkey McNuggets.

One of the more popular cooking shows, "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman," will feature a Tennessee crane hunt in an upcoming episode. Zimmerman bagged a Sandhill Crane during the recent inaugural season, and cooked the bird on his show.

I've never tried crane, but I've eaten my share of crow over the years. And several times came close to getting my goose cooked.

Back to the cooking shows: are they really that informative? Didn't we learn to cook about a million years ago?
It all began when a caveman built the first microwave oven out of yak bones and peat moss.

"Hey, Ogg," he shouted, "put out that stupid fire and come see what I've got!"

About that same time, some neighboring Neanderthals invented frozen TV dinners and oven-ready pizza, signaling the dawn of civilization.

Originally, cooking served a pragmatic purpose: it killed the bacteria that dwelled in the often-rancid meat eaten by cavemen. (In more modern times, cooking serves the same purpose for school-cafeteria food.)

Gradually, prehistoric chefs noticed that cooking food not only prevented tummy aches, it also made the chow easier to chew and digest, and improved the taste. (Except for Spam.)

Mammoth mignon became a fine-dining favorite, after a few culinary details were worked out: skin the critter first, then try slicing it into steaks instead of tossing the whole mammoth on the grill.

On down through the eons, cooks from Ogg to Julia Child (the Vince Lombardi of cooking) have devised tasty new ways to prepare mammoth.

Some people consider cooking fun. Booger, one of my fishing buddies, is one. Every year when we go camping in Canada, Booger volunteers to do the cooking. His favorite recipe is beans and walleyes, followed by beans and bacon, beans and franks, and beans and beans.

For dessert, Booger prepares a bean souffle that that you could die for -- and several of us nearly have.

I don't consider cooking to be an art form or a spectator sport, which is why I don't get the fascination with cooking shows and celebrity chefs. My definition of a celebrity is John Wayne or Joe Nameth, not Rachel Ray or the fry-cook at Waffle House.

I take a fairly basic approach to preparing my food: heat it and eat it. Chop it up until it stops wiggling, then toss it on the fire long enough to singe off the hair/fur/feathers/scales. Mustard's optional.

That gives me an idea for a new cooking show for guys like me that could appeal to our inner- Neanderthal: "Quickie Cuisine," or "How to Chow Now."

Then again, maybe that's a half-baked idea.

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Larry Woody
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