Sunday, January 24, 2010

Does Fatafeat eat babies?

I love Food TV. Be it the Food Network, BBC Lifestyle, or even the annoying Rachel Ray. If there's cooking on it, I'll watch it. I may be aging myself here but I think it all started with this low budget cooking show from my childhood called "Wok with Yan". I never have made anything he did (which can be said about most of the cooking shows I watch to this day) but the possibility was there that I could. If I followed the recipe and did what he said, I would be guaranteed success in a half hour. Mmm-mm, yummy food made with colourful ingredients under flattering studio lighting. What's not compelling about that?

As I grew up, it became obvious that I was a serious foodie and I've spent most of my disposable income on dining out and cooking ever since.

I lived in London when Conran brought dining as entertainment back into fashion and the phenomenon of Celebrity chefs gathered pace. I ate at places like Quaglinos, Meza, Cantina, and the Bluebird restaurant and then started stalking Chefs like Marco Pierre White. I wouldn't dream of spending £20 on clothes but I didn't once look at the bill when we went for dinner. It was food, afterall. It was experience and it was worth every penny.

When I moved to New York, the food madness continued. My salary had increased and so had the number of restaurants from which to choose. I became less of a name-chaser and found my own favorite spots like Raouls on Prince street, Casimir in Alphabet City and old faithful, Calle Ocho on the Upper West. I still went to all the trendy places as they cropped up but my tastes matured and I ate at spots I loved regardless of what people were saying about them.

I joined my husband here in Cairo three months after he started his job. I arrived late at night and he had already left for work when I got up. I was a little disoriented and woke up wondering what the hell I'd done, crossing the world to live in a country I knew nothing about. There was a lovely breakfast set out for me on the dining table with the remote control and a note: "The Food Channel is number 8." Sigh. It was going to be alright afterall. As long as I had Giada, Jamie Oliver and the Chairman, I could face anything.

The channel is called: Fatafeat. And it is great. All my favorites are on there: Iron Chef, Everyday Italian, The Naked Chef, Barefoot Contessa and Nigella-I'm-too-sexy-for-this-show Lawson. I've even discovered a few new favorites: Andrew who makes Philly Cheese Steaks in Arabic and Dania who doesn't really cook but travels around the world translating as others do.

The only thing that disturbs me and leaves me quite puzzled is that all the promos are shots of little babies smiling into the camera, drooling, giggling, lying alone on a blanket and being bathed. Why are they featuring babies alone? Are they preparing them for something? If any of you out there have an in with Fatafeat, please let me know. I am prepared to go to their HQ and get to the bottom of this: are you showing us babies in your promos because you want us to eat them? It is the only conclusion I can reach. What else are babies doing on a Food channel? They can't cook, so they must be part of the menu....

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Happy New Year - Part 1: Kerala without a Houseboat

We just returned from a three-week trip to Southern India. We arrived in Fort Kochi, Kerala on New Year's day. We stayed in a great hotel by the ancient Chinese fishing nets, first installed on the coast by the grandson of Gengis Khan. It was hot. And it was humid. And the mosquitos were the size of small children. So, instead of cruising the backwaters on a houseboat as planned, we got into an Ambassador and travelled up the mountains to spend a few days in a guest house on the Madupatty tea estate in the Kanan Devan Hills Plantation. It was breathtaking. Rolling hills of sharp, bright green as far as the eye could see. The air was clean and crisp. The mist rolled around the mountain tops and the wild flowers that lined the roads were like vibrant firecrackers. The people were sweet and hospitable, without exception. We had Kerala breakfasts every morning (featuring all the coconut chutney I could eat. Yum!) and masala chai every afternoon.

We (ok: I) decided to go for an "authentic ayurvedic massage" - more like let me slather you in oil and ask you questions about your trip. My husband kept pointing out to me that there was nothing "authentic" about the place we were going. Notice, he pointed out, that there are no brown people on any of the adverts. There are no locals in the waiting room, just wide-eyed foriegners. It had all the hallmarks of a classic tourist trap. But I didn't care. When in Kerala, I insisted. My hair is still a little greasy and the smell of the ayurvedic "herbs" linger in my nostrils...I am sure that there is genuine ayurveda in Kerala. But where we went wasn't it...

Our trip up the mountain coincided with the morning bath of local temple elephants. We saw three: one 40-year-old female and two little 5 and 6 year olds. They were so close to us and completely tame, having lived in the temple all their lives. After watching fearless little kids approach them, I too gathered the courage to get close, touch their skin and say hello.

I've included this picture with the Uncle in the jaunty white suit and healthy moustache because he managed to get into every one of my elephant shots. That's the thing about India, if there is something interesting happening, there's little to no chance that you'll be experiencing it on your own. But then again, there is so much happening you don't mind sharing it. More to come on our trip - stay tuned.