Last night, I actually scheduled a time to watch TV. In our current age of Netflix and On Demand and DVR, it felt very archaic, like I was in high school again and planning my Friday night around The X-Files. But thanks to the vegan blogosphere (and Facebookosphere), I knew I had to make time to tune into the Cooking Channel for The Veg Edge, a special all about vegans and vegetarians and the weird shadowy corners we inhabit. My plant-based posse, represent!
Having never even heard of the Cooking Channel before, I tried to temper my expectations. I mean, really, how much AR rhetoric were they conceivably going to include in 47 minutes? (Answer: just about none.) Still, I was willing to give it a shot, because if we don’t know how we’re being portrayed, we can’t get out there and change it.
I figured it would be like any other cuisine-scene special, with a cute host running around various cities sampling fancifully arranged meals. For starters, there was no host—not even a voiceover. I was very confused when the program simply launched into sound bites with members of Austin’s restaurant scene—which I’m told is bangin’, so my Texan brethren, I do hope to visit one day. It continued like that, with further vignettes highlighting people and restaurants in Seattle, New York, Portland, and LA. I would have liked a narrative thread of sorts to tie it all together, but instead, questions like “Why are you vegetarian?” and “Are vegetarians sissies?” flashed on the screen before diners or passersby responded. It gave me the feeling of a documentary whose editors had run out of time, but like I said, expectations.
Things I enjoyed: Isa Chandra Moskowitz rocking it out, as usual; learning about all the restaurants I hope to visit one day (click on that Cooking Channel link up top—it takes you to many of the recipes that were highlighted!); and one of the guys from Food Fight! responding to the “sissies” question with, “Sometimes you get pushed. That’s when you wear this shirt.”
It was also interesting to meet a chef who was raised vegetarian and had never tasted meat—I wondered what that must be like, and for a moment I was the tiniest bit jealous of him. It almost made up for the “Do you miss anything?” segment, where almost everyone interviewed confessed their longing for bacon. We can stop with the fucking bacon worship, people. It’s time for the hipsters to find a new plaything. Bacon had a mom.
Since it was a food show on a food-centric network, I wasn’t shocked by the lack of any mention of the ethical or philosophical grounds for the choice to be vegetarian or vegan. It’s all about the food porn, after all. I was a bit surprised that the restaurants and people showcased leaned more towards the vegetarian side of the seesaw; once more, vegans were nudged to the fringe, even on a show ostensibly about us. I love you, vegetarians, but most of you have no problem going out to eat. You are the harmless eccentric cousin, while we vegans are the anarchist hitchhiker your sister brings home for Christmas.
Overall, I’d give it a B. An engaging tour guide would have really amped it up, as well as some more vegan love, but for a channel I didn’t even know existed, I was pleased. Besides, now I know about Heavy Metal Vegan Cooking, so it appears that the Cooking Channel has done me a solid, after all.