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Am I missing something without cable?

I read these threads about Food Channel shows and chef personalities and feel like I am in a foreigh country (planet?). We live in reral Maine and I have only recently installed an aerial on my roof. Cable access runs in front of the house, but it doesn't seem like a high priority. I read here of the passionate discussions about food personalities and wonder who they are. I found out about Anthony Boudain, because I stumbled upon 2 of his books in our local public library. Calvin Trillan is my food hero...from his books and I read Mr. Gold's column column in the LA Weekly. My question is that am I really missing something? I have, on the other hand rebuilt an old British motorcycle and a '67 VW bus the last few winters. and have a wonderful wife whom I love dearly. Is the Food Netwark an urban phenonomon or am I really missing something? Take it easy on me.

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  1. In a word--NO. I don't have cable either and haven't had it for 13 years. Thus, the only time I watch TV (no aerial, either) is when I visit my family at Christmas or when I'm in a hotel room. The Food Network shows can be mildly entertaining (or, more often, rather boring), but not worth the money for cable. While I would probably enjoy watching Alton Brown's show if I did have cable, I find most of the other shows dull and annoying (or accident-gawking, like a Paula Deen episode I once watched).

    I prefer to read newspapers, cookbooks (or books about food), some blogs or Chowhound rather than watch TV. That said, I am glad that FN and other options are available for those who do genuinely enjoy watching TV. We all have different tastes, whether it's for media or for cuisines.

    And you do have a rebuilt VW bus!

    1 Reply
    1. re: nofunlatte

      Yes, a '67 green VW splitty camper. Mechanically excellent, needs minor body work and a paint job top be back on the road. Also a BSA 650 cc Firebird Scrambler.
      Yes, the only time I get to watch The Food Network is staying in motels taking the kids to and fro from college. Seems I always get stuck w/ Paula Deen, never the biggies.
      But some posters seem so passionate about these people, I wonder what it is all about.

    2. I don't think you're missing anything. We have cable and except for an occasional BBC America program and the Red Sox & Patriots games I don't watch TV very much. There are much better things to do than sit and stare at the Boob Tube, which is becoming dumber by the minute. I know what we're missing though.... more $$$ from the wallet. Cable here is pricey. Time to do something about that!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Gio

        I guess it depends on what "entertainment" means for you. I work 2 jobs just so I don't feel guilty about having the $ to spend on cable and high-speed internet as these are my two main forms of entertainment - we don't go to concerts, we almost never go on vacation, we don't go out to eat very often, we never go to the movies, etc.

        In terms of JUST the food network, I would say no, you're not missing that much, but in terms of everything that's out there on cable, I do think you're missing out. I think of all the TV shows I love watching for one reason or another - some have great writing, some I love the actors, some are just fun/fluff programs, some are gripping dramas and to me, it's great and affordable entertainment. Where I live, we are stuck inside due to the weather 3/4 of the year so without cable I'd go mad. :)

        1. re: rockandroller1

          I spent a long time living overseas and when I watch the Travel Chanel, it makes me uneasy withe an unfulfilled sense of wonderlust. We do have hi speed internet and Skipe w/ kids overseas. On kick back evenings we tend to do Netflix.

      2. passa, if you read the CH Boards frequently you're not missing out on anything. Threads tend to be a very accurate re-creation of television, newspapers, website reviews already. With internet access you can connect with any FN personality thru their own webpage anywho :)

        On the other hand, rebuilding classics is very cool, time well spent (imho)!

        1. I went five years without any TV and when I finally did get it, I was surprised at how many cable shows were still repeats. Same old, same old.

          Within five years, much of the content will be downloadable over the internet.

          1. I have not had cable in years, we upgraded to HD satellite t.v...

            FN is definately not worth it, but sports, and news makes the small monthly bill worth it for me.

            I see t.v., and the internet as necessary evils of the modern world, and would rather relax, and watch some satellite t.v., than stare at a computer screen at home(10 hours a day of staring at the p.c. is more than enough for me while at work mon-fri.,) I may use my home p.c. once a week if that.

            Are you missing something?, I doubt it, it sounds like you have some hobbies you enjoy.

            1. The best food shows are still on PBS

              2 Replies
              1. re: attractivekid

                I totally agree with that. America's Test Kitchen and BBQ U are two of my favorite shows. We have not had cable in 6 or so years. I find what I need on line.

                Not long ago we spent a few days on vacation and we both got the flu. Bedridden, we watched all the new chef shows the whole time. I loved having them on at the time but I don't miss them.

                1. re: attractivekid

                  Saturday afternoon is good for PBS food shows, but I am always outside enjoying the day when they are on. I do not miss Splendid Table on NPR since we do have a radio on the porch and it comes on at 4:00PM on our station. Usually in the summer it is inspriation to start cooking dinner. No cable either since I would do nothing but watch TV if I had it. We do have two good PBS stations and as soon as I get a digital converter, we will have more PBS offerings!

                2. I got cable for the first time three years ago after not having had it ever. Like you, I worried I might be missing out (Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Iron Chef, Sex and and the City, etc.) I do feel like there's a bit of "pop culture" I missed out on, and I often had nothing to say at the watercooler. Honestly, the thing I regret not having seen in "real time" is Sopranos, including for the food interest, believe it or not. Had I been watching Sopranos all along, I can imagine that I would have been cooking from the Sopranos cookbooks and cooking Italian themed meals on Sunday nights.

                  As someone said before me, PBS still has the best cooking shows. But, for me, the "food shows" on cable are a bit of a guilty pleasure. It's the junk food of food entertainment. And its incredibly repetitive--they have 24 hour programming (well, not quite) but much of that is old re-runs or the airing 2-3-4 times a week of the most current episode of their new programming.

                  Much of what I enjoy is re-runs from what I'm guessing might be Food Network's "golden era", such as Bourdain (re-runs and new programming of No Reservations on the Travel Channel, re-runs Cooks Tour on Food network), Iron Chef America (re-runs and new programming Food Network), Iron Chef (reruns on Fine Living), Alton Brown's Good Eats (re-runs Food Network).

                  But, I live in a place with long, dark, cold winters and I'm an insomniac. So, yeah, sometimes we just like to stay home on a subzero day and watch movies or food network reruns. Or, I like to watch them in the middle of the night when I can't sleep. And we live in a small'ish sports market, so we have to subscribe to cable, sometimes, if we want to follow our local sports teams.

                  If you find Survivor and Amazing Race entertaining, you'd probably like Top Chef and No Reservations. It's equally as junky, just more food oriented.

                  Are you missing out on some really high-quality programming? For the most part, no. Are you missing out on some light entertainment and pop food culture, yes, but it just depends on what your appetite for that is to begin with.


                  9 Replies
                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    "Had I been watching Sopranos all along, I can imagine that I would have been cooking from the Sopranos cookbooks and cooking Italian themed meals on Sunday nights."

                    We did this! And expanded our Italian cooking repertoire because of the show. Once a month we still reserve Sunday nights for Italian.

                    1. re: rockandroller1

                      Oh, I'm so envious. Some days (especially during long winters), I'm tempted to rent Sopranos DVDs, from the beginning, in order, one by one, watch them on Sunday nights, and cook along. I only saw the last 1-2 seasons and I didn't get excited about the food element until the very end. (It just took awhile for that element to sink in with me...there are so many food references in that show.)

                      EDIT: PS, is there a show current airing that you find similarly inspiring? I sometimes would like to cook along with the Amazing Race, but it's hard to know where they are going to be in any given week, so, it's almost like you'd have to cook in arrears...


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        We actually didn't start watching Sopranos til 4th season so we started by renting all the videos (getting some from the library, as available).

                        I have to say though the contestants are all a joke, watching Hell's Kitchen has inspired me and mr. rockandroller to work better and quicker as a team in the kitchen and to branch out a little. We've always worked well together but it was more by happenstance than by planning. Now someone is more assigned to different duties such as prep, finishing, cooking/preparing cold dishes and getting the table ready while the other does the actual cooking of hot dishes, and we use some of the lingo. ("I'm going on the sauteed mushrooms, is the salad ready?") The Mr. made duck confit recently for the first time (once we were finally able to get ahold of some duck fat) and we actually made really good homemade pizzas for the first time about a week ago, one with the pizza, carmelized onion and fresh rosemary, the other your basic pepperoni/mushroom) and that was a truly joint effort, with each in charge of their own pizza.

                        1. re: rockandroller1

                          Maybe I should do that with the Sopranos next winter, check it out from the library.

                          Funny about HK. In our kitchen we bark out orders all the time as in, "Only two minutes remaining--you should be plating!", and, of course, one of us occassionally shouts, "Allez Cuisine!" or, if we're both cooking a dish, wonders aloud whose dish will reign supreme. Sometimes, when we're trying a new recipe and we ask ourselves if we like the dish, sometimes we'll complain sometimes that the dish just doesn't showcase the secret incredient enough. Clearly, we watch too much Iron Chef. Thankfully, we don't shriek when one of us winds up the ice cream maker...


                    2. re: The Dairy Queen

                      I also am an insomnia (look at the hour of a lot of my posts), but Bangor TV shuts down and I like the quiet, the wood stove, read, write (Grade essays!) or go for a predawn walk or a moonlit snowshoe. I don't watch Survivor and find Island strange, but my wife loves Ugly Betty! Since yor're form the icy far north, do you know what I'd love on cable? The CNN and Hockey Night! I'm an old old hockey puck.

                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                        I'm not really "from" the icy far North. I just live here. ;-).

                        But, I agree with you that reading (about food), writing (about food) and (thinking about food while) snowshoeing are more wholesome and enriching ways to pass the time than watching (food shows on) the cable TV and should be the largest part of your entertainment diet. And, as I mentioned, one of the reasons we like cable is so we can follow our local sports teams. I don't like TV news, even CNN--I like to read it.

                        Cable TV, like I said, is more of a guilty pleasure, an occasional indulgence on top of an otherwise healthy diet. But, if it doesn't seem like a sinful and decadent occasional treat to you, it's just fine to skip it. It's the entertainment equivalent of asking "Am I missing something without McDonald's"


                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          I'll get the saltena recipe this summer. It is you isn't it? Will be eating them in Mi Bolivia Restaurant in Queens, NYC next week..

                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                            Yes indeedy, that's me! (Good memory!)

                            I'm so jealous. I hope you'll post about your visit to Mi Bolivia! And thank you so much for keeping the saltena recipe in mind for me. Maybe when I can't sleep or on those dark sub-zero winter days, I can make myself some saltenas and imagine what summer must be like in the other hemisphere. Instead of watching bad cable TV.


                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              DQ, pull the plug and read great literature! Like Water For Chocolate, Eva Luna, Anna Karenenna, Zorba, The Pillar of Hercules all of clavin Trillan. 1000 Tables etc. etc. It's more relaxing and you feel better!
                              Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, Tortilla Flats and Cannery Row.

                    3. Since it's very difficult to say where do you "lay on the barometer" -- you might be missing a little or a lot -- I say you should go to YouTube and look at videos of what you're missing (don't you love the Internet as an alternative?!) and from those make your own decision.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: HarryK

                        You can also get some shows like After Hours with Daniel Boulud on the net.


                        And you can see entire episodes of Top Chef on bravotv.com.

                        You know, I've lived without cable for many years. If you don't know it's there, you don't miss it.

                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          all of Daniel Boulud's shows/episodes are available on hulu

                        2. re: HarryK

                          Cell phones popping pop corn on YouTube? Bogus!

                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                            >>> Cell phones popping bogus corn?

                            Alas people can get the Today show without cable.

                        3. Well, hell yea! I got cable and I don't even know what Survivor Chefs is...
                          Seriously, we don't watch much, and what there is won't tickle your gray matter. I don't think many of us cook with dry ice or torches (I save that for rebuilding engines).
                          I find the battlin' chefs a giggle (if I watch it) but I hate to put up with the commercials. I record what I want to watch and most cookin' shows aren't on my short list, since I, like you, like to make things, fix things, grow things and cook things. You might say I'm more into "things" than parked on the potato's divan, watchin' shows. At least, when I watch tennis or Nascar, I'm jumpin' around, spilllin' my food and doing isometrics.
                          I'll loan you my CD's of Julia Child episodes.... Now, go walk your dog!

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Scargod

                            I don't think you're missing anything. I used to have cable and spent way too much time on FN, and the home and garden channel and the comedy channels.
                            Now I'm in the country and have a few channels including PBS I get on the little stick on antenna on the tv.
                            Frankly, the fewer shows on I want to watch, the more I find I get done around the farm.
                            And the best cooking shows indeed are on PBS.

                            1. re: Scargod

                              Tex, the things you like to make; Scotch on the rocks or neat. Single malt?

                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                Usually neat and usually Johhnie Walker Black. Sometimes I get an Islay single malt. I use one ice cube if I think my stomach can't take it. Ha.
                                Come join me. I'll "make" you one!

                                1. re: Scargod

                                  Man, I had a good Scottish mate who worked for the British Council in Helsinki. On -30 degree Sunday afternoon in Feb., the ladies would have tea, we'd retire to the study for a lesson on single malts. Oh.. those were the days. And no cable.

                            2. There are some channels you might enjoy:
                              Rural TV has shows about rebuilding tractors, farming crops you may not be familiar with, railroad history, all sort of rural (duh) interests.
                              Discovery: some good, some not so.
                              History: pick and choose, sometimes it seems to be WWII TV.

                              The show Mythbusters you are missing. And we really enjoy it.
                              No longer on : Junkyard Wars
                              No longer on: Battlebots
                              Repeats of old movies: some are worth watching, some have more limited appeal.

                              Rebuilding things can fit in with viewing...in our house it just makes Mr. Shallots want more old cars to restore.

                              1. I didn't have a tv for about a decade, then I moved in with my boyfriend and he insisted on it. I was afraid I would start watching all the time, and I did - for a month or two. Now I've lost interest. It's good when I'm sick and I occasionally watch a show here or there, plus election returns (political junkie). But overall, I don't think the Food Network is very interesting. I'm not interested in food as a competition. Some of the shows that highlight food travel, street food or diners can be interesting for a little while, but generally they're pretty thin stuff, put out in mass quantities because it's cheap to make this sort of thing.

                                I do love my old Julia Child DVDs, though. That woman was seriously invested in technique and teaching, and it showed. Do you have a DVD player? That's how I kept up with the best of tv in my tv-free years. I watched some of the Sopranos (before it got too violent for my stomach), Six Feet Under, The Wire, and Buffy, every one of which was really very good. But I didn't have to watch commercials, and I could indulge my obsession in three or four days watchfests that covered whole seasons. Much more enjoyable that way, I think. I don't know if any of the Food Network stuff is available that way. If it is, maybe you could rent a couple and see what you think. But I suspect you'll find you have better things to do - like cook or eat.

                                1. Are you missing something with out cable? Yes. A fat bill every month and lousy service.
                                  I agree with who ever said the best food shows are on PBS. I sure wish they would do another season of Chef's Afield.

                                  1. Sounds like the only think you're missing is another monthly bill. If you were isolated or bored that would be one thing. Cable pales when compared to your interests and hobbies. We don't have cable and for me it's a good thing because I can waste far too much time in front of the tv given the chance. As for cooking shows, I agree that PBS fills that need. I love SImply Ming and anything Jacques Pepin.

                                    We do rent movies which I really prefer to having cable because we are making a conscious decision to sit down and watch something we've chosen.
                                    Again, nothing against cable, it's really because I think I'd watch things I care nothing about just because I'd be in "the zone". I never seem to catch FN in waiting rooms or whatever when anyone I love seeing is on so it doesn't seem that I miss anything.

                                    Cool projects and a wife you adore beat the heck out of cable tv all day everyday.

                                    1. I haven't had a TV in 3 years and I used to be a very bad TV addict.

                                      Aside from the cooking show issue you mention, my biggest problem has been the total inability of keeping up with "pop culture". I hear people talk about TV programs, ads, and personalities and I have no clue what they're talking about and I read the newspaper every single day.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Scagnetti

                                        Dan Bernsays it best:

                                        I watched TV
                                        Read the papers
                                        Listened to the radio
                                        And made all the fancy scenes
                                        And said all the right words
                                        And wore all the right clothes
                                        And knew the names of the hip people
                                        But I still felt out of touch
                                        So I stopped watching TV
                                        And reading the papers
                                        And listening to the radio
                                        And making the fancy scenes
                                        And saying the right words
                                        And wearing the right clothes
                                        And knowing the names of the hip people
                                        And I felt more out of touch than ever
                                        But I didn't care anymore

                                        1. re: Scagnetti

                                          there's always youtube if you're really feeling the loss, scagnetti!

                                          1. re: cimui

                                            I've worn YouTube out!

                                            I've watched EVERY episode on there of Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. Great show.

                                            I also got into Top Chef but then there must've been some copyright problem because all of those episodes have been removed.

                                        2. Television about food is like dancing about architecture.

                                          1. As another posted noted, you actually can watch full episodes of Top Chef online. Why don't you watch this season and judge for yourself if you can't live without it? (Although, I suspect if you've made it this far without it, you have your answer already :-)


                                            Also, a lot of shows are out on dvd, so you could get them via netflix. The only thing you would be missing then is watching along live with everyone else.

                                            I have several friends who don't have televisions, and they all would come over to my house to watch, in particular, the Sopranos and Sex and the City. But otherwise, they are perfectly happy without all the reality shows.

                                            I, on the other hand, am a reality television junky -- have been since the first season of Survivor back in 1999. I am going to be tested this fall when I go to graduate school, because I highly doubt I'm going to be able to afford a $90 a month cable bill on a graduate student stipend. Will I survive? I'll keep you posted :-)

                                            1. the primary value i see to cable is that it gives you an easy pt of connection with folks who watch the same shows you do. but there are plenty of other things to talk about, of course.

                                              from a foodie pt of view, shows like topchef do make me want to get out there and cook or eat out -- but not any more than chowhound and certain blogs do.

                                              there's added benefit to cable, but not so much that you should feel like you're missing out.

                                              1. >>My question is that am I really missing something?

                                                Not a thing.

                                                Passadumkeg, go see the 'has anyone seen this' thread. Minus the cursing, that is cable.

                                                1. Instead of watching life, you're living life.