Evil Is Semi-Homemade
It ain't pretty.
While it's true that pure evil is Semi-Homemade, Sandra-bashing is bordering on passé, it's been thoroughly covered by those far more eloquent than me, and by writing here I realize that I'm preaching to the choir. And while it's also true that her "recipes" should rightly be feared and reviled by anybody who has a love for good food (the entire nation of Spain experienced a collective shudder when her tapas episode aired), I think most of the critics who savage her concoctions miss the point. There's a larger issue here.
Most of her recipes simply expose her as somebody with no tastebuds... or conscience, take your pick. But what makes her evil is not the quality of her food, but rather that she perpetuates the age-old frustrating myth that real, delicious, fresh food from scratch is just too hard and takes too much time. Her entire schtick is predicated on the big lie that hers is the only way to make delicious, beautiful food in a short period of time. Shredding store-bought ribs, cooking up a bottled chili sauce and taco seasoning mishmash, frying frozen potato chips and assembling the whole thing with packaged cole slaw doesn't take any less time or skill than, say, roasting a few potatoes, whipping up a fresh aioli, marinating some peppers and roasting a pork tenderloin. Marinating a salmon steak in store-bought salad dressing and grilling it on a cedar plank doesn't take any less time or skill than, say, wrapping a good piece of fish in foil with a little oil and butter, some garlic, a couple of spices and some greens. Yet in both cases, there are legions of people who are resolute in their belief that the former is doable while the latter is simply beyond their ability, and Sandra Lee only feeds this belief. What she's done is taken the noble and laudable mantra that beautiful, delicious food need not be a difficult time-consuming chore, and somehow perverted and reshaped it into her own dark, twisted, pre-processed vision.
What was most troubling about my afternoon viewing, however, was the revelation that Semi-Homemade isn't some freaky interloper, but rather the standard-bearer of the new daytime Food Network. I couldn't understand why people held TV cooks like Rachel Ray and Giada De Laurentiis in such high regard until I saw the shows they were sandwiched between. In the early years, FoodTV shows sought to educate. They taught people that good food needn't be this mystical other that was unattainable by mere mortals. You learned that if you're short on time, don't make a half-assed chicken and dumplings with heat-lamp chicken and canned biscuit dough. Take even less time and make an incredibly fresh and delicious roast chicken or a simple Italian sautéed chicken instead. But where Food Network used to encourage its viewers' enthusiasm and desires, it now prefers to prey on its viewers' fears and insecurities, focusing instead on "tricks" and "shortcuts" that rarely save any real time or energy, but almost always sacrifice flavor.
I don't know anybody so food illiterate that they can't see the difference between an average Sandra Lee meal and an average Mario Batali meal... but they both took roughly 30 minutes to prepare.
Well, more for the Sandra Lee meal if you factor in your tablescape.