Monday, September 21, 2009

Dear Sandra Lee

I have a dirty little secret. I have a love-hate relationship with Sandra Lee. Before you run screaming from my blog, never to return, hear my case.

Why I love her: She makes cooking a lot more approachable for amateur cooks who are tired of the same ol' same ol'. Rachel Ray does it too, but I like Sandra better. She incorporates premade food in her recipes. Something I used to do in college, when money was a little tight. And I still sometimes do it. Her trick of adding vanilla extract to CoolWhip to cut the packaged sweet taste works, and I use it all the time. Her new show, Money Saving Meals is pretty interesting too. She shows you how to save money by making small changes in your grocery purchase. And I have to admit, there are places to save money that I never would have thought to look. And she does it all with a smile and a flourish. You have to love a woman who penny-pinches and manages to be elegant all at once.

She does cocktails with everything. She's no mixologist, but there's something to be said about having a drink prepared that works with the meal you're serving. The cocktails are easily the best part of her show. Everytime I watch, I wait to see what she's going to pour this time.

Why I hate her: She clearly has no concept of flavor profiles. For instance, on more than one occasion, she's used orange marmalade in a recipe but told viewers to use whatever they have on hand. "If you have strawberry jam, use that, and just change the name of the recipe." Sorry, Sandy, but just because I HAVE strawberry jam in the house, doesn't mean it's going to taste good with what I'm making. Strawberry jam and orange marmalade are distinctly different flavors, and they don't always pair with the same ingredients. She does this kind of thing all the time. It doesn't mean the recipe will be bad, but it's a gamble to change the flavor profile of something, especially if you're inexperienced at it.

Her tablescapes make me crazy. The table is always so crammed with things, I'm often left wondering where the food is supposed to go. Maybe I'm old fashioned, or maybe I'm more of a food snob than I thought, but to me, the food is supposed to set the table. If your food is as beautiful and delicious as you say, then showcase it without all the bells and whistles. Good food should speak for itself. Not to mention that the centerpieces are usually so high that cross-table conversation is impossible. A good table is one where you can see everyone seated and aren't resigned to only conversing with the people next to you.

So Sandra, I love you, doll, but you also make me insane. You keep doing what you do, and I'll keep shaking my head in a mix of awe and irritation.

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