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TV dinners 

It is just like Christmas morning the day the satellite man comes to install the dish at my house and with it, the Food Network. Beside myself with excitement, all channel surfing comes to a screeching halt as I set up camp in front of the tube, watching the FN until my brain is saturated with images of such culinary luminaries as Christine Cushing, Rob Feenie and Michael Smith.

Times have changed since the early days of culinary television, when Julia Child demystified French cooking for the American housewife, and the Galloping Gourmet Graham Kerr smacked his lips, rolled his eyes and sipped his wine with ardent fervor.

No more watching one-camera live shots of cooks preparing a meal from start to finish; FN shows run the gamut from reality makeover-style to behind-the-scenes glimpses of restaurant openings and, yes, actual shows about cooking.

After some serious viewing, I’ve started picking favourites. I adore Gordon Ramsay, the British chef featured in a recent American elimination-style program called Hell’s Kitchen. Much more entertaining is Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, where Ramsay is called in by desperate restaurateurs who rely on him to turn their faltering operations around in one week—gritty, real, and not sensational.

I also dearly love the Surreal Gourmet (Bob Blumer). His cookbooks reflect his quirky, no-boundaries style: he drives around the country in a giant Toastermobile whipping up food that looks, well, surreal, but is easily manageable by home cooks with the most basic of skills. And he’s cute! And funny!

And no network’s complete without a makeover show these days; in this case it’s Kitchen Accomplished. Three days, and your home kitchen is renovated with astounding results. Pick me! Pick me!

Halifax’s first celebrity chef, Michael Smith, is having a great run on FN as well. The successful “Inn Chef” has two new programs, the engaging Chef at Large and Chef at Home, shot in his rural PEI home.

Ah, The Food Network. Addictive as chocolate, and as much a staple on my television as garlic and onions are in my kitchen.

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