Thursday, August 27, 2009

Best Food Network Programs

I like a lot of shows on the Food Network. Even for someone who does not know much about cooking, it provides lots of shows for those who enjoy learning about food. I'm not really into the ones where it is just someone cooking for 30 minutes, but many shows will integrate travel or some sort of competition or reality programming. The network has quite a stable of entertaining personalities. Two of my favorites are Guy Fieri from Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, and Duff Goldman from Ace of Cakes. The first show features chef and restaurant owner Guy Fieri as he travels the country visiting the most unique mom and pop eateries. Fieri was the winner of the reality show The Next Food Network Star a couple years ago. He also has a cooking show called Guy's Big Bite. He is obviously someone who is passionate about food, but he also is a gregarious, likeable person who brings a special energy to his show. Duff Goldman is a chef who started his own bakery, Charm City Cakes in Baltimore. He ended up getting a Food Network show called Ace of Cakes where we see the day to day operations of his bakery as he and his staff make elaborate cakes. Duff is the star, but his co-workers are also an interesting cast of characters. The humor of Duff, and the challenge of meeting deadlines and pleasing the customers makes it a fun show.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Food for Thought from an Eye-Opening Documentary

I have written on this blog in the past about documentaries such as No End in Sight, the many fine films of Michael Moore, and Super Size Me. I like films like these since they are thought provoking and they tackle important issues. They actually make you think, and therefore they do not attract mass audiences like some of the lowest common denominator drivel that ends up making hundreds of millions of dollars. If you see a documentary in a theatre, chances are it will have many empty seats, but those who are there are impacted. The latest documentary I have seen is called Food Inc. This exposes the dirty little secrets that the industry giants who fill our stomachs do not want you to know. Only a few huge conglomerates control what we buy in supermarkets. The movie looks at how agriculture has changed and how farmers are under pressure to deliver more product. Farming requires long hours, low pay and high debt accumulation, so the farmers must do all they can to maximize their yields. Food Inc. also looks at the political system and how the giants of the food industry have so much power. It follows a woman to Capitol Hill as she lobbies for more food regulations. Her son died from eating a hamburger tainted with e. coli. There are fewer inspections of food processing plants, and this leads to more diseases. It talks about how the unhealthy food is the cheapest, and how it is expensive to eat right. Fast food is quick and easy, and especially prevalent in poor neighborhoods where obesity and related health problems are an epidemic. The film takes a look at how slaughterhouses are employing illegal aliens to work in dangerous positions where they are exploited. It talked about organic foods, and how even Wal Mart has started selling organic food due to the rising demand. Watching documentaries which paint a bleak picture of society often make us feel powerless, but at the end of Food Inc. there was advice on how we can all have some power. All of us "vote" with our wallets, and when we buy food we are telling the food manufacturers that we want more of the same. We can have power to see more healthy foods if we support restaurants, farmers markets and supermarkets who sell organic, locally grown, unprocessed, healthy food.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Nintendo's Wii System is a Groundbreaking Console

I have always loved video games, ever since the early 1980s when video arcades were thriving. Many of those arcades are gone, largely due to the popularity of home gaming systems. The Atari 2600 in the 1980s made it so people could stay home and play games rather than plugging quarters into a machine. I enjoyed my system, and spent countless hours playing games like Pac Man, Pole Position and Pitfall. Those games seem so primitive in comparison to the games we play today, but back then they were revolutionary. The Atari consoles led to gaming machines like the Nintendo 64, the Sony Playstation and the X-Box. Of course computer gaming was popular on the Commodore 64 and the Amiga, and on today's PCs. Nintendo put out the Game Cube and the DS, which allowed for portable gaming. Sony released the Playstation 2 and the portable PSP, and then we came to the current generation of gaming consoles. Sony has the Playstation 3, Microsoft has the X-Box 360 and Nintendo has the Wii. The Playstation 3 can play Blu Ray DVD discs, and all 3 of the current consoles can interface with the web if you have an internet connection that you can integrate. I bought a Wii last week, and there are a couple of things that make it groundbreaking. First, the Wii games are not played just by males of a certain age. Women as well as the elderly are finding that they enjoy games on the Wii. Second, the Wii has games where you actually move around and get some exercise. Video gamers have often been viewed as overweight men who are sedentary and play their games for hours on end. With the Wii, you can do some bowling, play tennis, baseball, do some boxing, and more. The controller's movements are picked up wirelessly by a sensor on the TV. If you move your hands, the player on the screen moves their hands. With the Wii Fit, it comes with a board you stand on and that picks up your movements. You can work on balance, you can do strength training exercises, aerobics, or yoga while in your living room. You can go for a jog on a virtual island, and you don't have to deal with rain, snow, hot or cold weather like you would if you were outside. The Wii Fit lets you set specific fitness goals for yourself. It will weigh you, and chart your progress. It really is amazing how far home video game systems have come in the past 25 years. With the current obesity epidemic in our country, I think that the Wii has come along at just the right time.