Wednesday, Jun 20, 2018
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Mary Bilyeu

COMMENTARY

Protect PBS, save our cooking shows

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Chef Sara Moulton puts together a French apple tart at Inverness Club in November, 2012.

The Blade/Andy Morrison
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In September, Congress passed a spending bill that carries us through Friday; a short-term resolution may be needed to prevent a government shutdown as long-term plans are resolved. PBS funding is considered to be at risk, with calls to have the station ultimately fade away.

But it is essential for so very many reasons. One of the most important ones, to me, is that PBS airs the cream of the crop of culinary-themed shows, featuring the very best cooks, bakers, and chefs.

The Food Network has essentially become the Game Show Network. There are several variations of Iron Chef: America, Showdown, and Behind the Battle and more: Cupcake Wars and Cake Wars. Beat Bobby Flay. Holiday Baking Championship. Christmas Cookie Challenge. Dessert Games. Guy’s Grocery Games. And Chopped (although I admit I have a soft spot for this frenzied free-for-all of timed competition) and Chopped Junior

These make food seem like a plaything.

Yes, the Food Network still airs Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, who shows us how to make simple but sophisticated dishes. Other than that, though, its hosts are merely personalities and celebrities. Please, don’t even get me started on my rant about the drivel, derivative recipes, and downright disgusting food that many of them offer. I already take blood pressure medication, and watching those shows just makes my head want to explode.

That station’s stars offer entertainment rather than instruction and share misinformation and poor technique rather than guiding viewers in acquiring new skills.

This is why the shows on PBS, viewed locally on WGTE, Channel 30, are vital for those who want to learn about food and cooking.

Sara Moulton is there. We often use her recipes to fill out the Peach section on Tuesdays, because they’re reliable and she’s an exceptional teacher. So is Jacques Pépin, who was such a hit when he visited Toledo two years ago for an Authors! Authors! presentation for the Toledo Lucas County Public Library. Lidia Bastianich, Pati Jinich, Vivian Howard, Ming Tsai, and Steven Raichlen are all experts in their areas of expertise: Italian, Mexican, Southern, and Asian cuisines and barbecue, respectively. And they’re on PBS, along with the beloved Julia Child.

Martha Stewart, America’s Test Kitchen, and Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street — who maintain exacting standards — are also regulars in the stellar lineup.

And PBS presents The Great British Baking Show, my favorite of them all. Yes, it’s a competition. But it’s one in which skill takes precedence over subterfuge, and talent supersedes trickery. From the judges’ critiques of contestants’ products, I learn how to improve my own baking.

So as budget negotiations continue, it’s critical to make sure that PBS’ importance is conveyed to Congress. And you can help with that mission by going to the Protect My Public Media website (protectmypublicmedia.org).

First, sign up to keep abreast of updates. The site can also facilitate calling and tweeting to your representatives about your support for PBS. Its members will look up your district and provide contact information, even offering a script for those who get a bit nervous and need some coaching.

Cathy Kamenca, television program coordinator and outreach and engagement coordinator for WGTE Public Media, says that people tend to take PBS for granted. Now is the time to shower it with love and appreciation.

Protect PBS. Safeguard my — and, I hope, our — favorite shows.

Contact Mary Bilyeu at mbilyeu@theblade.com, and follow her at facebook.com/thebladefoodpage.

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