In the past few weeks tragedy has befallen our house, and April and I have yet to recover.
At home, we’ve subscribed to a broadband cable service that pipes in programming from Taiwan. As with all things in China, I’m not sure how legal this service is, but for many expats paying a few thousand RMB a year for a similar cable box or a satellite dish is the only way to get programming from their home country. The company we’re paying is a third party that either does or does not have a formal agreement with the cable provider in Taiwan, so from all appearances it looks like they have no real say over the shows and channels that make up that package.
Anyway, for over a year since we started paying for this service, basically the only channel we ever watched was Food Network Asia. Essentially a food porn channel for the two of us, I loved the shows that documented unbelievably delicious food from back home that made me question my decision to live in Asia. April liked re-runs of a show called Unwrapped, which ran on the US Food Network in the middle of the last decade, and which gave us behind the scenes access to the factories of many popular brands. Also, Alton Brown and Ina Garten.
The Food Network Asia was comfortable in its own skin as the ugly half-sister of the US Food Network. In addition to Unwrapped, most of its other shows were also re-runs. But food porn is timeless, and it was a comforting (albeit hunger-inducing) bedtime story right before sleep.
Then one day last month we were horrified to discover that our favorite channel had been replaced by an illegitimate, bastardized poseur called the Asian Food Channel. Instead of Alton and Ina and Giada, our television was now filled with aliens from a foreign food land, instructing us in thick Malaysian or Singaporean accents on how to make Indonesian dishes that I have no interest in learning. Food Network gave us American comfort food drenched in cheese and grease. This ungodly excuse for a replacement now gives us Martin Yan doing his shtick in the rice paddies of Malaysia and making staid, 90’s era dishes. We loved Iron Chef and Chopped because they showed us professionally trained chefs doing their craft. AFC has a 25 year old kid named Donal Skehan who has never been formally trained but now has his own cooking show, which is so elementary and basic that when I first came across his show Kitchen Hero was waiting for stuffed puppets to appear and sing along in the background.
As my friend Viv, whose cable box succumbed to the same food channel apocalypse, beautifully put it: “AFC only has pussy shows.”
We never watch AFC anymore. We haven’t been able to replace it with anything else, so there’s this big gaping hole in our lives. Being an expat in China means that I don’t have many options. I could find another 3rd party company that may carry a bundle of channels that still has Food Network, but I paid a hefty renewal fee a few months ago for my current services and am stuck with it for the time being.
I suppose if there’s anyone out there who still has our favorite channel…maybe you could invite us over every now and then? We can bring homemade salsa that we learned how to make from watching Alton Brown!