Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Top 6 Epic TV Shows Relating to Food

I’ve always known food had a hold on my life. From the moment I wake up to the time I sleep I seem to be in a suspended state between meals. This would indicate meals are the most important part of my life and everything else, consequently, happens around them

Think about your life. We must eat to survive; it’s as simple as that. Luckily in the first world for the most part, this does not seem to be an issue. In fact we as a modern society seem to be struggling with the reverse - excess.

Then think about those poor people in the third world who don’t have the luxuries we have, or even those living in a lower socio-economic bracket to us, living on or just below the poverty line.

The point is if we’re not thinking about what we’re going to eat; then we’re left with the alternative which is to think about what we don’t have to eat. Either way we’re consumed by food, amongst other things. For us couch potatoes out there, there is even a multitude of television shows and channels exclusively dedicated to our obsession with food.

I’ll be the first to admit there have been many times, especially during this winter, where I should drop the fork, croissant or glass of wine, get off the couch and got for a walk instead. But before I do, I compiled a list of some my favourite television shows which, although perhaps not obvious at first glance, if you take notice, you will also see that these too are centered on our shared obsession of food. These shows not only have food and drink scenes in them; they also explicitly demonstrate the culture surrounding food and drink in our modern day society.

You may ask yourself “why (only) six”? Five is too limiting and six is not as cumbersome as ten. It’s a nice even, single-digit number.

Top 6 Epic TV Shows Relating to Food
  1. Seinfeld
  2. The Sopranos
  3. Friends
  4. Entourage
  5. True Blood
  6. Mad Men

Seinfeld demonstrates that for a show about nothing, food really is something important and at the centre of our lives. Monk's Cafe is the stage where the crew meet up to eat and spend a lot of their time. Outside of that think Soup Nazi; the mutton Jerry stuffed in the table napkins; George’s boss Mr Steinbrenner and his obsession with calzone; Elaine’s idea of selling muffin tops; the pez dispenser; the marble rye incident; Babu’s failing restaurant; the junior mint and the operation; Kramer getting banned from his local fruit market; the sexual power of mango; the big salad; the falsified non-fat frozen yogurt; the etiquette of dinner parties (wine vs Pepsi); Kramer’s wine appreciation; Jerry’s love of the black and white cookie; and the chocolate babka. 
The most mundane in life is elevated to something simultaneously significant, ludicrous and hilarious. “These pretzels are making me thirsty!”

Image sourced from ijk...s

The Sopranos
Tony Soprano loves his food and drink. All night benders; family dinners and functions; mob meetings at restaurants; Satriale’s pork sandwich; breaking bread at Artie Bucco’s Vesuvio; and reheating Carmella’s zini after he gets home from his mob activities. 

Image sourced from Changing Nature of the American Family, photographed by Annie Leibowitz.

Who can forget some of the memorable moments in the show that happen over a meal? Janice murders her fiancé Richie when he sits down to dinner; Tony’s mistress throws a tantrum and a steak at him (8:30mins into video); and Ralph Cifaretto is strangled by Tony in the middle of breakfast preparation.

The final scene of the series even takes place in a diner, where Tony and his immediate family meet up for dinner and dig into a basket of onion rings.

There’s even a cookbook dedicated to the show compiled by the show’s chef character Artie: The Sopranos Family Cookbook: As Compiled by Artie Bucco.

Where to begin? Firstly, Monica is a chef. The series is predominantly set in two locations: Monica’s apartment and the coffee house Central Perk downstairs. Monica’s apartment has an open plan living area which centers on the kitchen and kitchen table, where the friends drop by pretty much any time of the day. The coffee shop has what seems to be a reserved couch area for the gang to congregate at. If Monica is not cooking and feeding everyone, then they’re at the coffee shop drinking coffee and eating muffins. Sporadically, on special occasions such as dates or the odd birthday you see the gang head out to a fancy restaurant.

Image sourced from The Telegraph

The list is endless, but here are some highlights:
  • There’s the long line of Thanksgiving Day feasts, two in particular which stand out.  There’s one where Joey commits to eating a whole turkey and another where Rachel makes a traditional Sheppard’s Pie/Trifle that tastes like feet.
  • Monica, in her constant campaign to be liked by others, decides to make candy for the neighbours. The popularity and demand grows so high, that people start lining out her door and even Joey buys into the mob mentality.
  • Ross finds out about Joey and Rachel getting together and invites them over to his house for fajitas. In his despair, Ross ends up drinking a whole jug of margaritas and passes out on the couch.
  • Monica and Joey go to a cooking class where she pretends it’s her first time cooking, so she can go straight to the top of the class.
  • There’s also the one where Monica tries to desperately replicate Phoebe’s grandmother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe.
  • Joey never shares food. In one occasion, his date takes fries off his plate. When she goes to the bathroom Joey polishes off her dessert. She comes back, chocolate staining his face and he claims “I’m not even sorry.”!
  • Last but not least, we can’t overlook Joey’s obsession with sandwiches. His sister even brings him a meatball sandwich as a buffer when she announces she’s pregnant.

If Ari is not taking Eric to Koi to verbally abuse him, the boys are having breakfast and scoping out the chicks at Urth Caffé. Take your pick from Hollywood power lunches, dinner dates, hitting up the children’s BBQ area at a bat mitzvah, boozing it up in the VIP area of a club or a pool party. Most important of all they have Johnny Drama who’s role in the family is the cook. He’s obsessed with nutrition, fitness and providing his baby bro Vincent with the right foods to give him the energy and vitality he needs to be one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.

Image sourced from We Eat Films

True Blood
This show’s premise is that vampires walk the earth and are part of mainstream society. They survive by drinking Trueblood, the synthetic blood drink developed by the Japanese in order to feed the world’s vampire population. Of course there is always the alternative of people as food; human blood bags walking around just ripe for the picking.

There’s Merlotte’s Bar & Grill and Fangtasia (a vampire bar) where a lot of the action takes place.

Image sourced from US Weekly
One of the highlights is definitely Lafayette, Merlotte’s eccentric, gay, short order cook that injects some glitz and glamour into redneckville.

This week Amazon sent me a list of books I might like including True Blood: Eats, Drinks, andBites from Bon Temps. I’m putting that on my Christmas wish list.

Mad Men
You’re probably scratching your head. Don’t. This one is about drinking, beverages. You’re now probably thinking “but drink is not food”. Don’t split hairs. Food and drink are related; we orally consume and require both for survival (water anyway).

Image sourced from The Guardian

Don Draper and his cronies crack open the whisky and vodka bottles more often than people drink water. Difficult conversation? Pour a drink. Strategy planning session with the colleagues? Pour another one. Celebration? Go on a bender. Rough time at home the night before? Pour yourself a morning alcoholic pick-me-up. Any excuse or no excuse at all, these advertising suits are well accustomed to a stiff drink or nine. And make that a double, neat.


  1. Great list! I have watched and loved all of these shows bar The Sopranos (I think I was overseas when it first hit and I just missed it). I have a Sookie Stackhouse companion book with some recipes in it. I haven't yet tried anything but perhaps I should with the finale coming up in a few days! :)

  2. Thanks NQN! If you can cope with the violence, The Sopanos is a great show, very well done. It's one of my all time favourites. I'll be watching the True Blood final tonight, I'm so excited! Looking forward to seeing if you whip up any of the recipes from the Sookie book. Enjoy!

  3. Some great shows listed Angela. There was also the pasta prima vera and Poppy's pizza that come to mind in Seinfeld. As for the Sopranos, well, how can you go past it? Best TV show of all time. All we need is some food connection to Game of Thrones to complete the list... Keep up the good blogging Angela!

    1. Hey Nick, thanks for the comment and the support. I love Game of Thrones. If I do a list of shows relating just to drinking - it would be top of the list with all the wine they consume!