July 14, 2024


Than a Food Fitter

How YouTube cooking channels remind a writer of their late mother [Unscripted] | Entertainment

4 min read

I was my mom’s greatest love, but depending on the day — and, maybe how much I got on her nerves — cooking was a close second.

Some of my most vivid childhood memories come from spending time with my mom in the kitchen while she tried her hand at several recipes, new and old.

When she wasn’t in the kitchen, she could often be found on the couch, sitting criss-cross-applesauce with a notebook in her lap while she watched reruns by her favorite Food Network cooking stars. We didn’t have access to the internet, so she watched cooking shows and wrote down each recipe by hand.

Ina Garten, Rachel Ray and Sandra Lee could have been members of our family with how much we talked about them.

Her love of cooking never faltered, even as she grew too weak to cook for herself. She was a nurse until she was disabled, but in another life, I’d like to think she’d be a world-renowned chef.

In the last year of my mom’s life, my Saturday mornings were spent in a sterile dialysis pod. The nurses loved her because she was the type of person who loved people with her entire heart.

I’m sure the occasional homemade treats were bargaining chips in her favor, too.

Every Saturday morning, she sat with a notebook in her lap, a TV on a swinging arm just inches from her face. Even on the particularly bad days, she still would watch the Food Network and try to glean any new tips and tricks she could from it.

It has been nearly seven years since she died, and I’m still thinking of dishes she made that I never got the recipes for. I recently found one of her recipe binders, though, which sparked many tears. I plan to cook my way through it.

I don’t love cooking as much as my mom did, though cooking has become somewhat of a security blanket. I’ll make her favorite recipes on important dates, or when I need a reminder that she’s still with me in spirit.

And lately, I have been watching a lot of cooking shows on YouTube.

The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, reminds me of my mom, and her recipes would be right up my mom’s alley.

My mom would have loved Drummond’s floral-themed cookware empire, and Drummond’s short, digestible YouTube videos would likely have been my mom’s ultimate quarantine binge.

It has been neat to see the shift from produced Food Network shows to still polished, but much less formal YouTube cooking shows, however.

One of my latest obsessions is Joshua Weissman, an early 20-something YouTuber with world-class knowledge of food and all things tasty. His channel has everything from how to prepare the perfect cooking stock and making cheap, but high-end recipes, to taking a recipe from a popular restaurant and making it better at home.

Weissman has the nonsensical and quirky humor that defines Generation Z, the generation born between 1997 and 2012. It annoys my partner to no end, but I find it charming.

Binging with Babish is a cooking channel that makes dishes seen in television and movies, like the famous Krabby Patty from Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants.” The channel also features a series on how to make staple meals, like lasagna or falafel. It appeals to my media-loving side and my need for basic food preparation skills.

YouTube lets cooking shows have their fun sides, too, which makes it both a learning experience and a means of entertainment.

The channel You Suck At Cooking features an “anonymous” host who makes recipes but with nonsensical styles of video editing and has a silly, informal tone. Sometimes he’ll create quirky, endearing songs about his recipe. He has not revealed his name or face on the channel.

Ordinary Sausage has been a guilty pleasure lately, too. It features a man who makes sausages out of random ingredients or meals, like a sardine sausage or a Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme sausage.

I can’t say whether my mom would love these shows, but I can say that when I watch them, I feel closer to her.

I may not be sitting on the couch with a binder in my lap, but I am ever-learning and growing as a cook by watching these shows.

And sometimes, it feels like she’s right next to me, watching intently.

Mickayla Miller is a site producer for LNP|LancasterOnline. “Unscripted” is a weekly entertainment column produced by a rotating team of writers.

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