Waffles and Mochi, Stanley Tucci, and The Great British Baking Show: Is This the Golden Age of Comfort Food TV?

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It wasn’t always like this. In the mid-aughts, if you couldn’t stand the heat, you had to stop watching the kitchen. Shows like Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares focused on toxic, competitive culinary environments. Bleeped-out expletives were blurted out a mile a minute. There was yelling, towel throwing, quitting, and, well, an alarming amount of health-code violations. (Multiple episodes of Kitchen Nightmares involved cockroaches.) Even the most innocuous concepts—who can make the best cupcakes?—took on an aggressive tone: Cupcake Wars.

Yet, in this pandemic age, those shows are slowly being inched out of the culinary canon. Instead, we’re flocking to programs that nurture our inner chef while we explore home cooking ourselves. For much of 2020 (and now 2021), we passed the time by experimenting, to varying degrees of success, in our own kitchens. We watched over sourdough starter. We stress-baked banana bread. We tried out the #fetapasta from Tiktok. Obviously, most of our attempts were imperfect ones. But they brought us joy (or at least a brief respite from boredom) nonetheless.

So it is any surprise that we don’t want to watch a show where harsh judgement falls upon those who fail to meet high expectations—as we, ourselves, just try our best? Instead, we want to watch everyone else fumble around too. If they succeed, amazing. If they don’t? Well, it’s not the end of the world. And we would know, as it currently feels like we are living through it. When everything in our life feels like such high stakes, it’s a relief to immerse ourselves in the low.

Now, go forth and watch Stanley Tucci, or Samrin Nosrat, cook pasta al dente on Netflix. And, if you’re so inspired to DIY, the latter shared her recipe from Waffles and Mochi:

Pasta With Cherry Tomato “Candy”

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 6 hours (mostly inactive!)

Ingredients:

2 pints (800 grams) cherry tomatoes, stems removed

1⁄4 cup (60 milliliters) extra virgin olive oil, divided

1⁄2 teaspoon sugar

Fine sea salt

1 pound (450 grams) short pasta, such as penne, farfalle, rigatoni, or orecchiette

3 ounces (85 grams) freshly grated Parmesan, to yield about 1 cup grated (look for Reggiano from Italy — it’s extra delicious!)



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