I’ve Never Tried Fish Sauce but I Know I Don’t like It

“How do you know you don’t like it if you’ve never tried it?”

That is the question that millions of parents have asked to millions of finicky children. I have posed the same question to my children many times, my daughter in particular. The other day, my daughter, who likes both chicken and cheese, refused to try my fantastic homemade chicken quesadillas. I know that if she would have just taken the tiniest little bite that she would have loved them, but she somehow convinced herself that they were disgusting. It is futile to attempt to explain to a 4 year old that she has no way of knowing whether she likes something without ever tasting it.

I, on the other hand, at 38 years of age have the experience and knowledge that allows me to know that I won’t like something without ever having tasted it. Take fish sauce for example. Fish sauce is made by fermenting raw fish in a barrel with some salt. I often eat fish and enjoy it, but I am not what you would call a seafood lover. Generally I like fresh fish, cooked with a few herbs or some seasoning. I don’t like the smell of fish that has been lying around for a while. Given that I don’t like fish that has been sitting around for a while, I know that I definitely would not like raw fish that was crammed in a barrel and left out in the hot sun to ferment for a month.

My favourite chef, Michael Smith, likes using fish sauce in some of his recipes. He says even though it sounds odd, that I should trust him; fish sauce adds lots of “savoury flavour”. I love almost every recipe that I have seen on his shows, but in this case I trust my own instincts more than I trust Michael Smith. I have never tried fish sauce and I have absolutely no intensions of ever doing so. I do know I don’t like some things even if I have never tried them.

What Happened to the Food Network?

Am I the only one who has noticed a sharp deterioration at the Food Network in Canada? When I first subscribed to the show, there were all kinds of useful and enjoyable shows with chefs like Jamie Oliver and Michael Smith explaining how an average home cook can prepare a simple and tasty meal. Recently though,  the channel has been showing nothing but reality competition shows like Chopped, Chopped Canada, Cutthroat Kitchen, an endless succession of Guy Fierri shows, and something called ‘You gotta eat here”, which has the feel of paid programming dressed up as a TV show.

I generally dislike reality TV cooking shows. When I cook, I am generally not doing so with someone yelling at me or telling me I have to make a main course in 20 minutes using only green jello powder, veal, and mangos. I want someone to show me how to cook something that is delicious yet not overly complicated and perhaps provide a few helpful tips. For some reason, I appear to be in the minority. Most people who subscribe to cooking channels apparently just want to watch strangers compete to prepare meals under extremely stressful conditions. While I don’t get to watch the American version of the Food Network, it is obvious that the same obsession with reality completion shows exists south of the border.

For me, these shows represent the complete opposite of everything I enjoy about cooking. For me, cooking is something that is relaxing. I like experimenting, finding a way to use up some leftovers, and getting my young children to help out with the pouring and the stirring. Watching people frantically scamper around madly trying to throw together a meal with randomly selected ingredients make cooking look like a traumatic experience.

I would be fine with all of these reality shows if the Food Network still aired Chef Michael’s Kitchen. Chef Michael’s Kitchen was the best cooking show I have ever watched. Most people in the US and the UK have never heard of him, but his show had the practicality of Jamie Oliver but with a much more relaxed pace. His show is still listed on the Food Network’s show, but there hasn’t been a new episode since 2013. He does still appear occasionally as one of the celebrity judges on one of the reality shows.

I like to eat and I like to cook. The reason I watch cooking and food related shows is because I want to eat better and cook better. I would have thought that I would have been representative of the target market for a network totally focused on food, but it appears I am mistaken.