Thursday, August 17, 2006

10 Things I Learned From...The Frugal Gourmet

The Frugal Gourmet. Oh the bittersweet memories of the Unitarian? Methodist? Minister and his cooking show that at once delighted, inspired, and entertained. When I was a child, I got home at 3:00pm, did exactly two hours of homework and then watched the PBS cooking show lineup of the Frugal Gourmet and Nathalie Dupree (that's another 10 things). He was kind of like the Mr. Rogers for foodies, gently introducing the audience to new cuisines and techniques and reveling in the power of food to build community. He ended every episode with his tagline, "I bid you peace." And let's not get strted on the scorching hot assistant Craig.

Sadly, it all came down when he was charged with sexually abusing the young men who worked for him. Talk about a let down. No matter what happened off-screen, on-screen the man was a hoot. I still remember trying to get through my math homework as fast as I could so I could watch the Frugal Gourmet.

10 Things I Learned From the Frugal Gourmet:

1. Frugality isn't about denial and aesecticism, it's about using the most of your resources. For example, the Frugal Gourmet would buy some expensive organic chicken but make sure to use all the meat and the bones for stock.

2. The saddest thing in the world is a single-serving frozen dinner. If you ever read his books he constantly bemoans the fact our society has become less communal and more compartmentalized.

3. How to poach a chicken Chinese style so that the meat is moist and tender. I did this once when I was visiting a friend in Boston, it was incredible.

4. Dim Sum means "little jewels that tug at the heart."

5. Cookbooks can be good bedtime reading. I loved how his "Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines" was put together more like a paperback than a cookbook. It was as much a history lesson and anthropological survey as it was a cookbook. Many recipes were there for historical value and not expected to be made.

6. Dude. Keep it in your pants.

7. You can teach people how to cook without being a crazy spaz case, RACHAEL!

8. Meat can be used sparingly and more as a flavoring. He was constantly talking about how much resources are used to raise a cow as opposed to growing grains and vegetables. he never said no more meat, just to reexamine our relationship with meat.

9. Native Americans thanked the animals they killed for providing the hunters and their families with food. A little gruesome but the point is to have a direct relationship with your food.

10. Hot pan. Cold oil. Food won't stick.


Washington Cube said...

You never hear him mentioned anymore, so I was surprised to see someone writing about him. Craig was so amazingly good natured when Jeff Smith would crankily snap at him. He died in 2004, definitely in the shadows from the culinary fame.

JordanBaker said...

I miss Frugal! My mom still has all of his cookbooks, and while I can't remember the name of the one where he does all the regional cuisines of America, I know in our family we always referred to it as The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Your Immigrant Grandmothers.

ScottE. said...

I don't recall too much about him. Thanks for sharing!

the other rebecca said...

Jordan, I think that's The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American, although your title is better. Frugie turned me on to cooking shows when I was a kid. I read my way through the wine cooking book when I was 10 or so. He taught us about tapas WAY before it was trendy.

Jon said...

Hot pan. Cold oil. Foods won't stick. That's what I remember most of him. Love it. The more and more I get to know the food community who are about my age, the more and more I realize that the Frug was one of the guys responsible for turning us all on to cooking, and eating.

I also remember his fascination with garlic presses... it made my dad go out and buy one.

Jal J said...

The memories. The "hot pan, cold oil" mantra goes through my brain every time I use a frying pan.

Anonymous said...

Yep, watched him religiously (pun intended) and bought the cookbooks. My memories are:
* "Hot pan, cold oil..." of course,
* The way he'd do something mildly out of the ordinary then gently chastise the viewer, "I know! I know! For heaven's sake, don't write me!"

And yes, Craig was indeed scorching hot LOL!

Bill said...

"Hot pan, cold oil: Food won't stick" was the first thing that came to mind for me, too!

But didn't somebody just debunk that? Alton Brown, or America's Test Kitchen?

Brunette said...

Ah, this brings me back. My dad and I used to watch "The Frug" on PBS on Sunday afternoons. I really think it was Jeff Smith (with an assist from Julia Child) that got my dad into cooking, rather late in life.

Screwtape said...

I remember his advice as "hot wok, cold oil, food won't stick" -- but it's good advice that has stuck with me (as it were) to this day.

So... what happened to Jeff Smith after the accusations? Not to be indelicate, but were they ever proven?