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Better Living Through ‘Man V. Food’


 Every time I start to think I’m bored with television and am ready to chuck it altogether, something sneaks up on me and reminds me how stupid I sound. Three years ago, the best-ever one of those somethings didn’t bother sneaking up; it punched its way through my front door, sat down on the couch, and promptly refused to pay rent – not that it needed to, with all the love it brought to the table.  I speak, of course, of Man V. Food.

 For the uninitiated, Man V. Food is the single greatest baby a late-night tryst between The Food Network and the NFL could have possibly hoped for, and yet had nothing to do with.  Starring incredibly likable Adam Richman, it’s the only show that has ever made me want to take a year off of work with the sole intention of getting as fat as possible.  On purpose, I mean.

 It’s a fairly simple show – one so simple I continue to get inconsolably angry with myself weekly that I hadn’t thought of it myself.  But then I make myself a sandwich and all is forgiven.  The premise is such:  our hero Adam travels to a different city each and every week, visits two local legendary eateries and gives a glimpse into (whilst taking many tastes of) the creation of some of the dishes that make these places legendary.  Interesting enough, but act three is where it really makes the big bucks.

 In the third act, Adam visits a third establishment in whatever that week’s town is, and proceeds to essentially kill himself via whatever ‘only a complete ass would think this was a reasonably good idea’ food challenge they have to offer,  normally for the reward of a t-shirt, or getting a Polaroid picture slapped up on the wall.  That’s just gravy though (Ha!  Food joke!  I kill me!), we all know the reward is in the journey….

 And as a tip-off, the challenge is always based on one of two factors:  heat or volume.  Rarely is there a combo of both, and that’s probably for the best, as I’m positive I’ve seen Richman have a heart attack or a stroke on no less than five different occasions.  But he’s a warrior, and so he soldiers on.  (Spoiler:  AR is usually lights-out on heat-related challenges, but hits about .500 on volume-based obstacles.  6 lbs seems to generally be his breaking point, mostly depending on the percentage the ‘potato-based-side’ takes up in the total mass.)

There’s several reasons why I find this so absolutely captivating, but let’s focus on the primary two for brevity’s sake.

1) Adam Richman is the best host ever:  He’s not overly cool.  He’s not overly dork.  He’s a nice blend of the two, maybe a little more to the dork side.  AR has a great collection of novelty t-shirts and cool sunglasses.   Often, his hair looks like maybe a mongoose got a little loose in there.  He’s worked most every job in a lot of different restaurants, yet speaks proudly of exactly none of those experiences.    Finally, he’s chubby, not in a ‘look at that butter tub’ kind of way, but in a manner that makes you sometimes worry he’s going to have to super-size some of those t-shirts soon and then the next week, it looks like he might be getting into shape, but that never lasts.

 In short, he is I, and I am he.  I never thought I’d find a true doppelgänger of spirit on the teevee until the day he appeared.

2) These are all doable.  Maybe not in stature or with an intolerable stomach lining,  but most every challenge seems like a completely valid idea I may have had one night, only these people have acted on said idea and are now making a goddamn profit off of it.  OF COURSE people are going to buy a glazed donut the size of their head by the millions!  The only real question is ‘why hasn’t this always been around?’

 It’s like this:  I can’t get into normal culinary shows for more than a minute or two.  The first lot of them are locally produced numbers; usually featuring some likable-enough former ‘human interest’ reporter from the local network affiliate, or a couple local yahoos who kept bothering the program manager at bars about how good they could grill until he just gave up and gave them a Sunday morning slot.  The simple fact is, most of the things featured on these shows ARE something I’ve thought of and done, so who cares?  That, and every third recipe includes the phrase ‘and now just add a can of cream of mushroom soup’, and the dessert is always a crisp of some kind.  Snooze.

The other end of the cooking show spectrum is the high-end stuff – you know, why The Food Network exists.  Thing is, while the recipes are generally interesting and look fantastic, they just aren’t going to be happening.  That’s fine that Jamie Oliver is bringing his punk-sensibilities and devil-may-care attitude towards pork to the States, but I have neither the time nor the willpower to put those dishes together, even if I was getting paid.  And this is a universal truth.  Sure there’s many that claim ‘this couldn’t be easier to make’,  and then lead into the ‘you just need to start with salt, water, and a whole chicken’….but they all end the same way: with a bunch of shit I don’t have, nor have any idea where to get, and those items are usually fundamental to the final product not looking and tasting like a meatloaf you made without the assistance of eyesight, smell or a working pair of hands. ‘Finally, you just need to puree these four Indonesian Parsnips with the Elk Butter and Wasp Pollen, and season liberally with Essence of Parisian Dog Wang’.  What?  You just wasted twenty-three of my minutes!  You go to hell. 

Just look at this goddamn thing. Awesome.

Man V. Food does none of this bullshit.  Man V. Food answers real questions, for people who like real food, and don’t give a whit about dying young. You say you can’t decide between a grilled cheese sandwich or a bacon cheeseburger?  Then don’t, jerk.  Slap two of the former around the latter and call it the Double-Bypass.  You say you have 10 burgers and four buns and don’t know what to do?  Throw away the other three buns obviously, idiot.

 I get this train of thought.  In fact, I’ve been riding on it my whole adult life….don’t you think it’s time you got on board?  Grab that ring, kid!  You only live once, so its high time you stop trying so hard, and start living.  Especially since this week, Adam is going to Cleveland, OH to eat a grilled cheese sandwich that weighs five pounds and has fourteen different kinds of cheese on it.  It’s the kind of event you’re going to want to tell your grandchildren about, so start making memories before life completely passes you by.

 Man V.  Food airs on The Travel Channel.  Seasons One and Two are available on DVD and on Instant Watch.  Hell, they’re still available on The Travel Channel for that matter, it’s not like they have much else going on.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. meathorse permalink
    2010/06/23 7:22 am

    Damnit! I thought he said Wasp Butter and Elk Pollen. No wonder this tastes like an ass.
    Also, my new favorite recipe is “Godzilla Fries”. That one’s extra easy. Only two ingredients.

  2. 2010/06/23 7:44 pm

    Never seen this show before, but I just watched the Chicago episode, from season one. Win! I understand the appeal of this show, Matt. As I enter my forties, I am slowly accepting, and embracing my development into a lard-ass; Adam Richman’s zany program makes it all the more fun. Next time I’m in Cleveland, I vow to attempt the “5-lb. grilled cheese challenge at Melt Bar & Grilled”. I believe that episode debuts in about 80 minutes. I wish they would have asked me about a pizza place other that Gino’s East, though. Typical, cliched, and not without merits, but there’s so much more here that deserves attention: perhaps a future column idea.

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