In my last post, I spoke about where to splurge on food online. Over the top food finds are great for the holidays, but the reality of our current economic situation may mean beans and franks. In fact, the Wall Street Journal ran an article on 12/11 about a proposed bailout for the producers of Italy's famed Parmigiano Reggiano. If that is not a salient indicator of our economy, then just take a look t the portion sizes next time you go out to eat. So how is a foodie supposed to get their fix? For us, it was cutting the cord; ditching cable TV not only saved us a heap of dough but it helped us discover some foodie programing that we may not have found otherwise. Our modest cable package- basic digital cable, HBO, and the set to box rental, was pushing skywards of $130.00USD per month. I suspect that is not an unfamiliar figure to many American households. However, when we really looked at the amount of TV we were watching we discovered that the few shows we did watch came on less than 10% of the channels we were paying for; that is a stat what will make you reach for the cable cutters. Giving up The Bass Fishing Network was an easy choice for us. But leaving some of our favorite food shows was a bit of a challenge. Pardon the metaphor, but this is one time where we can have our cake and eat it too.
The first step is admitting you have a problem - the problem is not how much TV you watch, in fact this probably makes more sense if you are a full fledged TV addict. The problem you have to admit is that paying $100 per month that's $1,200 per year...that's like 20 trips to Mammma'Zu. Once you have come to grips with the financial grip that cable TV has on your food budget (because after all, its all about bringing home the bacon), you can start thinking about alternatives. In our case we solved our need by combining online services and free HD broadcasts.
That's right, free, as in beer. Each of the major networks, ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC have been required to broadcast their signal in pristine high definition. All you need to take advantage is a pair of rabbit ears and the right equipment. Chances are, if you have a new HDTV it will have the electronic guts to do the job. If not, you can get an OTA (over the air) tuner for less than a dinner on the town. To truly take advantage of all that the free OTA world has to offer, consider a TiVo - with a TiVo you can scour the airwaves for your favorite food programs and record them for viewing when it works for you.
Taking advantage of all that free HD goodness will get you pretty far, particularly if you are a fan of prime time TV. But if you hanker for the globe trotting, tripe eating, tipsy style of the adventure foodies then hope is not lost. The internet has become the go-to place for video on demand; forget what you knew about that star-shaped button on your cable box's remote, its all about IPTV. Internet TV, IPTV, downloadable media, call it what you like, the concept is the same. iPod Owners will already be familiar with Apple's iTunes Store where you can download songs for $0.99 a pop. But its not just music; the iTunes store is also packed with foodie goodness from the Food Network, Travel Channel, TLC and more. You can buy shows for $1.99 each or purchase a whole season of Top Chef for $30.00. While you may only have one option for a cable company, your choices for online content are wide open. Amazon has gotten into the game with their Unboxed Video On Demand Service. Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern is $1.99 for an episode or $19.99 for the whole second season.
If you are truly reveling in the savings from the kicking your cable box to the curb, you can still get content for free online. Hulu.com offers free (and legal!) shows from NBC Universal. You can watch content from most of the NBC networks in a quality that ranges from near DVD to HD. Hulu has full shows for of its options (Top Chef for instance) and clips for other shows (Food Network). The free streaming goodness does not end there. If you are a Netflix Subscriber, you do not have to wait for them to ship your next disc, there is a good chance you can play it online with their free (to subscribers) streaming service. Queue up the last few seasons of Good Eats and get your food nerd on.
The following are some of my favorite foodie shows from 2008 - none of wich require a cable tv bill
Spain... On the Road again This has to be the food show find of the year. Mario Batali, Mark Bittman, Gweneth Paltro and Claudia eat and drink their way across Spain. Admittedly the show has a special place in my heart since they highlight some of the places we discovered on our own tour of the Iberian Peninsula. Spain... On the Road Again is free to record from PBS, $1.99 or iTunes
Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern Because one man's slaughter room scraps are another's three star meal. Bizarre Foods $1.99 on Amazon
Three Sheets The Mojo network is sadly gone, but Zane's legacy lives on. This man is paid to travel the world and go drinking, 'nuff said. Its free on Hulu.com
Feasting On Aslphalt Alton Brown, of Good Eats fame, takes to the American highway on his motorcycle for everything from soul food to fried pork brain sandwiches. Stream it on Netflix.
America's Test Kitchen Its free, its on PBS, and its the cooking show your grandmother would make, if she was an anal-retentive bald man from Vermont. Record it on PBS
Now its your turn - What are your favorite food shows and where do you find them? Leave a comment or drop me a line on Twitter.