The Food Network is many things to many people. I grew up on Saturday morning PBS cooking shows by Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Martin Yan, the Frugal Gourmet and sometimes even the Galloping Gourmet. Those were educational programs that got me reading, chopping, and cooking.
Today's Food Network programs are more entertainment focused, and less educational. We want things faster nowadays, don't we? Learning is boring. That's why Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade cooking show appeals such a wide audience. It's easy, and there's usually a cocktail involved — so it's even more fun.
Earlier this month, Sandra Lee featured a show called "Indochine Brunch". Simon Bao (see his hilarious comments) pointed me to it and you should check out the show (when it re-airs) and the recipes themselves:
What is Indochine?
Well, that's the issue that Sandra Lee's show brings up. (If you're not familiar with Lee, she's neither Chinese nor Korean.) Typically, Indochine refers to the French colonial experience in Southeast Asia, which used to be called French Indochina. Remember the 1992 film Indochine starring Catherine Deneuve? Everything seems rosy when a certain French tone is applied, no?
But Lee's menu of dumpling with special sauce, broccoli rabe with black bean sauce, Szechwan crispy beef, mango chile sorbet, and an Indochine cocktail has little to do with French Indochina. Where's the France and Southeast Asia? Without going into more detail, let's just note that broccoli rabe is an Italian green vegetable that most likely was substituted for gailan (Chinese broccoli). Regular broccoli would have been just fine.
"Indochine Brunch" mixes up history, culture, and cuisines. Many people mistakenly think that Vietnamese cooking is heavily influenced by French culinary concepts and I work hard to dispel that notion. Yes, a little French, but also a little Chinese, Indian, and Southeast Asian (Khmer, Cham, Thai, etc.).
But Lee's "Indochine Brunch" has nothing specifically to do with Southeast Asian or Vietnamese food or cooking — unless you count the use of Vietnamese chile garlic sauce in the Szechuan beef stir-fry — but rather is a mishmash representation of Asian food and cooking. As the episode description points out, this is an 'Asian-inspired' brunch.
I can only fathom that the 'Indochine Brunch' title was selected because it sounds sexy. The Food Network has used 'Indochine' to describe a banh mi like-sandwich made with a ground pork patty. Grilled pork burgers Indochine actually uses fish sauce and other seasonings to give it some Vietnamese and Southeast Asian flair. Why not call it a Vietnamese grilled pork burger or grilled pork banh mi?
Asia is huge and the cuisines are varied. We don't all look and cook the same. To lump Asian cuisines together is bad enough. In fact, I thought we'd gone beyond that a few years ago. But to supplant Asian food under a European umbrella sets us back a good 50 years.