Maybe it’s because she’s not doing any harm. Maybe it’s because, after a 9-hour Freaks and Geeks marathon, I’m tired of seeing people get picked on. Or maybe it’s because there are other public figures out there far more worthy of criticism. But seriously, can we all stop picking on Sandra Lee for a little while?

It seems as though every foodie in America uses Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee as an outlet for their grievances. Just read the comments under one of her Youtube videos and you’ll see what I mean. People hate this woman. And for what? Because she bought some prepackaged ingredients and assembled them on TV? Please.

According to the New York Times, Sandra Lee:

“…has produced two books in which she encourages a dislike for cooking, and gives people an excuse for feeding themselves and their families mediocre food filled with preservatives”.

When Serious Eats tore apart her “Hanukkah cake” video, reader comments followed in suit.

Am I the only one here that thinks buying food encased in plastic does not signal a hatred of the slow food movement, or that including technically non-kosher marshmallows in a cake to celebrate a Jewish holiday does not make one a bigot?

Sure, her assembly-based cooking techniques roughly equal those of a five-year-old. Sure, she has zero regard for other cultures. Sure, she regularly uses the word “tablescape.” I’m not here to defend any of these actions.

I only want to point out that while Sandra Lee may be ignorant and unskilled, she is not a bad person. And although esteemed chefs scoff at the factory-quality “meals” she cranks out, the accessibility and simplicity of her ingredients may encourage busy mothers to actually cook at home – a better option than, say, Domino’s.

In the end, I’m going to side with this guy:

This woman is not trying to destroy our cooking culture, she’s just trying to make us some cute little cupcakes. So let’s just just step back, take a breath, and leave Sandra Lee alone for a little while.

…right after we watch this:

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My name is Sam and all I care about is food.

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8 Responses

  1. DAVE ID

    No dude, this is a “There is no excuse” for freaking out over non chopped shrooms. She’s the trailer park trash of the foodie world.

  2. Mike

    Really? Mel Gibson is your choice for someone who should be picked on? I figured you could come up with something more witty and entertaining that. At least say Guy Fieri.

  3. Eick

    I made fish tacos a couple months ago and didn’t realize until afterwards that the recipe I had found online was a Sandra Lee one. It tasted fine, and seemed like a normal recipe.

    Admittedly, I haven’t seen her show, so I don’t know much of her annoyingness, but her appeal is all about accessibility. Plus, if you think she gives a shit about having to cut mushrooms, you’re crazy. She obviously just says things like that to help relate to and sympathize with her audience.

    Would you rather that fat slob who eats poorly follow a Sandra Lee recipe for stuffed shells and actually, you know, COOK something? Or would you rather they just keep eating at McDonald’s because all the recipes out there require them to make a pasta sauce from scrach and roll out their own fresh made pasta.

    Ingredients that can be purchased at a normal grocery store and assembled/combined into a basic dish is what helps get people started on cooking, preparing more of their own meals, and ultimately eating better and healthier.

    Read a great article the other day (wish I could find the link) about how today’s cookbooks are written/purchased to show off someone’s trendy/foodie credentials but don’t actually teach people how to cook. The process of learning how to cook is a process of building simple skills, one on top of the other. People like Sandra Lee make cooking more accessible for average people by building those skills through simple successes.

    If you want more people in the U.S. to cook for themselves and don’t think foodie/hipsters should be the only people out there making home cooked meals, you should support people like Sandra Lee, or at least acknowledge the roll she serves in making cooking less intimidating for people.

    Again, I don’t watch her show, so understand if your criticisms are more about how annoying she is than her style of cooking. But I will say, she’s looking pretty good for a 44 year old.

  4. Sam

    Originally I was going to connect the jab at Mel Gibson to my point about how Sandra using non-kosher marshmallows in a Hanukkah-themed cake does not make her a bigot, so that’s how he got in there.

    Unfortunately I cannot agree with you about Guy, who is the most important, subtle food commentator of our time. I mean: “Holy moly, Stromboli!” Now that is profound.

  5. Brian

    I don’t really have a problem with Sandra Lee. I think the reason she’s so disliked is because she’s on the Food Network. If you’re on the Food Network, you shouldn’t be able to half-ass it with canned foods, cake mixes, frozen ingredients, etc. That being said, it’s not her fault they offered her a show. She would be a moron to not take the opportunity they gave her and run with it. I don’t blame her as much as I blame the Food Network.

  6. Gilahi

    I have no idea how old you are, Sam, but I remember TV shows that were sponsored by Kraft Foods. The commercials were like 2-minute episodes of “Semi-Homemade”. I honestly don’t mind the food as much as I mind the INCREDIBLY cheesy decorating that she insists on doing. “Isn’t that lovely? It looks just like a waterfall!” No, Sandra, it’s tacky as hell. It looks like Smurf toilet paper got stuck to somebody’s shoe and is now hanging all over my food.

    In short, she’s a throwback to the sixties, none of her stuff is very original, and she makes me wonder if she’s winning a bet akin to L. Ron Hubbard. “I can rehash 40 year old stuff and have a successful ‘cooking’ show.”

  7. Sam

    Gilahi – I’m probably not old enough to remember those TV shows. However, I totally agree that Sandra presents herself in the style of a Mad Men-era homemaker. This makes her a paradox – tacky, classic, and comforting all at once. It’s all part of her appeal (for those that do like her show).


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