In 1996, after seeing “Big Night” in a movie theater, my wife and I were really hungry because it contained so many scenes of delicious-looking food. I still remember the audible “oh, wow” from the audience when the brothers played by Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub revealed the finished timpano they had lovingly prepared. As soon as the credits rolled, we had to get some Italian food as soon as possible.
I had similar hunger pangs this weekend as I binge-watched the second season of “The Bear” on Hulu. In its sophomore season, the show’s writers, directors, and cast have only gotten better — and there are even more scenes of beautiful dishes being prepared. Perfect for anyone like me who loves learning the process of how things are made.
It’s a little odd that I found all of it so appealing. The only food-related series I’ve watched is Phil Rosenthal’s Netflix show, “Somebody Feed Phil” (which I discussed with him here). I have never watched anything on the Food Network nor Anthony Bourdain shows, and have only seen Rachael Ray because she’s always on the TV in the waiting room when I take my car in for servicing.
I’m not a foodie by any means. The meals we have at home are incredibly simple, with nothing decorative or visually appealing in any way, because that matches our taste. We do not to go to restaurants where we don’t recognize several words on the menu. As I wrote last year:
I’m always amazed that anyone can take a bite of something and know what went into it. Oh, sure, I can be pretty accurate with a guess about a grilled cheese sandwich, but my taste buds aren’t developed enough to recognize that a dish has tarragon, cumin, or coriander in it. I can’t tell a pine nut from an annatto seed. I don’t know how bay leaves affect a dish or why they’re left in for me to throw away.
But the biggest problem for me is when I look at a menu and don’t even recognize some of the words. I’ve kept a list of a few I’ve seen just in the last few months: kasundi, sweety drop peppers, chimichurri, poblano, pistou sauce, soppressata, and giardiniera. In each case, I took out my phone and looked them up, only to discover that I’d be better off not introducing them to my taste buds.
Still, I understand the patience and skill it takes to prepare exquisite dishes. However, if I were a chef, I’d pound my head against a wall after working so hard to create an alluring appetizer or dessert — including using tweezers to add the tiniest element for some extra color — and then watching a customer swallow it in three bites while simultaneously complaining about their child’s little league coach.
As great as “The Bear” stars Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri are as Carmy and Sydney, I was happy to see showrunner Christopher Storer spending several episodes showcasing some of the supporting players. Cousin Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) learns the importance of details and real customer service, Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas) proudly steps into her new responsibilities as sous chef, and Marcus (Lionel Boyce) learns how to prepare delicately delicious desserts. There are also guest appearances by several well-known actors whose names I will not spoil for you — but they’re all delightful.
It’s a shame we don’t get more of “The Bear” in each season. If this were a series on a broadcast network, it would play out over 22 episodes. But on a streaming platform like Hulu, we get a mere eight or ten episodes and then have to wait an entire year to see further developments. I understand that’s the new paradigm, but when I’m enjoying anything this creative and wonderful, I always want more.
And that’s the best food analogy I can come up with.