Andrew Zimmern on What’s Wrong and Right with American Food

Oct 4, 2011 3:06pm

He’s known for biting into a frog’s beating heart and chomping on water crickets, but for “Bizarre Foods” host Andrew Zimmern, what’s really disgusting is the buttered, battered blasphemy peddled by Paula Deen, Sandra Lee and their peers.

“With people like Paula, with people like Sandra Lee, and other people who represent those types of foods and eating and lifestyle, I think it’s not bad that they’re saying, ‘Hey you should try this,’ it’s that they’re not saying ‘Don’t eat it all the time,’” Zimmern told ABCNews.com on Sunday at the New York Food & Wine Festival’s Carts in the Parc event to benefit the Food Bank of New York City. In short: If Paula Deen’s going to teach you how to make fried butter balls, she should also teach you to indulge in them maybe a couple times in your life.

“It’s the same problem I have with the fast food industry, Zimmern said. “There’s nothing wrong with getting a hamburger sometimes. there’s nothing wrong with getting chicken fingers. What’s wrong is commoditizing food to the point where it’s poisonous, cheapening it to the point that anyone can afford it and selling it as something that you should eat all the time. I think that’s very dangerous.”

“Those of us that have a very large platform have a responsibility to tell other people what they’re thinking and feeling,” he continued. “People want to know where I travel, they want to know what I believe in, they want to know how I live my life. This is how I live my life,” he said, holding up a palm-sized Italian pork slider: “Right size portions, despite my un-right sized appetites of all types.”

Zimmern’s appetite took him and his Travel Channel show through the U.S. for the seventh season of “Bizarre Foods,” which premieres in January.

“I think that what people are most curious about is the stuff that they don’t know is happening in their own backyard. … There’s no better place to start than in our own country that’s completely misunderstood. I think that an Italian porchetta sandwich is as absolutely American as the biryani cart,” he said, pointing to the famed NYC doler-outer of spicy Indian rice, “which is as absolutely as American as the souvlaki cart. That is what is great American food.”

But his biggest takeaway from filming: Americans need to slow down.

“For peace of mind and for comfort, it’s important to get back to that time when we were up with the sun, down with the sun,” he said. “Eating with the seasons. Spending more time with community and family. I think we’ve lost that.”

Meanwhile, one the fellow celebrity cooks Zimmern called out is moving in the other direction.

“Our jobs are to service the over-extended homemaker, this is what the show ‘Semi-Homemade’ is all about,” Food Network host Sandra Lee said in a statement to ABCNews.com.  ”It offers solutions — it does not micro-manage the viewers ‘common sense’ (we assume they have it when it comes to their diets).” She ended that clause with a smiley face — “:).” Deen did not respond to ABCNews.com’s request for comment.

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