New ‘Roadfood’ Unworthy Of PBS

And unworthy of your time. Shame on PBS, the home of Julia Child and Jacques Pépin. Their new show “Roadfood” is supposed to be an homage to Jane and Michael Stern, authors of the seminal “Roadfood” books, but the episode filmed in Rhode Island seems like a hastily researched treatment featuring a spectacularly unfit host. (Let me clear, I in no way blame any of the restaurants and markets for participating in this production — they would have been crazy not to.)

The Sterns have authored 30+ books and nearly 200 articles for Gourmet magazine and their famous food guide “Roadfood” is now in its 10th edition.

First published in 1977, the original Roadfood became an instant classic. James Beard said, “This is a book that you should carry with you, no matter where you are going in these United States. It’s a treasure house of information.”

Stepping into their shoes to host the new program is an actor who played an angel on the CW. Those are his credentials. Misha Collins appears to have had little interest in food prior to this new job, nor did he bother to read the material his producers pulled up from their Google search. Gail Ciampa writes of his visit to a wonderful Providence seafood market for the ProJo:

The next stop is Fearless Fish Market on West Fountain Street in Providence, a retail business owned by Stu Meltzer. Here Collins is surprised to hear that people in Rhode Island buy squid to make calamari at home.

Wow. Adding insult to injury, the show forces us to revisit a regrettable past event involving the chairman of the state democratic party, Joe McNamara, a misogynistic DINO, who created the video entry into the state’s 2016 DNC convention roll call segment, which featured a man who wasn’t sure he’d be voting for Biden. New rule: No show about food, or eating, or Democrats, should ever again include Joe McNamara.

The new PBS show is sponsored by a tea brand owned by Coca-Cola and a financial services company. Given that the “Roadfood” name and the Stern website now appear to belong to the show, it looks like the Sterns have decided to cash in, which I understand. They are still cool with me. Their impact on the food universe of the 70s can not be overstated. They celebrated road food and diners at a time when the foodie universe badly needed to be brought back down to earth. They are great writers and a lot of fun.

Gail Ciampa is also a pretty great writer. She ends with this observation from the Fearless segment:

Meltzer makes a warm squid salad for Collins, who says that doesn’t sound appetizing. Collins, who played an angel named Castiel on “Supernatural,” doesn’t seem like a food guy.

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3 thoughts on “New ‘Roadfood’ Unworthy Of PBS”

  1. Hi; I am so happy to see the negative reactions to PBS show Roadfood. I watched the show, it is trite, unoriginal, and awful. Mischa Collins is a clueless fish out of water, Michael Stern appears in one episode about onion burgers. Jane Stern (me) who wrote the original book Roadfood in 1971 (and all subsequent editions) is not mentioned on the show. Why? Because Fexy Media who bought all rights to Roadfood fired me, they thought I added nothing and took my name off everything. This left me so broke I had to leave Connecticut and live in the sticks in rural SC. In terms of “cashing in”, don’t make me laugh, in terms of being treated like a nobody who had nothing to do with Roadfood…well all I can say is I am glad you all think the show sucks. It does.

  2. Misha Collins is horrible. Not only is he aloof, he is condescending and arrogant. He is also not comfortable in his surroundings. Go back to the CW, Misha!

  3. Roadfood is currently airing an episode on my local PBS station. Not very good, the host is weak and it’s more like advertising for upstart restaurants. He seems lost or inexperienced. The woman taking him touring around the neighborhood in the current installment is yelling in Spanish at people near and far, everywhere, so loudly and her energy level is so intense, that she’s exhausting, and I had to actually drop my TV volume.

    Furthermore, it’s an unoriginal idea. There’ve been other series on PBS that were more focused and informative, with a more knowledgeable host. Author Kurlansky already wrote a much better book about our disappearing authentic regional foods of the past, and none of it was about for-profit restaurants with modified semi-authentic regional foods. Kurlansky’s book described how, during the Great Depression when people couldn’t finds jobs and many starved, Roosevelt’s WPA had a special project (among many more famous projects) where the WPA hired writers, both professional and aspiring, all over the country to visit and report regional foods for posterity in an attempt to document them and their unique local communities, food preparations, celebrations and customs before they were all gone. The roads being built in other government-funded projects at the time were, by their locations and connections, homogenizing regional foods and cultures, which were disappearing for multiple reasons. They didn’t have chain fast food restaurants and convenience foods yet. The WPA provided jobs for writers, both black and white, known and still unknown, who would later become great American authors, many whose names we would now recognize. It kept them afloat at a time when people couldn’t find a job, while also documenting these foods and customs. The reports are still available on file, some complete and some partially deteriorating or less comprehensive, and Kurlansky accessed them all.

    And Kurlanaky’s book wasn’t an advertisement for restaurants that are semi authentic. His book was thoughtful, about a bygone era, how they prepared regional foods, celebrated, shared local wisdom, recipes and social customs. It was even interesting how the WPA decided to group the states into which regions, and why, Much more informative, about entire regional subcultures and their customs including a lot of black history that goes along with the foods.

    Thumbs down for Roadtrip. PBS has done better shows by far.

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