sarahmoultonI recently re-watched Julie and Julia, and it’s got me thinking fondly of the old days of television cooking shows. Before the Food Network and the Cooking Channel existed, the main venue for cooking shows on TV was PBS. I adored Julia Child, but was also captivated by a number of the early TV cooking stars.

One of my first favorites was Justin Wilson. I used to have a Justin Wilson cookbook and would make a number of his dishes. In some move that cookbook was lost. Lately I’ve been thinking about a few of my favorites, including a spicy broccoli salad I used to make. I think it’s time to start searching for a used version.

Another favorite was Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet. Yes, I’ve since read about the controversies surrounding him, but at the time I watched his show, I knew him only as a cooking star. He did a number of different topical series, but my favorite was the one he did on cooking with wine.

In the early days of the Food Network, two of my favorite shows were the Two Hot Tamales and Sarah Moulton Live. The Two Hot Tamales were entertaining, but also made what appeared to be very tasty Mexican fare. I say appeared, because while I actually purchased one of their cookbooks, I never got around to making anything in it; it just seemed too fussy to me.

On the other hand, many of the cooking techniques I now take for granted, were learned by watching Sarah Moulton. Each night, she was on from 6-7pm in my time zone. I was home from work, either preparing my own dinner, or riding an exercise bike and watching television. In the space of an hour, Sarah would prepare a complete meal, talk to viewers who called up, and dispense with numerous cooking techniques. I learned how to cut and pit an avocado, chop up fresh herbs, dice an onion with no fears, and so many other things, thanks to Sarah. I never replicated a complete meal that she prepared, but adapted many of her individual dishes, and they were tasty.

Do you remember any of these shows? Did you like them? Hate them? And what were some of your first, favorite TV cooking shows?