Diet Junk Food Guru Brings Her Act To Television

Hungry Girl, who one can only describe Alice Waters' greatest nightmare, is getting her own TV show.

Hungry Girl, or Lisa Lillien as (we assume) her friends know her, is the pragmatist of the diet world. She likes processed food and junk food and all that other stuff that's supposed to be bad for you, and rather than trying to wean people off of it, she makes diet-friendly versions of onion rings and Rice Krispie Treats and Deep-fried ice cream. Think "This is why you're (not) fat," to the uninitiated.

She's big: her newsletter has 1.3 million subscribers and her cookbooks have been bestsellers. And now, perhaps inevitably, she'll be doing it in real time — or, at any rate, cooking show time. She tells the Daily News of the show, premiering on the Cooking Channel on January 8th, "It approaches food in a fun way that doesn't feel diet-y." And says the paper about the taped episodes,

The half-hour show's first 13 episodes will be filled with comedic segments, survival strategies and assembly-style recipes centered around themes such as Comfort Food and Happy Hour. In her first episode, "You Wanna Pizza Me?," Hungry Girl gets all Judge Judy on a particularly bad piece of pepperoni.

The criticisms are obvious: like Rachael Ray or Skinny Girl margaritas, these recipes don't teach good eating habits, they encourage tastes for processed and packaged foods. Nothing's local and the amount of packaging doesn't exactly take the planet into account. But Lillien would say this is what makes it unintimidating, and that results speak for themselves. And she's hardly shying away from the 30-minute comparisons, saying, "Rachael Ray is fantastic - she's the master, she's the best."

And the thing is, those of us who find the recipes gross and the "girl" moniker kind of infantalizing and weird don't need to do it: there are plenty of sophisticated cooking shows and glossy cookbooks out there for the rest of us, and if this works for people, sure, go for it. The thing is, it's a short-term solution. The problem with this kind of thinking on the large scale is that it presupposes that junk foods are inherently "better." Says Lillien, "I live by the 80/20 rule. If you eat well 80% of the time, the other 20% you can have fun." But the point is, this shouldn't be a binary choice. "Good for you" food doesn't need to be a virtuous penance. There's also the fact that these recipes, with their reliance on pre-packaged foods, are no cheaper to prepare than are all whole foods and fresh products. And the work quotient's not that different from other, less "bait and switch"-like cooking. It's basically presupposing the whole world's a bunch of picky-eating kids. And the sad part is, maybe it's true.

Part of our concern, of course, is reserved for the queen of pre-fab, Sandra Lee. Although until Lillien comes up with a low-fat Kwanzaa cake, her primacy will go unchallenged. And given that it's probably impossible, her crown's safe.


Hungry Girl' Lisa Lillien Is Bringing Her Brand Of Light And Easy Living To The Cooking Channel
[NY Daily News]