Netflix has the chef-hero worship genre of food shows down pat. Many of these feature clever storytelling and jaw-dropping production values. They’re fun, but they’ve been done to death. We’ve scoured the backwaters of the Netflix search engine to see what else is on offer foodwise and come up with a few recommendations. They might not be Golden Globe material, but they are worthwhile summer diversions nonetheless.
Peter and the Farm Centered on an aging organic farmer in Vermont with multiple estranged wives and children who won’t talk to him, this documentary is less about agriculture and more about a broken man. But the farm is the key to understanding this farmer, who slowly reveals himself in poetic and, at times, disturbing ways, captured brilliantly in a film that has garnered critical acclaim and a popular following.
Hyper Hardboiled Gourmet Report This is, perhaps, the most original food show in existence. Each episode features a very unique group of people and films them eating a meal, from former child soldiers in Liberia who live in a cemetery to feuding gangs in Los Angeles to the inhabitants of a Vladivostok drug den. Produced by a Japanese studio, it’s filmed in an almost-punk, avant-garde style, with mealtime serving as an intimate window into the lives of people who are definitely not on any other food show. As the drama unfolds, a Japanese guy in a little window on the side of the screen makes play-by-play comments (with subtitles). It’s super-weird but in a good way.
Wine Country This boozy comedy centers on a group of women who careen through Napa in celebration of a friend’s 50th birthday and in search, perhaps, of some form of catharsis. Neither the comedy nor the catharsis is likely to make you laugh and cry as hard as the characters do, but the vicarious Napa pleasures you’ll encounter as they wine and dine (mostly the former) their way through the region make for a worthwhile cinematic voyage.
The Truth About Alcohol This surprisingly original documentary reveals what we already know: Booze, except in great moderation, is the devil. But it doesn’t make you feel bad for not acting on what you know. The main character is a doctor who researches the effects of alcohol, but he isn’t afraid to admit that he enjoys a few glasses on a regular basis and casts himself as a guinea pig in his own experiments. It’s actually a pleasurable, science-y romp.
MeatEater Not one for vegetarians, this show (in its seventh season, with the last three seasons available on Netflix) revolves around grisly hunting scenes and typically ends with haute campfire dining that features whatever creatures are killed. The prey ranges from deer and turkey to piranha and dove. It’s mostly a shameless bro show, but the cinematography and hunter-as-conservationist orientation enrich it in unexpected ways.
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