I said I was going to come back and write a post about cooking shows that I find inspiring and here I am. See? Most of the time I keep my promises.
Back in the day, in the early 2000’s, I used to watch The Food Network and TLC a lot. That’s The Learning Channel for you Americans. It’s probably what fed my addiction with food. Pun intended.
Our family loved to watch Trading Spaces together. And I discovered a fantastic show called Anna and Kristina’s Grocery Bag.
Does anyone else remember watching this one? I watched it every week and all the reruns when the show ended. I actually forgot about it until today when I was looking up other shows that I’ve watched for this article. When I hit “cooking product reviews” the Grocery Bag was one of the first to pop up in my list and all those memories came flooding back.
Anna and Kristina’s Grocery Bag
Anna & Kristina’s Grocery Bag was a Canadian produced television show that aired on the W and OWN networks between 2008 and 2013. The show was hosted by Anna Wallner and Kristina Matistic who hailed from Vancouver, Canada.
What made this show a hit was the chemistry between the hosts who had been best friends for years. In each episode, Anna & Kristina tested and reviewed cookbooks and kitchen products. What I loved about the show is that it felt really honest. The ladies sure tried hard to make everything perfect. But even I know how challenging that can be when you take on too much at once.
There was plenty of drama to enjoy as Anna & Kristina often gave themselves ridiculous timelines to complete complex recipes that the average person would take an entire day to prepare. From spills, explosions and even grease fires – there are plenty of laugh out loud moments that everyone can relate to. Anna was a bit of a perfectionist and it was hilarious to watch as she tried to hide her melt downs when things went awry in the kitchen.
(Scroll ahead to 1:55 to see what I mean… lol)
Reality TV was still relatively new around this time and TV hits like Big Brother and Survivor were the topic of conversations around the office water cooler. I found myself hooked on tv shows that focused on how things were made. I think that’s what I also loved about A&K – they showed you step by step how the recipes were prepared and even how things were made in professional kitchens. The expert chefs they invited to dinner were interviewed on camera and often gave professional cooking tips.
Anna & Kristina fast became Canada’s experts on shopping and product testing. Not only did they review books – but they also took part in extensive product testing.
A&K were truly devoted to each episode. While I felt at times, their menu was ridiculously ambitious, I really appreciated moments from the show like this one – where A&K actually went fishing to catch their own fresh squid. It was a highly amusing to watch as they each squirmed and squealed when they touched the slimy fish. The look on Anna’s face in this photo says it all.
As Anna has said many times in interviews, the kitchen can be a dramatic place. As an aspiring chef – I can attest to that! I burnt my grilled cheese sandwich today because I took way too long to scoop out the goat cheese from the bag. I still ate it though. But unlike Anna, I definitely don’t have a 5 second rule in my kitchen. Ugh – that floor is gross.
If you come across reruns of the show on the OWN network, you must check it out. Anna & Kristina have an old YouTube channel but it doesn’t look like they have worked together in quite some time. Their Twitter account was shut down in 2016. Which I can’t say I blame them on that one. Twitter seems to be dying a slow death.
After successfully producing several television shows together, it looks like Anna has moved into the world of professional catering and invested in a business called The Savoury Chef, located in Vancouver, BC. While Kristina, is focusing on a career in fashion. This makes me a bit sad! I hope their friendship held up over the years. It was part of the charm of their shows.
I guess I know where I’m heading after Toronto – I think a short weekend get away to Vancouver is in order. I just need to win the lottery first or sell a kidney to afford it.
I’m still looking for a website where I can binge watch all the seasons of this show. I just love their chemistry and sense of humour. I’ve reached out to both Anna & Kristina online in hopes of finding a safe place to watch Grocery Bag. I’m also hoping to stumble across old reruns of Trading Spaces. Boy, that takes me back a few years! Our whole family would gather around to watch it. It was one show we all loved. I hear there is a reboot on TLC – I may have to look it up.
A&K’s Approved Cook Books
I meant to pick up some of the cook books that Anna & Kristina had reviewed on the show but never got around to it. Like I said, I got lazy. Wikipedia has put together a nice list of all the books that the pair reviewed together.
It looks like some of their negative reviews received caused some drama with the authors according to Wikipedia. But I always felt Anna & Kristina’s reviews of the books were fair. They tested several recipes on and off the air. They gave both positives and negatives about the books. And they served several of the recipes to professional chefs who judged on their overall execution of each dish.
They attempted to follow all the recipes exactly as written in the books. Which isn’t an easy task. I almost never follow recipes exactly as written. I make it up as I go along. I see recipes as more of a guideline to do what works for you. Sometimes it works out. And sometimes, it doesn’t.
I felt some of the chefs were a little harsh on their meals, but that was part of the show’s charm. I’ll have to re-watch the episode on Anthony Bourdain tho. It was the Grocery Bag that introduced me to the world of Anthony Bourdain. Another celebrity chef who I came to adore over the years. Tony grew on me. His bitter and sarcastic view of the world was an acquired taste. I once listened to him rant for twenty minutes about how coffee is not a culture.
“Coffee is not a culture, it’s a beverage.”
Here is the list all the books that Anna & Kristina reviewed from Wikipedia. Just in case you’re interested in buying them. If you’ve tried any of these – let me know!
|Season||Book title||Book author(s)||Cuisine type or Genre|
|1||“Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1″||Julia Child, Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle||French cuisine|
|1||“Cooking with Jamie”||Jamie Oliver||Fresh & Organic cooking|
|1||“Mangoes and Curry Leaves”||Jeffrey Alford, Naomi Duguid||Indian cuisine|
|1||“How to Grill”||Steven Raichlen||Grilling, Barbecue|
|1||“Everyday Italian”||Giada De Laurentiis||Italian cuisine|
|2||“Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking”||Marcella Hazan||Italian cuisine|
|2||“The French Laundry Cookbook”||Thomas Keller, Deborah Jones||French cuisine|
|2||“Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen”||Rick Bayless||Mexican cuisine|
|2||“Deceptively Delicious”||Jessica Seinfeld||Kid-friendly dishes|
|2||“The Oprah Magazine Cookbook”||O: The Oprah Magazine editors||General cooking|
|2||“The Joy of Cooking, 75th Anniversary Edition”||Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, Ethan Becker||General cooking|
|2||“Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes”||Jennifer McLagan||Cooking with Fat|
|2||“The Cake Bible”||Rose Levy Beranbaum||Baking, Cakes, Cake decorating|
|2||“Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics”||Ina Garten||General cooking|
|2||“The Flexitarian Table”||Peter Berley||Flexitarianism, Vegetarian cuisine|
|2||“Gourmet Magazine“||Gourmet Magazine editors||Magazine, General cooking|
|2||“Chef Daniel Boulud: Cooking in New York City”||Daniel Boulud||French cuisine|
|3||“Lucinda’s Authentic Jamaican Kitchen”||Lucinda Scala Quinn||Jamaican cuisine|
|3||“Bon Appétit, Y’all”||Virginia Willis||Southern US cuisine|
|3||“Gordon Ramsay’s Family Fare”||Gordon Ramsay||General cooking|
|3||“The Pleasures of Cooking for One”||Judith Jones||Cooking for one person|
|3||“Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill Cookbook”||Bobby Flay||Southwestern US cuisine|
|3||“The River Cottage Meat Book”||Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall||Cooking with meat|
|3||“Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking”||Michael Ruhlman||Ingredient ratios in cooking|
|3||“A16: Food + Wine”||Nate Appleman, Shelley Lindgren||Italian cuisine, Neapolitan cuisine|
|3||“Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook”||Mark Robinson||Japanese cuisine, Izakaya food|
|3||“Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook”||Anthony Bourdain||French Bistro food|
|3||“Canyon Ranch: Nourish”||Scott Uehlein, Staff of Canyon Ranch||Healthy eating, Spafood|
|3||“My Father’s Daughter”||Gwyneth Paltrow||Healthy eating, General cooking|
|4||“100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know”||Cindi Leive||General cooking|
|4||“Absolutely Chocolate”||Fine Cooking Magazine editors||Desserts, Dishes with chocolate|
|4||“The Babbo Cookbook”||Mario Batali||Italian cuisine|
|4||“Mourad, New Moroccan”||Mourad Lahlou||Moroccan cuisine|
|4||“The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria”||Ferran Adrià||General cooking|
|4||“Whitewater Cooks with Friends”||Shelley Adams||General cooking, Al fresco dining|
Television has changed in recent years. I can’t find too many shows like the shows produced by Anna & Kristina. What are your favorite cooking shows? Let me know in the comments. I’ll be writing up a weekly feature of my favorite chefs, shows and books.