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My favorite memories involve my family plopped on the couch to watch, not a feature film or that year's blockbuster movie, but the Food Network.

We felt at home with Rachael Ray, laughed at the hilarity of Paula Deen with her never-enough-butter attitude and felt like we were sitting with one of the cool kids at lunch with Bobby Flay.

The Food Network used to be about cooking, either showing various skilled chefs cook a meal or two during their time slot, or learning about it through Alton Brown's Good Eats.

After a show, we always felt like we took away a piece of advice, even if it was a tip about saving the pasta water after straining the spaghetti. The shows brought these people into our home in such a strange, yet comforting way.

Unfortunately, the Food Network now puts a sour taste in my mouth.

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It's becoming less about cooking and more about competition, adrenaline and seeing who's better than who. Gone is the strange camaraderie I felt while I watched a chef dazzle me with a 30-minute culinary masterpiece. Now, it's more about who can cook the best while juggling sabotages, using mystery ingredients or cooking within an allotted time frame — and someone always ends up brokenhearted.

As our attention span gets shorter and shorter, we find ourselves not savoring the 30 minutes or hour it takes for a chef to teach us how to make a meal. It seems what has grabbed our attention most, looking at various reality shows across television networks, is seeing someone triumph or fail.

The Bachelor, The Amazing Race, The Voice and American Idol; all of these shows, at their base level, are about someone eventually beating everyone else. Competition, it seems, has made its way to nearly every part of our lives. School is now about being the top student. Work is about being the top performer. Now, even the Food Network is about being the best chef.

Cooking has always been something that brings people together in my life, whether it's my grandmother cooking black beans and rice and some ropa vieja, or my dad firing up the grill. Watching the Food Network used to give me that same feeling, even if I was away from my family. Sadly, now I am just hungry for more.

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Adam Rhodes is the Entertainment Editor at the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @byadamrhodes or email him at AdamR@CentralFloridaFuture.com.

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