Mix "Iron Chef" with "Family Feud" and you've got "My Momma Throws Down" (8 tonight, TV One), a cooking competition show that pits everyday moms against one another. It makes for a tasty little show.
Hosted by comic/actor Ralph Harris, the show features two moms, nominated by a family member, competing in red or blue aprons and making a surprise dish, albeit one that might be found at any kitchen table. (In the first episode, it's squash casserole.) Judges taste the meal to anoint the top momma; on the first panel is noted food historian Jessica B. Harris and the sister trio from the fabulous 2000-2004 TV show "Soul Food"-- Vanessa Williams, Malinda Williams and Nicole Ari Parker.
Because the dishes aren't that complicated and there's not as much to narrate a la Alton Brown, the show has little challenges that can add time to each momma's cooking clock or give the judges information. There's a mini cook-off; the mommas prepare a meal off camera for the judges. The winner gets $500. The family is asked questions to see if they know their momma's food preference (FYI: No one's favorite cheese is cheddar).
My least favorite segment was a dozens match in which a family member from each team sounds off with 'your momma' jokes. Why?
But that was the only thing that left a bad taste in my mouth. The judging was solid; Harris knows her stuff for sure, but because we've all become so educated through food shows, the celeb judges give good analysis too. (Growing up eating mom's mac and cheese, it was either good or bad. Now we all know about "the layers of flavors" and "the mix of textures." ) Ralph Harris does a nice job hosting, too. He's funny but he doesn't steal the focus from the mommas.
It was also delightful to see regular folk with such pride in their cooking get their due and share their skills. They aren't gourmet chefs, but these are the kinds of mommas who influenced and inspired the gourmet chefs with their creativity and technique. There's nothing like a home-cooked meal by momma. It's nice that this show celebrates that.