Best Li’l Cookin’ Show….

I was reminded, while on the trip to Florida, of one of the most unique, funny, and downright odd cookin’ shows ever – Cookin’ Cheap.  It was produced in Roanoke, VA on their public TV channel and aired from 1981-2002. The “cooks” were two local archetypical Southern mama’s boys.   Those of you from the South know what I am saying here. It was not haute cuisine but it was cookin’ and it was cheap.

Laban Johnson and Larry Bly were truly, truly….well, they just were. Antics o’plenty, asides that would make you spew your morning coffee if you were brave enough to drink while the show aired, questionable knife skills (did he really need that HUGE dull chef’s knife to peel that small onion?), strange concoctions from the viewers (potato bud chicken, bean pie, crabby potatoes, hamburger soup. Hi-waiian hotdogs, beer sprout soup, sandwiches al la leftovers), lots of stuff made with cream of something soup, and sugar – lots and lots of sugar (with this much sugar in it, you know it has to be good). Every Saturday, my roomie and I were there in front of the tube guffawing, applauding, appalled. Laban and Larry were amateurs, often struggling to open a box of cake mix. The food was often awful and often looked and sounded like glop.

What made this show so wonderful was the chemistry between these two friends.  One tall, the other one short. They bicker, giggle, josh, and…sometimes dress like old Southern ladies.  The Cook Sisters visited every week.  And what a strange trip they were. Tootsie Cook was Larry and based upon the old maid aunt that raised him.  Sister Cook was Laban and I swear, based on our next door neighbor when I was a kid, Mrs. Goldie.

What reminded me of these halcyon days was being served….Hamburger Soup one night for supper. I remember the boys liked it when they fixed it and years later, after having finally had it, I agree. It is cheap, easy, tasty, and comforting. I am posting a recipe for it and I hope you will hang around long enough to watch one of the few surving segments of this show posted at the end of this. This is the one where Laban wrestles with a pack of chicken thighs to produce the dreaded Potato Bud Chicken. Larry fixes a cobbler and talks about his Aunt Tootsie’s cobbler.

There are some segments, blessedly videotaped and preserved years ago, surviving on You Tube, Please, y’all, check them out. This is an easy way to go Visitin’ Cheap into the South.  Not perfect cookin’ but, Perfection belongs to God, not us, the Southern author Flannery O’Connor would have told you, her eyes boring holes in yours as she poured Coca-Cola in her coffee.

Hamburger Soup1 lb. ground beef
1 c. chopped onion
1 cup diced potato
1 c. sliced carrots
1 c. shredded cabbage (optional)
1 c. sliced celery
4 c. v-8 juice (I use store brand, low sodium)
¼ c. rice I use brown)
3 tsp salt
¼ tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups water
Cook ground beef and Onion until brown Drain fat. Add other ingredients. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer one hour.

16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. trixfred30
    Nov 29, 2013 @ 17:05:03

    I love the coffee and cola thing. Over here we had a TV chef called Keith Floyd. He introduced the British to the Cooking with Wine concept. And by that I mean he would start drinking wine at the start of his show and then carried on until he was pretty wasted. But the food was always great and he never lost control! He was the boss.


  2. barbarastanley
    Nov 30, 2013 @ 13:43:49

    I’ve been making this soup for years. I have lived all my life in the South. I can testify that this soup is so good on a cold, rainy day. You always have the option of adding different vegetables to the soup, so it never gets boring.


    • kanzensakura
      Nov 30, 2013 @ 13:59:17

      Exactly. I don’t know I was such a snob about it, but it really is good. The cabbage had been added and was so good. Just goes to show old dogs can learn new tricks. did you watch the video of the two boys? I’m glad I did some searches to find the few episodes. Brought back good times and good laughs.


  3. Beni
    Nov 30, 2013 @ 14:16:21

    Believe it or not, I looked forward to watching that show during summer vacations in grade school. The show did not feature any fancy music. Even the kitchen looked dull.and simple. And when they cross-dressed, I thought they were gay, so the similitude of watching the cooking version of Pee-wee’s Playhouse was uncanny. Maybe that was why I enjoyed watching the show–I was watching two cross-dressing grown-up males cooking together with make-up. Wow. Halcyon days indeed.


    • kanzensakura
      Nov 30, 2013 @ 16:05:42

      Why am I surprised you liked this show? LOL, all members of the 11/16 Society have loved this show. and yes, PeeWee’s show was also on the Saturday must watch list. and…..well, guess what “mama’s boys” was a euphemism for….. I think it just wows me you watched in grade school and I watched as an adult. Jo and I frequently had to explain some terms to Masashi but he quickly caught on. The first few shows’ theme music was a Vivaldi thing.


    • kanzensakura
      Nov 30, 2013 @ 16:07:23

      and as a counterpoint, I am fixing chicken piccata for dinner. Not close to cookin’ cheap. I found my cookbook for that show the other night and went through it again re-living a lot of the fun of the show.


  4. huntmode
    Apr 11, 2014 @ 01:16:41

    I came on over in search of fried chicken and stumbled upon this one. Faithfully watched show – cute! – now I need me some cobbler, never mind the chicken…. 🙂


    • kanzensakura
      Apr 11, 2014 @ 04:27:32

      This was truly a unique show. I am thinking you watched the video? 🙂 there are several segments on youtube, search for cookin’ cheap. Some guy in philadelphia of all places apparently had the foresight to pop cassettes into his vcr and tape, bless his heart. I can watch some of those when truly down and end up smiling. My papa’s cobbler is best, but alas, no video for it. I did a post for it. But Larry’s is also a classic southern version. Either one, you can use canned or thawed frozen peaches, those canned tart cherries, not cherry pie filling, apples, or canned pineapple in juice – super cookin’ cheap. Thawed frozen mixed berries are also good. I’m glad you stumbled upon this show. If you need a translation of any of the lines, just let me know.


  5. huntmode
    Apr 11, 2014 @ 15:55:37

    Kanzen, I couldn’t locate your search bar yesterday – where is it, please? Now, I’ve got to look up your papa’s cobbler, of course. 🙂


    • kanzensakura
      Apr 11, 2014 @ 17:34:25

      I’m not sure how it would show up on your computer, hopefully the same way it does on mine. I’ve vague about these things sometimes. It the upper right hand corner is what looks like a small magnifying glass. Click on it and it should bring a search space for you. Hmmmmm, guess I have to figure out how to do a better search for folks, huh?


      • huntmode
        Apr 12, 2014 @ 02:47:07

        I tried the magnifying glass and it works a treat. You just have to know it’s there and what it’s for…. Grin. Found the chicken and carnal pudding piece!


    • kanzensakura
      Apr 11, 2014 @ 17:42:19

      here ya go. That man loved his sweet stuff. When nothing else was on hand or he needed something impromptu or money (as it often was) tight, he’d use pineapple tidbits to make cobbler. When strawberries were in season, he’d use those. Different. I should post my grandmother’s baked strawberry pie, now that I think of it. 🙂


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