I’ve been aware of the existence of Lisa Lillien, a.k.a. Hungry Girl, for some time, only in that I know there is a wildly popular person who makes low-calorie versions of Americans’ favorite foods using dubious substitutions. Now that I have been DVRing her show on Cooking Channel (which I thought was supposed to be a younger, hipper, cooking-focused Food Network but clearly not) I have learned so much more. I’ve only watched three episodes, but this is what I know:
Despite her diminutive stature, Hungry Girl is a grown woman somewhere in her forties, not a girl.
No matter what she says, using lettuce leaves for buns and soy patties instead of beef do not taste like a real hamburger.
Bringing your own bottle of one-calorie-per-spray Wish-Bone Salad Spritzers to a restaurant is very dedicated (almost as much as that woman on MTV's True Life who toted around a bottle of ranch in her purse).
The defeated tone of voice during the show’s animated intro when the cartoon Hungry Girl chomps a bite out of a plate and mournfully chirps, “I’m so hungry!” goes straight into my cerebral cortex and slowly oozes down my spinal column, confusing my entire body on how it should react to such a statement. I can only shudder (and then I rock myself to sleep while eating an entire chocolate-swirl cheesecake made from chalk and mud).
A fan of Laughing Cow cheese since I was a child (they used to come in tiny cubes and it was a rare treat I’d only get at the “gourmet” store on yearly trips to Cannon Beach) it pains me to see the wedges mixed with fat-free sour cream to make girlfredo, yes, a mock alfredo sauce.
Also, fat-free cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, cheese and any other product that naturally contains fat, tastes like soft nothing. Munching on moistened dirt would be more satisfying.
Creating a brand called Hungry Girl instead of Skinny Girl or Skinny Bitch is very smart. Calorie-counting women are hungry and they wish they could eat more. Acknowledging this is down-to-earth and conspiratorial not asperational and abrasive. Despite her misguided recipes (though as I skim through them they start seeming saner and saner) Lisa Lillien seems like a nice person.
So yes, her emphasis on quantity—pointing out the enormity of allowed servings is requisite for nearly every recipe–over quality makes sense for the audience; lifelong dieters who are burnt-out on self-denial. But wouldn’t you rather eat a small portion of really good onion rings than a “ginormous plateful” of onions coated in Egg Beaters (what is egg substitute, anyway?) and crushed Fiber One cereal?
Hungry Girl is married to the producer of iCarly, the Nickelodeon tween show that popularized spaghetti tacos.
Dan Schneider, “the Aaron Sorkin of tween sitcoms” is obese. I doubt his weight defines him the way that Hungry Girl’s does, but it must create an unusual dynamic in the household. Does he also eat pieces of chicken breast coated in egg substitute, wheat flour and sugar-free pancake syrup and pretend that it’s Chinese take-out? Do you think that Hungry Girl wanted to swap her trademark Tofu Shirtaki Noodles for the pasta and use cabbage leaves instead of corn shells for the spaghetti tacos?
Oh, I got the answer (it helps to actually read to the end of a two-plus-page article).
“Mr. Schneider, the writer, said he plans to have the iCarly cast to his house to make a batch in the next few months, so that he can tape it and post it on his YouTube account. He’s only had a low-calorie/low-fat version prepared by his wife, Lisa Lillien, whose Hungry Girl franchise appeals to weight-conscious snack-food lovers. ‘I’ve never tasted the real, real version.’”
By the way, Hungry Girl keeps the taco shells in her version. The ground-beef-style soy crumbles? I hadn’t seen that coming at all.