TV review: Somebody Feed Phil – seasons 5-6 (Netflix, 2022)
If 2020 was a dumpster fire of a year, what was 2022? Pandemic still ongoing, Russia invading Ukraine, a cost of living crisis, soaring inflation and energy prices, and also the never-ending shit show that is British politics? (Read: all the things I deliberately left out of my recent 2022 recap.) 2020 was gently improved by seeing Phil Rosenthal travelling around the world being a self-deprecating delight while enthusing over food, so it turned out to be a relief when he returned in 2022 for another eleven episodes.
In the fifth season, which dropped on Netflix in May 2022, he goes to Oaxaca (Mexico), Helsinki (Finland), Madrid (Spain), and Maine and Portland (Oregon) back in the US. The sixth season dropped in October 2022 and took him to Croatia, Santiago (Chile), and to Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), Austin (Texas) and Nashville (Tennessee) in the US.
The sixth season also has a bonus episode, “Tribute to Helen and Max”, because sadly both of his parents have now passed away. He used to video call them at the end of each episode, and his father Max would tell the viewers a joke. For the ten new episodes he instead video calls a friend who tells a joke in memory of his dad. Even though the bonus episode isn’t about food as such, nor travel, don’t skip it. It’s a beautiful and incredibly touching tribute – even for those of us whose only acquaintance with the Rosenthals is this very show – to a couple of lovely people. Absolutely worth a watch.
What I like about this show, aside from Phil himself whose enthusiasm and curiosity is nothing short of contagious, is that you see both the foods of a place as well as the place itself. It doesn’t necessarily go into the cooking of each and every food, because it’s not a cooking show, and it also doesn’t feel like a history documentary when he goes around places. The setting is more of a backdrop. Yes, there are palaces and art installations and such, but it’s more to give context to the area, its food and its people. Because at the end of the day, it’s a show about how food brings people together, more than anything else. All over the world, food unites us.
The Oaxaca episode I believe is the first time Phil has ever decided he’d rather not try something – and, yeah, it didn’t sound appetising to me either! (Can’t remember exactly what it was, as it’s been a while.)
The episode closest to home for me was Helsinki, but I’m surprised they didn’t get him to try salmiakki (salty liquorice), which is iconically Finnish – and the best/only way to eat liquorice if you ask me. Showing the Finns how to make an Egg Cream made me go “oooh, we have all of those things at home” (curiously, the beverage in question doesn’t actually contain eggs or cream), so I paused the episode and went to the kitchen. Have heard of egg creams before while researching Brooklyn, and always meant to give them a try. Not sure I got the measurements right, but it was okay. Mr T wasn’t keen, so I ended up having his as well. I call that a win!
Phil is occasionally joined by his wife and children on the journeys, and we also get to meet some members of their extended family. Showing family gatherings could easily make the viewers feel excluded, but the genius of this show is that the audience never feels left out. We might not be there, but we’re never made to feel like we’re standing outside in the cold, noses pressed against windows, looking in at the festivities.
Again, there are so many dishes that sound absolutely scrumptious to try, but the problem is still that we don’t all have access to world renowned chefs from faraway places. On the plus side, recipes and more from the series can now be found in Somebody Feed Phil: The Book, which was released here in the UK on 8 January, a few months after its release in North America. Proceeds go to I AM ALS, so you’re not only feeding yourself, you’re also “feeding” a good cause. (Phil’s mother Helen died of ALS/MND back in 2019.) Can’t wait to try some of the recipes that made it in there!
Once again, Somebody Feed Phil has my ringing endorsement. Watching it feels like a great big hug, and is exactly what the doctor ordered.
5 out of 5 lobster rolls.