Michael Pollan has a cover article in this week’s New York Times Magazine called “Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch” about how cooking shows and the food network have changed the way Americans cook and view cooking.
A lot has changed since 1963, when Julia Child’s “The French Chef” first appeared on American television (which also happened to be the year that Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique came out).
A lot of shows like Iron Chef America, Top Chef, and The Next Food Network Star move so fast and involve so many obscure ingredients, it’s hard to garner any kind of information about cooking. The focus is more on the consumption of “high-end food” rather than the production of it. The message has become: Don’t try this at home. If you want to eat like this, go to a restaurant.
“If Julia took the fear out of cooking,” Pollan writes, “these shows take the fear—the social anxiety—out of ordering in restaurants (Hey, now I know what a shiso leaf is and what ‘crudo’ means!).”
The intention is to have people interested enough in the food and the cooking of it to stay glued to the TV, but not into it in the way that they would want to get up and go make that food instead of remaining glued in front of the set. The ads aren’t even geared towards cooking or kitchen appliances—they’re for foods.
One of my favorite quotes from this article is about when Pollan asks a chef friend if he can learn anything about cooking from the Food Network, and the friend replies, “How much do you learn about basketball by watching the NBA?”
Hm…Also valid: watching basketball sure as hell doesn’t make me want to go dribble a ball outside with a bunch of dudes who are two feet taller than me. I’d rather marvel at the athleticism of the bros on TV. Not that I ever watch basketball—but if I did…
Anyway, there are so many aspects of this article I could go on and on about.
It’s definitely worth a read…