Why We Love Cooking Shows


What is it about food television that captures our imagination? While we are in an age of competitive cooking, we are also in the age of slow food and locally sourced, organic ingredients. The middle classes, at least, have new ways to think about food and unprecedented opportunities to consume better food.

Food is not simply sustenance; it is a significant part of a growing cultural conversation, albeit a privileged and fanciful one. In addition to watching people compete, we feel like if we watch these shows, we might absorb some culinary excellence.

Roxane Gay writes for The American Prospect about the insane market saturation of competitive cooking shows and why we are obsessed with them.

Her last paragraph is a thing of beauty,

Beyond these shows, we are inundated by commercials for diet products and sensible snacks. We read about weight loss in glossy magazines. We fret over cellulite and count calories. Perhaps we watch these shows to attempt to satisfy a hunger that never will be satisfied. Perhaps we watch these shows to consume beautiful food without consequence for our delicately human bodies.

It reminds me, somewhat circuitously, of an Oscar Wilde quote on sentimentality, as referenced in Leslie Jamison’s new book The Empathy Exams: “A sentimentalist is simply one who wants to have the luxury of an emotion without paying for it.”

Food without the calories. I’ll take it. And I will also take actual food to eat while watching it.

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