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Davis, California

Monday, May 20, 2024

Column: As seen on TV

America is obsessed with food. We love food. Just turn on any TV and count how many commercials you see for food. How many different cooking shows do we have?

Thanks to Food Network I can learn how to cook Indian food at home, make meals for a family with less than $10, stir up gourmet Italian, find amazing diners across America, open a restaurant… the list goes on. That’s just Food Network – there’s so much more on other channels as well.

Cooking shows used to be for the lonely-person-late-night scenario. Now they’re cool. From their humble beginnings of wartime ration recipes and Julia Child to reality baking shows, things have changed.

Modern food shows have adapted greatly within popular culture to stand the test of time. Other television genres have come and gone within a generation, yet food-related shows have lasted over 60 years.

Cooking shows on TV have moved beyond simple recipes. While stars like Rachel Ray and Melissa d’Arabian try to make their shows and meals for the masses, it’s still hard to keep up. I feel like I need to possess every spice, seasoning and a deep fryer to keep up with them – and I’m not even watching Paula Deen or Bobby Flay!

The shows have also transformed into competitions and reality TV. It’s hard to tell what people like more – the drama of the failure to measure up or the ingenuity of the creation. Yes, that shot of Chef Ramsey’s risotto looks delicious but not as amazing as when he threw the frying pan.

America gains so much enjoyment and pleasure from these shows, it’s ridiculous. You can almost guarantee that Food Network will be playing on at least one TV in the ARC. If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is.

We are so obsessed with food that it is possible to watch food shows 24 hours a day. Something is always on; you can always get your fix. This is food porn.

You know you have watched a show without intending to actually recreate the scrumptious meal; you enjoy watching it being made. The way each ingredient is described, the technique, the rush to get it done before the show ends – you love every moment of it.

If there was ever proof that we are living in a culture of excess and pleasure, then the cornucopia of food and cooking shows are it. In a nation where childhood obesity is as much of a concern for schools as the quality of the education, it makes sense that Paula Deen would have three shows and make you want a deep-fryer on your home kitchen counter, too.

Distribution of wealth and access to food accounts for the hunger experienced by millions in poverty, and yet we have no problem giving Adam Richman a show where he eats 10 pounds of food in under an hour on a regular basis.

We live in a state where state legislation has been passed to regulate the size of a cage and living conditions for chickens and where Guy Fieri can serve you wild boar or alligator, if it’s in season.

The worst part is – I totally love it. All of it. I buy into almost all of these shows. I’ve eaten at Guy Fieri’s restaurant Johnny Garlic’s multiple times. If “Man vs. Food” is on, it must be watched. And if Chef Ramsey is yelling, I’m listening.

While these shows display the overindulgence that is so common we usually forget it exists, they also provide a wonderful window into the world of food. I will readily admit that food-related shows have changed the way I eat and my relationship with food.

A combination of studying abroad in Italy and watching Food Network has given me justification for paying $18 for a bottle of truffle oil. It’s totally unnecessary, but after hearing about truffles so much on TV I had to try them. I tried them, understood how amazing they were first-hand, and now I crave their flavors.

On the same token, movies like Supersize Me and Food, Inc., and books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma and The Jungle have shaped how I, and millions of others, think of food. These kinds of food-related media have affected legislation. It’s not a bad thing that America is so obsessed with food and eating – we need to be aware of what is going into our bodies. We need to know and understand our relationship with food. We need to know where it’s coming from and how it’s made.

But we also need to care. I knew it wasn’t healthy to eat gelato every day I was in Italy, but it was so delicious I didn’t care. Thank you Food Network for teaching me the difference between ice cream and gelato and thank you America for teaching me to overindulge without guilt.

If you want to watch “Cupcake Wars” and overindulge with SABRINA VIGIL after this quarter, please tell her at svvigil@gmail.com.


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