October 18, 2014

Food TV Ain’t What It Used to Be

Food TV Ain’t What It Used to Be

Do you watch food TV?

For years we loved to watch Food Network  It was the channel that stayed on in the background. Then life got busy and we didn’t really have much time for TV. But anytime we were on vacation, we kept the TV tuned to Food Network and the shows we loved: Alton Brown s Good Eats  Two Fat Ladies, and how-to cooking shows with Emeril Lagasse, Giada De Laurentiis, Jamie Oliver, and Mario Batali (I also really dig Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives).

But things have changed. Food TV ain’t what it used to be.

Just last week the whole family watched Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen for the first time. My wife and I were not impressed. As a matter of fact, at one point my wife asked me, “Where did all the how-to cooking shows go?”

Without thinking, I responded, “Food Network doesn’t produce how-to cooking shows anymore because no one really wants to know how to cook.”

It’s a symptom of our overly busy society. We are too busy for our own good, and one of the first things that gets tossed by the wayside is cooking… and family meals. Between working too many hours (sometimes including two or more jobs), kids’ extracurricular activities, and a general exhaustion that often weighs over us like a thick fog, families just don’t have the time to cook. Not from scratch, at least.

I’m speaking in generalities, of course. But my response to my wife made sense. People don’t need to know how to cook, so what is a food TV channel to do?

Well, sports have always been entertaining and successful. Maybe they can turn food into sport? Or a game show? Or someone’s sad or quirky reality? Or, hey, why not all three?!

And it seems that’s exactly what they have done. Food Network has cooked up a concoction of reality TV with two dashes of game-show and one dash of professional sports.

Or, as a recent story by NPR puts it, “Since the original Japanese Iron Chef first appeared on the Food Network here in the U.S. 15 years ago, how-to cooking shows have gradually been displaced by food combat: reality shows that pit chefs against each other.”

Shows like Cutthroat Kitchen and Restaurant: Impossible are the result.

Does Today’s Food TV Have Anything to Teach Home Cooks?

It seems that my instinctive response to my wife last week wasn’t too far from the mark. In the same story run by NPR on October 12, an interview with Krishnendu Ray, who is a professor of food studies at NYU’s Steinhardt School, is referenced.

When asked if the new types of food shows teach anything to home cooks, “Ray says he agrees with Michael Pollan: ‘What food TV does is trains you how to order in restaurants.’”

“Yes, people want to watch food shows and talk about food, Ray says, but socioeconomic factors are keeping them out of the kitchen. ‘People being very busy, long commutes, two jobs: those are the reasons why people are not cooking,’ he says.”

Catholic Foodie Readers Weigh-In: What do YOU Say?

The topic of food TV and home cooking has intrigued me for years, and my understanding and interpretation of the relationship between the two continue to evolve. But I would really love to know what you think.

Do you watch food TV? Do you like it? Do you miss the old shows?
Let me know what you think in the comments below!