Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Last Word on TV and Cooking

Michael Pollan thinks deeper and harder about food and our relationship to it than anyone I know. By personally engaging in four different forms of eating (manufactured, big organic, sustainable farming, and living of the land) in The Omnivore's Dilemma, Pollan completely transformed the way I thought about the economics and ecology of our American eating habits. So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to find myself engrossed in a mini-opus in the New York Times called "Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch," and finding out Pollan had authored it. It is a lengthy exploration of the evolution of cooking on TV and the paradox that we now spend more time watching shows about food than actually cooking it.

Pollan concludes that the loss of cooking has been bad not only for 1) our waistline 2) our humanity. (In a former life, my workaholic editor from a former life subsisted on cold cuts and carb-free drinks. He came into my office once and saw a photo in my Doisneau calendar of workmen in Paris gathered around a park bench for lunch--a jar of milk, a loaf of bread, some sardines maybe. It may not have been cooking but I'll never forget his wistful remark: "They look so happy.")

Back when I watched TV, I could spend hours watching Food Network, but truth be told, there was probably only one recipe I ever tried from watching it, pasta with pumpkin and sausage, (which I have made at least five times and is not as strange as it sounds). The network exec there was right when she said that food TV was less about preparing it than eating it, thus the oft-cited epithet of "food p*rn."

I'd like to say that I cooked more when I turned off the TV, but other things filled the void--mainly, surfing the internet. It's only been this last year that I actually have cooked more--probably at least three times a week--because I actively decided I wanted to (last 3 days--quinoa salad recipe from mom, a cauliflower recipe from Ubuntu, and a zucchini and egg pasta from Mark Bittman). In this economy, we can't go out to eat as much so the only way I'll have a freshly cooked meal is if I make it myself. I do feel more creative and connected to my food when I'm cooking but so far, no luck in the first part of Pollan's conjecture--we're only tightening our belts figuratively.

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