michael pollan: out of the kitchen, onto the couch

I've just read another amazing feature by Michael Pollan, one of my favourite writers, and someone whose work I hope you have discovered by now. It's a long feature, and more than worth your time and attention.

I won't attempt to summarize. It's about cooking, and TV, and cooking on TV; about feminism and labour and transformation; about consumer society and its effect on our bodies and souls.
The Food Network has helped to transform cooking from something you do into something you watch — into yet another confection of spectacle and celebrity that keeps us pinned to the couch. The formula is as circular and self-reinforcing as a TV dinner: a simulacrum of home cooking that is sold on TV and designed to be eaten in front of the TV. True, in the case of the Swanson rendition, at least you get something that will fill you up; by comparison, the Food Network leaves you hungry, a condition its advertisers must love. But in neither case is there much risk that you will get off the couch and actually cook a meal. Both kinds of TV dinner plant us exactly where television always wants us: in front of the set, watching.

To point out that television has succeeded in turning cooking into a spectator sport raises the question of why anyone would want to watch other people cook in the first place. There are plenty of things we’ve stopped doing for ourselves that we have no desire to watch other people do on TV: you don’t see shows about changing the oil in your car or ironing shirts or reading newspapers. So what is it about cooking, specifically, that makes it such good television just now?

Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch by Michael Pollan.

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