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.


johngoldfine said...

Strangely enough I just started 'Omniovore's Dilemma,' while my wife is reading 'In Defense of Food.' I guess at some point we'll trade off. Right now, we're babbling at each other: 'Wait till you read this stuff about Evil Corn.' 'We're having a Michael Pollan-approved meal tonight!'

johngoldfine said...

This time of year my diet is very closely pegged to my garden--we've gone from asparagus to spinach and greens to peas to potatoes and broccoli and cukes to...well, the next big thing ought to be tomatoes and tomatoes ought to be huge, determining menus into early October, but last week, first time ever in 40 years of gardening and thanks to both sloppy disposal of culls and an extraordinarily wet summer, I lost all 18 tomato plants to Late Blight, the very same that sent all the Irish who didn't starve to death onto ships heading westwards.

Imagine the feeling of losing a series to the MFY in three very embarrassing games and having your stars all go on the DL and having trolls on your game threads--sort of feels like that: frustrated, rueful, pissed, worried about the future compounded with and despite the knowledge that it isn't really a 'real' problem....

L-girl said...

Glad to know you're reading Omnivore's Dilemma. It's become one of my favourite books. His writing has had a real impact on my life.

Suzanne said...

His comments on feminism and lack of willingness to explore why men don't cook detract from his overall message in my eyes.

L-girl said...

Ah, interesting. I feel just the opposite. He's not saying women should return to the kitchen, he's saying men must be equal partners in the home, or else the whole thing can't work.

Why more men are not equal partners in the home is outside the scope of the article.