A Cook's Diary

“The rise of the armchair cook”

Commenting on the deteriorating interest in home cooking, the program mix on The Food Network and the Cooking Channel, and the general dumbing down of the public, Seattle Times nutrition columnist Carrie Dennett says:

More than half of these shows are “food-related entertainment,” not “instructional cooking programs”…

One visible fallout from this loss of basic cooking skills is a “dumbing down” of recipes in cookbooks and food magazines…

This post’s title is from the quoted article.

Considering how these networks are raking in the big bucks, we can safely conclude that the formula works. At least, from a business point of view. Which is really the only view that network producers see. They aren’t in the food show business to embark on a mission to educate, after all. They’re there to make money. That’s what the shows are about.

Same thing with cookbooks and magazines. These days, the hottest selling cookbooks aren’t necessarily the most instructive nor the most insightful. The ones that sell are those “written” by the same celebrities from the food channels.

And magazines? Last time I checked, a lot of recipes in magazines are supplied by the advertisers. Ergo, ingredients include products of this and that company.

Worse, photos in (many but not all) cookbooks and magazines are not real representations of the recipes that accompany them. The rise of food stylists has standardized the use of fakery in food photos. Glue for cream. Shoe polish to make a raw turkey look perfectly browned. Etcetera, etcetera. These practices aren’t even kept secret.

Glycerin – This is some kind of oily, clear liquid that is used to treat burns, I think. We in the land of food photography, we use it to make things look fresh…[Read more: Food styling tips, tricks, and techniques – food styling tips for food photographers]

Cheating? That’s an understatement. That’s fooling the public outright. Still, these are things that I have accepted and I acknowledge that it is not in my power to change any of these practices, no matter how much I disagree with them. My solution is to NOT watch the crappy shows nor to buy the crappy cookbooks and magazines.

So, no, I don’t watch things like Hell’s Kitchen nor The Next Food Network Star nor anything similar. I do watch Giada, Ina Garten and reruns of Alton Brown’s Good Eats. And Anthony Bourdain, naturally.

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