I thoroughly enjoyed Michael Pollan’s feature article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine this week, “Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch.” Like many faculty and staff I’ve spoken with about Pollan’s visit, I feel that I am very responsible in my food choices already. I am a member of the proverbial choir that Pollan is preaching too. I prepare all our food at home, and aside from my addiction to Diet Coke, things are pretty wholesome.
Pollan’s feature this week chips away at this vision of ourselves. He looks at the paradox of our cultural obsession with cooking and the decreasing amount of time we spend actually cooking. In particular, he uses the new film Julie/Julia as an opportunity to compare early cooking shows with what we see today on the Food Network. And a parallel decline in actual, home cooking:
“Today the average American spends a mere 27 minutes a day on food preparation (another four minutes cleaning up); that’s less than half the time that we spent cooking and cleaning up when Julia arrived on our television screens. It’s also less than half the time it takes to watch a single episode of ‘Top Chef’ or ‘Chopped’ or ‘The Next Food Network Star.’ What this suggests is that a great many Americans are spending considerably more time watching images of cooking on television than they are cooking themselves — an increasingly archaic activity they will tell you they no longer have the time for.”
This piece may be extremely engaging to the multiple audiences of Go Big Read. It will hit home with the folks who already cook at home and with people who encounter cooking mainly through the television. It prompts us to examine the distance between things that are about cooking and actual cooking, and to think about what constitutes cooking today.
Last night, in addition to eating a meal cooked entirely from scratch with ingredients from the farmer’s market last night, I also drank several Diet Cokes and watched a recording of the season finale of “Next Food Network Star.” I knew better, but I couldn’t resist.
Sarah McDaniel, UW Libraries