Thursday, October 01, 2009

Food thoughts and food tv

Cooler weather turns the mind toward cooking. We're still enjoying some of the tag end of summer, with a couple of weeks of home-grown tomatoes to go and a few peaches still at the grower's market. However, fall is pretty much here, as evidenced by the really good apples also at the grower's market and chilly nights that have me eying the basil plants- they don't stand anything approaching a frost and so are destined to become pesto soon, thus preserved for the freezer but marking the end of pizza margherita. Getting the eyeball, too, are a couple of elk shanks left from last year are going to come out of the freezer and meet up with a bottle of cheap wine and a long stay in a slow oven, a dish that requires cool weather to really enjoy.

In the vein of thoughts on food, I went over to Ruhlman's blog for the first time in a while and, once there, found an essay on the movie "Jules and Julia", with links to a Michael Pollan essay inspired in part by the movie, and an older Bill Buford article on the changing style of food tv.

One thought running through that writing is the conundrum that Americans are still cooking less and less while paying more and more attention to food matters, as reflected by the changing style of cooking shows from the seminal example of Julia Child's "The French Chef" to popular competition cooking shows like "Top Chef" and just-plain-eating shows, where you watch some host travel around eating at restaurants. Separate from the subject of television, the theme of actually cooking vs. being "into food" appears to be current, Hank Shaw just announced his book project centered on "honest food" in which it looks like he'll detail his amazing energy and efforts in producing and processing intricate foods and dishes in part to try to inspire folks to take the same level of care with their ingredients and tackle some significant preparations.

In one of the above-mentioned articles, Buford's last lines are "Never in our history as a species have we been so ignorant about our food. And it is revealing about our culture that, in the face of such widespread ignorance about a human being’s most essential function—the ability to feed itself—there is now a network broadcasting into ninety million American homes, entertaining people with shows about making coleslaw." In another, Pollan asserts toward the end of his essay that "The question is, Can we ever put the genie back into the bottle? Once it has been destroyed, can a culture of everyday cooking be rebuilt? One in which men share equally in the work? One in which the cooking shows on television once again teach people how to cook from scratch and, as Julia Child once did, actually empower them to do it?"

Rulman, appropriately I think, takes some issue with the idea that people are cooking less, perhaps placing the nadir of American cooking a bit behind us and pointing to the food blogs as heirs to Julia Child-style information sharing. However, Pollan's essay makes a pretty convincing case that while millions of people are watching food shows and reading about food and are, perhaps, getting into more exotic ingredients, many aren't following up by going into the kitchen regularly and cooking themselves. It does seem very, very strange.

For some fun cooking stuff, check out the new addition to the blog roll.

1 comment:

Mike Spies said...

TV has made cooking a spectator sport, perhaps? It does raise awareness of cooking as a creative art, tho'

No substitute for poring over a collection of quality cookbooks for new ideas and things to try. - beats watching TV - a great winter-time activity!