Monday, February 3, 2014

Food Glorious Food

In the last twenty years we have seen are major cultural shift.  This shift has been in how food and the food industry are portrayed in the media.  At the head of this juggernaut are Food Network and its sister channel Cooking Channel.  The broadcast networks have come up with their own entries into this lucrative market.  We have seen a shift how food is viewed but the public.  There have been cooking shows since the dawn of television and they remained unchanged for the most part until the late 1990’s.  Usually a cooking show was a demonstration of how to make a certain recipe.  There were Celebrity Chefs before the late 1990’s, people like, Julia Child, Justin Wilson, Martin Yan, Paul Prudhomme, Wolfgang Puck, Jacques Pépin, Jeff Smith, and Graham Kerr.  I may have missed a few. 

The Food Network was the game changer.  It started in 1993, but it gained momentum with the advent of three shows.  In 1997 Emril Live started, it melded a cooking show with a talk show vibe.  In 1999 two shows further changed how Cooking shows evolved.  First was the airing of a dubbed version of the Japanese Cooking competition show Iron Chef.  This is considered one of the first of that genre.  The second was Good Eats hosted by Alton Brown.  Good Eats was part cooking show, part skit show, part history and science of food and cooking all rolled into one half hour show. 

These plus a few travel style food shows that highlighted local hot spots and the modern styles of cooking shows were born.  Of the travel food shows, the pinnacle was Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.  Another new style of food or cooking show was the renovation show.  These are where a failing food related business is helped by a renowned food professional into fixing the issues.  Now there are shows for bakeries, restaurants, bars and more.  This format is so successful for a show that it has been translated to non-food related businesses.

Now even the broadcast networks have cooking talk shows and cooking competitions shows.  The food travel shows are still either public television or cable.  With the popularity of this style of programming we are beginning to see a movement to know what we are eating and where it is coming from.  Chefs are becoming bigger Celebrities than before.  We are seeing cooking competition shows with child competitors that actually understand some serious cooking techniques. 

Is this a good thing?  I think so.  I hope it can lead to more responsible cooking and eating.  I would like to see people take more responsibility of where their food comes from.  We are seeing a food movement toward using everything possible and going back to the basics.  If we get away from processed food and back to home cooked food.  It will be for the best.  I feel even if we were to eat things that some consider unhealthy but lacked processing and all the preservative it would still be better. 

Another bi-product of this is the examination of what is in our food.  That has been a stream of documentary films about where our food comes from and what it is doing to us.  Among these films are Forks Over Knives, Food Inc., Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, and Super Size Me.  They examine what the processed food is doing to us, how the current way of eating is not working, and what the major food corporations are doing to worsen things.  I am not going to get into further about the evils of the major food corporations, but they have a lot to lose if we eat natural and healthier. 

In this country between this gourmet and natural movements occurring in our culture, we find ourselves at the precipice of a food based paradigm shift.  This is exciting and scary.  We are finding out that maybe the old ways of doing things were not all bad. We also need to learn about moderation.  I struggle with that myself.  I am hopeful.  That Is My Not So Humble Opinion.  

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