While sitting in my lonely apartment, my day unwinding to the sound of Royksopp and the TV on in the background, I find myself strangely attached to watching as many cooking shows as possible. Sitting on my couch drooling at this mouth watering food that seems to spontaneously pop out of the screen and ask you to eat it. It always turns out perfect too! The pure luck that a dish is successfully made every time, even if the original is somehow destroyed in a random freak accident. Even with this obvious flop, I tread on watching away trying to learn something new. Unfortunately in the process of absorbing my sponge of cooking shows, I noticed the one thing that holds back almost all the cooking shows or cooking related shows.
None of the shows actually teach you how to cook.
Let us take a quick breakdown of the major networks from least about cooking forward.
Oh yes, the famous and seemed to be growing category of cooking competitions! This category that is yes cooking, well kinda more like gameshow cooking, is ever growing bigger and bigger. I think this is the spawn of what was my favorite show on Food Network called Iron Chef. Cheesy voice overs and the wacky, zany Japanese gameshow was what made this show. From here you can see where it went first to Iron Chef America, Chef vs. City, Top Chef, Chopped, etc… I could be here all night listing these shows that have spawned since then. Let’s not forget about a show to watching Bobby Flay completely get owned by some random chef in America who specializes in one particular food. If you need a reassurance that these shows exist just take a look on Food Network at almost any time. These shows are great in terms of visual but really nothing else brings out the cooking. It is after all watching people compete in these insane ideas of cooking with only mayo or with random ingredients that might never be put together. It is great to see the competition but it does nothing for the average dude/dudette trying to figure out how to cook something.
This category has been around for awhile and spawns from that idea of how products are made and also about the people or companies behind them. The mysteries of Twinkie making are revealed! Really products that are all in tight little packages and as a home cook would be utterly pointless to cook unless your dying for that secret recipe of Reese but really you aren’t going to get it from this show. You get the sinking reality that we make a lot of shit and we eat it like crazy. Processed food is one of the largest industries out there and we fully accept it. I’m not going to lie I enjoy a candy bar from a famous Mars, it is tasty, fast, and probably unhealthier than making it myself. Although theses shows give me the same reaction in my head, “Oh, cool”. Yes the alluring effect of how a Pringle is constructed is intriguing but gives you nothing. No average dude or dudette could take anything away from it.
Cooking Sorta Kinda
There is this other idea of cooking shows being more about the party leader or “presentation over quality of the meal”. I think this came about due to our busy lifestyles or maybe our lack of skills in terms of cooking but we all know how to make a drink to get people boozed up or cut some cheese for an appetizer piece. These shows try to cut some corners so preparing a meal is easier and faster, you can focus on those guest who are coming over. Presentation is everything, yes but keeping the presentation out of the food can hurt you just as much. The food may look awesome but if it tastes like crap well… I guess there is some more booze to go around. I get the point that we have these busy lifestyles and we can’t always make it out to the store or chopped and peeled potatoes for an army of guests but really this doesn’t help an average cook. I think the scary points are what make you a better cook from any level. Not knowing how it is going to turn out sometimes is the scariest looming feeling but when your friends, who cares? At least I know if my cooking failed and I had to order a pizza my guests I believe wouldn’t care, right? Maybe or maybe not depending on your friends but all these shows do is cut the basics. The foundations of how and why you cook in the first place. Yes a restaurant has a small staff cooking for tons of guests every night but the do this thing called “prep”. These shows forget about this and for that fact, they are little but shortcut shows that will just end you with a bad taste in your mouth…and your guests.
I really don’t know what to say at this point. From all the other categories I think I have actually taken away about 95% of all cooking related shows on the air today. There really are only a couple of what I would identify as instructional or technical shows that give you as an average dude/dudette a chance at making something new. That inspire us to pick up a knife right there and MAKE something to eat. These shows are rare and I think of a dying breed. They used to be around though and they still are hidden in pockets around the world. One of my most recent favorite examples was an episode of Anthony Bourdain No Reservations that had your famous chefs making the basics, burgers, roasted chicken, stew. The items that our mothers only dreamed of us cooking as we grow older. It was exceptional because it was inspiring to show the simplicity of amazingly tasteful and aware dishes. What could be more simple than a roasted chicken. If we break down the process quickly, clean, truss, oven. These shows need to have a resurgence if we ever have a change of becoming a society that enjoys cooking and DOES cook on a regular basis.