Influences How We Cook and Eat
Back in the day (before cable TV), TV cooking shows were either local morning-show affairs or educational PBS programs like "The Frugal Gourmet" and "The French Chef." Now, an array of food-centric channels like Food Network and the Cooking Channel are changing what we eat, as "celebrity chefs" change our perception of cooking from kitchen drudgery to an art form [source: Da Silva]. Look at how Rachael Ray has popularized extra virgin olive oil (much to some foodies' chagrin) [source: Woodland].
Yet ironically, though there are more shows on TV about food than ever before, the number of people who cook is actually declining. A 2010 Harris poll showed only 41 percent of Americans cook at home five or more times a week. Among millennials, the figure was just 33 percent. With all the extra hours people spend working and on screen time (TV watching, surfing the web), cooking dinner has taken a back seat.
Writer Michael Pollan observes that the big influence TV food shows have had on Americans is not encouraging them to cook -- though it does have that benefit for some viewers -- but shaping their tastes by exposing them to ingredients and dishes they'd never otherwise know about. And the "decline" of cooking shows -- going from programs on how to cook to shows where we mainly watch people eating or performing crazy feats centered around food (Hello "Iron Chef"!) -- follows the decline of cooking in our culture. And with that, the rise of obesity as we eat more fast food and restaurant food [source: Pollan].
But not all food TV is encouraging unhealthy habits, though. TV chef and food activist Jamie Oliver shone a light on the poor quality of food the average American eats on his top-rated show "Food Revolution."