The Rise of Cooking Shows, the Fall of Cooking (and Happiness)

I almost ignored this bit-too-long piece on the rise of the TV cook­ing show and the sim­ul­tan­eous fall of the home cooked meal (via @borrodell).

That decline has sev­er­al causes: women work­ing out­side the home; food com­pan­ies per­suad­ing Amer­ic­ans to let them do the cook­ing; and advances in tech­no­logy that made it easi­er for them to do so. Cook­ing is no longer oblig­at­ory, and for many people, women espe­cially, that has been a bless­ing. But per­haps a mixed bless­ing, to judge by the culture’s con­tinu­ing, if not deep­en­ing, fas­cin­a­tion with the sub­ject. It has been easi­er for us to give up cook­ing than it has been to give up talk­ing about it — and watch­ing it.

But com­bined with this short art­icle dis­cuss­ing the joys a cook­ing show brought to one fam­ily, and the myri­ad bene­fits it brought to their chil­dren, I felt they were per­fect com­ple­ments.

A funny thing happened on the way through the cook­ing show obses­sion. What we were see­ing on the screen began trick­ling into our kit­chen. The kids sud­denly perked up dur­ing our weekly vis­its to the loc­al farm­ers’ mar­ket, insist­ing on check­ing out exot­ic fruits and veget­ables and, even bet­ter, buy­ing, pre­par­ing, and eat­ing them. […]

What are they learn­ing? How do I count the ways? Fine motor skills from chop­ping gar­lic. Multi-task­ing from sautéing veget­ables in olive oil. (Case in point is their start­ling real­iz­a­tion that you can­’t just leave a sauce­pan unat­ten­ded; this skill requires the need to over­come any tend­en­cies for ADD.) They’ve honed their organ­iz­a­tion and math skills, prac­ticed quick think­ing, and stretched to devel­op some ori­gin­al ideas. […] And, best of all, my kids are actu­ally eat­ing and enjoy­ing copi­ous veget­ables and a vari­ety of oth­er health­ful and exot­ic foods.

The lat­ter art­icle also notes that a strong neg­at­ive cor­rel­a­tion has been found between the amount of tele­vi­sion watched and hap­pi­ness. This does not sur­prise me.