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The real purpose of Food Network

In a long and really interesting look at Julia Child’s legacy, Michael Pollan makes the following point about the Food Network:

On a commercial network, a program that actually inspired viewers to get off the couch and spend an hour cooking a meal would be a commercial disaster, for it would mean they were turning off the television to do something else. The ads on the Food Network, at least in prime time, strongly suggest its viewers do no such thing: the food-related ads hardly ever hawk kitchen appliances or ingredients (unless you count A.1. steak sauce) but rather push the usual supermarket cart of edible foodlike substances, including Manwich sloppy joe in a can, Special K protein shakes and Ore-Ida frozen French fries, along with fast-casual eateries like Olive Garden and Red Lobster.

Most cooking shows are not about getting people to cook, but rather giving them the vicarious experience of cooking. It’s a pity.

11 Comments

  1. Don’t you be dissin’ my man Alton.

  2. This, of course, is just my personal experience but I’ve found the opposite. I’ve been inspired to try cooking many different things I’ve seen made on the Food network. And I agree with Stan, Alton is the man.

  3. My wife and I both regularly try food she finds on the Food Network. Of course, some of the shows are just for entertainment and we know which ones those are.

    I do hate the editing, her grandma one tried to make a recipie from one of the shows and couldn’t understand why meat didn’t brown in 30 seconds, and how things didn’t cook fully in two minutes as it does on the Food Network over commercial break.

  4. I like to beat up on the Food Network but my relationship with it is more complex than that. I will admit that I love to watch “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.”

  5. On a more serious note, I think there’s a fundamental difference between Good Eats and other cooking shows on the Food Network. My man Alton is much more interested in teaching the fundamentals of cooking and the science behind it than demonstrating recipes. His is the only cooking show that I can stomach, so to speak.

  6. It’s true regarding Alton. I have a whole additional rant in me explaining that the true problem with the actual cooking shows on Food Network is the demand for constant novelty. There’s not nearly enough about the fundamentals on there.

  7. I think my man-crush is showing.

  8. I agree – My man Alton teaches and inspires me to cook better meals.

    I disagree with Michael Pollan … the purpose of FoodNetwork is to keep people interested in food and to watch as much television as possible, so that they can sell foodie needed items. They cross-market HGTV and FLN – they haven’t inspired me to get FLN – they just stole ‘E.’

    No television programmer in his/her right mind would expect someone to be plugged in 24-7 to the boob tube, nonetheless their network. I need my SyFy, USA, and HGTV fixes – my daughter just needs her Disney and Nickelodeon. I could almost watch FoodNetwork all day long – I have grown tired of Paula, Rachel, and DDD. I Want my ‘Best of ….’ back on the air … as well as ‘East Meets West.’

  9. <3 Alton Brown. He has inspired me to start cooking time and again.

  10. Yeah, it’s like Twitter. It lets you pretend you keep up with your friends.

  11. I personally love and am addicted to the Food Network, and I do make quite a few things I see on there. I do have my favorites, and some of them are purely for entertainment value, like Duff and Robert Irvine. I also watch and often make things from Alton, Giada, Rachael (even if that makes me hang my head in shame), and others. There are a few I despise and find TOTALLY unwatchable, most notably Sandra Lee, who is known in my house as either “Skelator” or “she who must not be named!”

    I think FN has found its niche and does serve a purpose. Yes, they could advertise less of the “not really food” food products that Pollan pushes, but if they did that, who would advertise? The Dairy Council? The Beef Consortium? Celery Growers USA? Unfortunately, the bulk of “Real Food” does not have an ad campaign!

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