Why Do We Watch Food Television?

Today, former New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni filed a piece in The Atlantic on why food television has reached such levels of popularity. Why is it that we continue to watch, but have generally decreased our amount of time spent actually cooking? Bruni floats a friend's opinion that we hang onto food television as a sort of "cultural nostalgia," reminiscent of an allegedly bygone era of home-cooked meals and family dinners. Then he offers his own analysis:

"When many people turn on the television set, as opposed to picking up a book or doing something more interactive, they're looking for a passive, mind-resting experience. They want something that doesn't require close attention, the way a twisty plot might. Something akin to visual music. Something ambient, in a way.

"Much food television gives them that. It's a banquet of colorful, seductive, and familiar images, presented rhythmically, with a soundtrack of oohs and aahs."

I know that I never feel more at ease than when Ina Garten is instructing me on how to make the perfect decadent dessert while striding around her gorgeous, high-ceilinged kitchen. But after hearing so many debates about our food television-watching habits, I can't help but tune out what I view as superfluously analytic arguments.

While I haven't done a huge amount of self-reflection on this topic, I think I watch food television because I like food. I like to think about it, read about it, talk about it. When there's a delicious visual on the screen, all the better.

What do you think, eaters? Why do we watch food television?

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