There is a bizarre and unsettling paradox out there in the TV world. There are people who watch hours upon hours of Food Network programming, but don’t know how to boil an egg. Maybe you’re one of them. I know I am. I’m admitting this shameful fact to the world, but it’s true – it’s my dirty little secret.
Why would I spend hours watching cooking television when I hate to cook? Am I envious of professional chefs? Am I hungry, but lazy? Well, no, not exactly. Cooking program and the love of cooking don’t really match up as you might think. In fact, cooking shows aren’t targeted at a cooking audience at all.
To discover the source of this seeming TV viewer paradox, it’s best to look back at the old cooking shows, like Emeril Live. The whole point of that series was to teach people at home how to make amazing dishes. Back then, that’s what the bulk of cooking shows were all about. The prevalence of those teaching shows embedded that theme into the minds of TV audiences. Nowadays, whenever we think of Food Network, we think of Rachel Ray, Emeril, and Giada DeLaurentiis.
But that’s the wrong way to think of Food Network. Sure, Rachel Ray and her ilk are still around, but now Food Network is more about reality television, contests, or just putting a camera in a restaurant’s kitchen and seeing what kind of drama arises.
I love Cake Boss, but do you think I’ve got any clue how to bake a delicious cake? You can forget it. If the instructions aren’t on the back of the box, I might as well be trying to perform surgery. And what about Iron Chef? Do I know how to make truffle-infused pasta? Ha!
You see, the whole focus of the Food Network has shifted away from teaching people how to cook and gravitated more towards pure entertainment. Sure, they’re cooking during all of the action, but the actual cooking process is kind of secondary. To put it into perspective, Food Network cares about teaching you how to cook about as much as the show COPS teaches you how to be an officer of the law.
In actuality, part of the Food Network’s success lies in our biology. To put it simply, humans love food. Actually, all animals love food. It’s part of our biological programming. We like to eat food, smell food, look at food, collect food, and just generally be in the presence of food. It makes us happy because, well, food is kind of necessary for survival.
So, the Food Network appeals to viewers by providing us with entertainment while appealing to our stomachs. It’s actually pretty similar to putting sex on TV. Food Network is also appealing to a base, primal instinct. From a biological standpoint, a dramatic, cut-throat competition on the Food Network is pretty much functionally identical to America’s Next Top Model. Just replace the sex appeal with food appeal, and you’ve got yourself a hit show.
So, are you a hungry Food Network watcher? Don’t be ashamed if you are. It’s not as odd as you might think. Be comforted by the fact that there are thousands of Food Network fans out there who are just as clueless as you are when trying to navigate a kitchen.
I mean, could you figure out how to cook a pork chop out of that clip? All I learned is that cooks like to whine.