Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pg. 99: Kathleen Collins' "Watching What We Eat"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Watching What We Eat: A Long Look at Television Cooking Shows by Kathleen Collins.

About the book, from the publisher:
What does over fifty years of television cooking shows reveal about how we eat—and how we live?

“Kathleen Collins’ Watching What We Eat is a book not only for foodies, but for anyone with an interest in this vital vein of American popular culture.” – Jane and Michael Stern, authors of Jane and Michael Stern's Encyclopedia of Pop Culture (HarperCollins) and American Gourmet (HarperCollins)

“In her lively and informative narrative of television food shows, Kathleen Collins captures the phenomenal growth of food as entertainment, what has evolved into a new form of spectator sport in America. The rise of TV celebrity chefs within the context of the nation's growing sophistication about food are stories that needed to be told, and Collins has told them well.” – Barbara Haber, food historian, author of From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals (Penguin)

“With an easy wit and a ‘me, too’ voice that pulls readers right in, Collins charts the rise of TV cooks as educators, mentors, entertainers and co-conspirators; indeed, as beloved, central and enduring characters in our national pop culture.” – Adam Ried, Equipment Guru, “America’s Test Kitchen” on PBS

Since the first black-and-white TV sets began to appear in American living rooms in the late 1940s, we have been watching people chop, sauté, fillet, whisk, flip, pour, arrange and serve food on the small screen. More than just a how-to or an amusement, cooking shows are also a unique social barometer. Their legacy corresponds to the transition from women at home to women at work, from eight-hour to 24/7 workdays, from cooking as domestic labor to enjoyable leisure, and from clearly defined to more fluid gender roles. As the role of food changed from mere necessity to a means of self-expression and a conspicuous lifestyle accessory, the aim of cooking shows shifted from education to entertainment, showing viewers not simply how to cook but how to live.

While variety shows and westerns have gone the way of rabbit ear antennae, cooking shows are still being watched by huge audiences. Watching What We Eat illuminates how cooking shows have both reflected and shaped significant changes in American culture and explores why it is that just about everybody still finds them irresistible.
Read an excerpt from Watching What We Eat, and learn more about the book and author at the Watching What We Eat website.

The Page 99 Test: Watching What We Eat.

--Marshal Zeringue