In our increasingly globalised society, food has become an integral way of connecting people with cultures and flavours that aren’t native to them. It has also become a status symbol, a fashion statement, and a marker of one’s knowledge of the world. Why is it then that we often find ourselves spending more time marvelling over food creations on TV and social media than we do actually making them ourselves? I think the answer lies in the (relative and admittedly subjective) quality and type of show it is. Sit back as I take you on a journey through a food show lover’s guide as to why we are so obsessed with watching others cook, eat, and enjoy what we often cannot have.
Man vs Food
Man vs Food is a guilty pleasure, a show we (or maybe it’s just me) watch when we feel like eating an absolute mountain but cannot possibly stomach the sheer quantity of food being consumed. This show is the Current Affair to food shows: the low-grade, hilariously terrible, and an overall appalling waste of resources kind of situation that epitomises many a health problem in the Western World. I, however, sometimes find myself salivating over the sheer grease. This particular fascination for such a show comes from fulfilling the greed that I know, morally and financially, I cannot ever oblige. It is fantasising about eating a rack of ribs slathered in smoky BBQ sauce, followed up by a 10 000 calorie intake just for the lols and a free feed. It is the deep secret, hidden in my YouTube suggestions, passed off as outrageous and disgusting, yet the thing I go to when I am in the thick of exam period and craving a serious feed.
MasterChef is a different kind of fantasy. The show gets its charm and devout fan base from its relatability, from a crowd that can picture themselves in that kitchen. We see winners like Julie Goodwin, a humble Aussie mum who makes a killer roast, and we feel like she could be our mum
Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares
I remember fondly when I first came across this show during a scene in which Ramsay was aggressively berating a chef for freezing meatballs. I thought to myself as I ate my own reheated meal, ‘wow, I would never allow my restaurant be so bad that I have to call this British farce in to help me, what team of absolute morons’. Kitchen Nightmares brings us to the type of TV that we turn to when we want to laugh at the misfortunes of these hapless chefs. I feel as though any show containing anything Gordon Ramsay (aside from his kids series, where he is uncharacteristically humane) makes us feel more accomplished, a little bit better about ourselves. Most of all, it provides an outlet to laugh at the bullying whilst saying ‘oh but they deserved it a little bit, look at the quality of their plating.’
Instagram ‘Foodporn’ is the millennial go-to for aesthetically pleasing images of brunch and coffee. Its addictiveness stems from the ease at which filters and the correct plating of avo on toast, can make our ordinary lives look so much better. But Instagram has upped its game in recent times. The variety of food inspo varies considerably from old mate Ben’s morning protein smoothie for #bulkseason #cleanshred to a detailed video of perfect dip triage for your Sunday arvo session, accompanied by the recipe, from a page entirely dedicated to food videos. I think that Instagram is a severe culprit of allowing us to believe that we can make food and eat food that is vastly more complex and most exotic than it actually is.
A show that takes me on a soul-searching food journey every.single.time. Chef’s Table is the ultimate food show: the only one I turn to when I want to see creations of a kind that I will NEVER in my life achieve. The kind that makes you feel you’re a part of the process, eating and cooking these phenomenal pieces of art. For anyone that has ever had the privilege of spending 50 minutes engrossed in this ethereal creation, you will understand my obsession. It comes from a place of absolute adoration and respect for the way in which all of the chefs take such great lengths to infuse their food with every aspect of their environment, their culture, and their personal lives. The series is more than just a plate: it touches on the emotional journeys of the individuals, the cultural phenomena, as well as discussing the environmental impact of the food sourced. This show is a marvellous mix of unachievable cooking fantasies, and a reminder that food is so much more than a trip to Coles, it is everything around us and everything that sustains us.
At the core of it all, I just really love food shows. For me, they provide a variety of emotional experiences that make them humanising, and they are a constant reminder that I really am a terribly unimaginative cook.