Recently, I’ve realized I watch a large amount of cooking shows and videos. I came to this conclusion when the first three shows Netflix suggested were all cooking or food-centric. I started to think about why I (and society in general) like watching cooking videos.
Cooking entertainment has spanned several types of media — you can find books, newspaper columns, movies, TV shows, YouTube videos, blogs, and Instagrams all related in different ways to cooking. Whether it’s showing off beautifully crafted food or instructing you on how to make the best mac and cheese, cooking is an integral part of our entertainment culture.
It begs the question of why we are all so obsessed with watching people make food. There’s not nearly the same obsession with other everyday tasks like making one’s bed or going through emails.
I have several hypotheses as to why. Cooking can be a great community-based activity. It’s how some express affection for others.Think of a grandparent cooking for her grandchildren. There’s an inherent love underneath every bite of the food. My Amma is like this — she doesn’t like cooking that much, but she does it every day. It’s one way she shows her love — feeding us good food.
I also think cooking is a very universal goal. Some goals are hard to achieve in the short term, like a promotion at work or purchasing a home. But good cooking — or consuming it (I’m looking at you, foodies) — is a goal that can be achieved in a matter of hours. Virtually anybody can cook, and even more can go to a restaurant to eat someone else’s cooking. A quick sense of satisfaction is a powerful drive.
In theory, one watches a cooking video that peaks their interest, and then then goes and makes that same thing for themselves, achieving an earned sense of accomplishment.
Realistically though, most people simply watch cooking content, and any thought of them possibly recreating the food or making the trek to the hip restaurant activates enough good feeling in their brains to make them enjoy the content.
Finally, we as society have a diverse array of taste palates. So we need a lot of different food services to cater to those palates. Want to find out how to make the best fried chicken? You’re covered. Want to see how the great sushi masters go from a whole fish to a finished nigiri plate? You’re covered. The sheer number of possibilities is a wonder to behold, and explains the significant presence of cooking content.
Reader, I couldn’t leave you without suggesting some of my cooking content favorites. I think I’ve already espoused my love for “It’s Alive with Brad Leone” and “Binging with Babish” (both on YouTube). If you’re in the mood for television, I recommend “Unique Sweets” and “Unique Eats” on the Cooking Channel. My old favorite is “Good Eats” with Alton Brown — a perfect intersection of science and cooking. As for movies, “Chef” directed by and starring “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau is a good watch for some high-quality cooking satisfaction.
I hope, reader, that you get inspired to cook something yourself from watching all of this cooking content. If you’re too lazy, I understand. But at the very least, eat some good restaurant food instead.