The decline of cooking and the rise of watching people cook  JUL 30 2009

In his latest long piece for the New York Times Magazine, Michael Pollan explores the reasons for the simultaneous decline of people cooking and the popularity of food shows.

Today the average American spends a mere 27 minutes a day on food preparation (another four minutes cleaning up); that's less than half the time that we spent cooking and cleaning up when Julia arrived on our television screens. It's also less than half the time it takes to watch a single episode of "Top Chef" or "Chopped" or "The Next Food Network Star." What this suggests is that a great many Americans are spending considerably more time watching images of cooking on television than they are cooking themselves -- an increasingly archaic activity they will tell you they no longer have the time for.

One of the things that food/cooking shows do -- particularly the dump-and-stir programs like Rachael Ray -- is to give the viewer the impression that by watching, they have cooked a meal. (Mirror neurons, anyone?) Perhaps that's a small factor contributing to cooking's decline in the American home.

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