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Michael Pollan on the Decline of Cooking in the US


Anna Blume
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Here's a link to the announcement of the event: The Past, Present & Future of Food. In about a week, the discussion should be archived at the same linked site and available to watch at your convenience.

As many of you know, the author of Omnivore's Dilemma is a professor at UC--Berkeley. With the success of the publication, Mackey wrote an open letter to the author, objecting to the characterization of Whole Foods. This initiated a limited series of public exchanges, culminating in tonight's event.

You'll find a thread devoted to these exchanges over at eGullet.org.

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Great article! Pollan is a brilliant cultural analyst and a pithy and entertaining writer.(His mother, Corky Pollan, who he talks about in the article, is a long-time columnist for New York Magazine http://nymag.com/nymag/author_402/).

I especially loved the image of Julia "Rolfing" a chicken with butter. Anyone like me, who went through the human potential movement in California during the 80's, knows what that feels like. It would have been better with butter. :rolleyes:

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Harold Balzer, from the article-

“Not going to happen,” he told me. “Why? Because we’re basically cheap and lazy. And besides, the skills are already lost. Who is going to teach the next generation to cook? I don’t see it.

“We’re all looking for someone else to cook for us. The next American cook is going to be the supermarket. Takeout from the supermarket, that’s the future. All we need now is the drive-through supermarket.

I may have floated this already on the board, but I think the effect that Alton Brown has had on male non-chefs (especially those coming into the kitchen after college) could have been addressed. Pollan touches on his work on Iron Chef while eliding Brown's own show, which used to have its own prime-time slot; we haven't had cable for a while now, so I wouldn't be shocked to find Food Network had shunted it off to Sunday afternoons.

I'm working anecdotally from a collection of other nerdy white males, but Alton Brown has been the progenitor of a dozen male foodies I know.

Of course, as Mario Batali is quoted in the article, it's all a matter of TV niches and I suppose Alton fills that particular geek chef slot, but deep down his show is about skills and theory more than recipes and post-completion money shot. He devoted an entire show to knife skills that has kept my blood out of countless onions, I eschew marinades for brines now because he explained how they work, etc. A strawman would argue that Sandra Lee showing how to batter a chicken breasts with Maypo is a skill, but at least Alton Brown would explain how (if) it works.

The point of the article is that his sort of show isn't as popular as the voyeuristic virtual-participatory eating of the other food shows, but my inner fanboy would have liked to see Alton acknowledged as an outlier.

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Harold Balzer, from the article-

...The point of the article is that his sort of show isn't as popular as the voyeuristic virtual-participatory eating of the other food shows, but my inner fanboy would have liked to see Alton acknowledged as an outlier.

I was also half-hoping to see mention of America's Test Kitchen. Those episodes did more to expand my culinary capability in the early years than just about any other resource. And, yes, they were on PBS.

As you noted, Pollan's point is well aimed. Although there is overlap, the target marketing audience seems sharply divided between people who like to cook and people who like to eat.

I wonder if there's an audience for people who like to cook people who like to eat? "To Serve Man", I guess.

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I was also half-hoping to see mention of America's Test Kitchen. Those episodes did more to expand my culinary capability in the early years than just about any other resource. And, yes, they were on PBS.

It gets a one-sentence mention. Easy to miss in that long an article :rolleyes:.
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