Meryl Streep's uncanny film portrayal of Julia Child in Julie & Julia
(based on Julie Powell's Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen
and Child's My Life in France
) has now occasioned Michael Pollan's New York Times Magazine
piece, "Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch,"
which, contrary to what you might expect (or at least what I expected), quotes veteran food-marketing researcher Harry Balzer:
"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....You want Americans to eat less? I have the diet for you. It's short, and it's simple. Here's my diet plan: Cook it yourself. That's it. Eat anything you want--just as long as you're willing to cook it yourself."
With Watching What We Eat: The Evolution of Television Cooking Shows
(Continuum), Kathleen Collins, a prodigious researcher, has surveyed the cooking show landscape from the foggy origins of television, past Child's 1962 The French Chef
(which among other things demystified French haute cuisine), to the present. Even if you do not give a fig for the new foodie culture (include me in that disinterest), this social history is a litmus of social and cultural transformation. Barbara Haber
, former Curator of Books at the Schlesinger Library (which has a legendary cookbook collection) and author of the invaluable From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals
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.
So, where does that leave us?