I’ve mentioned in the past that I don’t watch television very much, outside of live sporting events. I have nothing against television, I just never developed the habit of following a show every week. I forget to watch and lose track of what’s happening. Then I lose interest. Binge watching works for me and I have binge watched some popular series, but years after they were on the air. The advantage with this is you can abandon the show if it sucks after a few episodes.
The one type of show that has always worked on me is the cooking show. I’m a good cook and I like seeing new stuff, but I think what really works for me is that the shows are all bullshit. The cooking contests are hilarious because the judges have on their serious face and make up all sorts of idiotic reasons for liking one dish over another. My favorite is when they say “umami” as they do that thing with their mouth to indicate they are trying to figure out the taste. Umami seems to mean “I don’t know what this is.”
Food tasting, like wine tasting, is mostly bullshit. The cooking shows make this clear as they have contestants make dishes with all sorts of wacky ingredients they would never normally use. The judges then taste the dish and talk about how something made with Velveeta has a floral notes and umami. The show Cutthroat Kitchen is the best example of this. It is an unintentional send up of the foodie rackets.
The truth is, “foodie” culture is just signalling. If you are a droll sophisticated urbanite you pretend to like food made from exotic ingredients,served on plates the size of a car door. If you are a suburban square, you eat food out of a can that you heat up over a hotplate. That’s not too much of an exaggeration. This article in Slate points out that most people are still making food at home that is similar to what you would associate with 1950’s suburbia.
And at a time when readers of aspirational food websites are used to images of impossibly perfect dishes—each microgreen artfully placed by some tweezer-wielding stylist—Allrecipes offers amateur snaps of amateur meals. The site is awash with close-ups of sludgy-looking soups; photos of stuffed peppers that look like they’ve been captured in the harsh, unforgiving light of a public washroom; and shot after shot documenting the myriad ways that melted cheese can congeal. It is all, Kimball and his ilk would agree, extremely disappointing. It’s also perhaps the most accurate, democratic snapshot of American culinary desires.
Allrecipes is the most popular English-language food website in the world. According to ComScore, last December the site got almost 50 million visits, the biggest month by any food site ever. Thanks to its mastery of search engine optimization, the site’s recipes constantly appear near the top of Google search results. If you look for “lasagna recipes,” as I did the other day, you’ll immediately find “World’s Best Lasagna,” a recipe that has been one of the website’s most popular dishes for 15 years. The recipe (which makes a perfectly tasty lasagna) was viewed more than 6 million times last year alone and has received more than 11,000 five-star ratings. In an era of celebrity chefs and recipe-kit delivery services developed by experts, a pasta dish by a Dallas dad who describes his heritage as “entirely Anglo-Saxon” is quite possibly America’s most-cooked meal.
This reminds me of something from the dark ages. In the early 90’s newspapers were struggling so they brought in experts to figure out what was wrong. A newspaper in Ohio, it was reported, discovered that their readers never looked at the food section. The reason for that was the stuff covered in the food section was all haute cuisine, while the readers were eating Hamburger Helper and mushroom soup casserole. Put another way, the paper was trying to serve an audience that did not exist.
The food rackets are a good example of the great divide in America. People watch TV to escape and be entertained. I’ll watch the cooking shows because they make me laugh. Once in a blue moon I’ll learn something useful or interesting, but mostly is is a goof. Similarly, people are not watching Game of Thrones for deep, philosophic insights into the human condition. People like boobies, midgets and sword play. Throw in some corny drama and cool costumes and you have a hit show.
On the other side of the screen, the little people inside the box, that’s where things get weird. They actually believe their bullshit. The “foodies” on the cooking shows are starting to think they are leading a food revolution, when they are just a different type of clown, entertaining the masses. Our news media for a long time has be operating under the delusion that they are a secular priesthood, sent here to guard the truth for the masses. In reality, they are just paid spokesman for their bosses.
One way to understand why Trump was able to vanquish his enemies so easily is to think about that newspaper in Ohio I mentioned. At some point, they stumbled into a monopoly. They were the only newspaper in town. That meant they were no longer subject to the normal market forces that come with competition and the result was a slow decay in their quality as they indulged in one fad after another. The newspaper became a weird hothouse growing things that could never live outside.
A similar thing has happened to our entertainment rackets and our politics. Cable is essentially a monopoly. ESPN gets $8 a month from 150 million homes in America whether they watch or not and about 80% do not watch. That lets ESPN engage in deranged jackassery like tranny rights campaigns. The Food Network is on basic and gets a buck a month from cable fees. You can put on all sorts of weird food shows when you start with a guaranteed billion dollar revenue stream.
That’s what has happened with our politics, I think. For the last three decades, at least, it has been a closed system with no real competition. Both sides debated how much socialism and cultural Marxism they would inflict on the country. The Left would open the debate at 10 and the Right would offer 5 and they would settle in between. That’s how we went from telling AIDS jokes to jailing Christian bakers in the blink of eye. There was never a competition.
Nature abhors the lack of competition. The newspaper monopolies collapsed as soon as the hothouse doors were swung open. The inevitable break up of cable bundling will vaporize much of what we currently have on our television systems. Our politics, of course, is facing a similar threat. The hothouse doors have been flung open and many of the prettiest flowers on display have wilted. The Titum Arum opposing Trump is suddenly facing conditions for which it was not designed.