I’ve always loved watching food programs. MasterChef and Bake Off were, and still are, some of my favourite TV programs to watch. After each Oxford term, once I had arrived home after the four-and-a-half-hour drive, I would roll myself into a cocoon of blankets, and watch the latest MasterChef from beginning to end. It doesn’t stop at university either, as I write this I am watching a Korean Englishman YouTube video featuring Seollongtang, a traditional Korean bone broth.
I am not unusual in loving food programs as well. From TV competitions like Bake Off and food travel shows like the numerous Rick Stein ones, to the simple original video recipe cooking shows like Mary Berry’s, we seem to be a nation obsessed with watching food.
In many ways this doesn’t make sense. Food is something eaten and smelled. Of course, we use the other senses as well, most importantly sight, but I think I would know the answer if I asked someone whether they would rather watch their favourite food or eat it. Cooking guides aside, on paper it doesn’t make much sense.
However, other than the educational or travel aspect, I believe these programs tap into something rather unique about food. Context and culture are seemingly exceedingly important. We have made cooking and eating into something more than the acts themselves. It’s ritualistic almost, and it naturally invites a communal aspect, and to partake in the watching of food preparation and consumption is part of that.
There’s a catharsis, I think, to these programs, something deep rooted in us that links food with connecting with others, whether it’s familiar or foreign.
As jobs, society and convenience push us into a home environment where food culture and preparation are less emphasised, these programs potentially offer us an opportunity to participate in these food traditions. We may not be able to watch our grandparents prepare a roast, but we can watch Mary Berry do it. We may not always have friends to eat with around a dinner table, but we can watch mukbangs while we eat. There’s a catharsis, I think, to these programs, something deep rooted in us that links food with connecting with others, whether it’s familiar or foreign.
So, next time you watch a TV program, maybe you’re not only satisfying your craving for food, but equally feeding the soul, with all the comfort and nourishment this can bring. These programs are a consumerist answer to the destabilising food traditions and routines we have had in British society for generations. Maybe I’m thinking too much into this, maybe they are just fun to watch and that is it, but this is just some food for thought.
Image description: a TV with a smiling cupcake
Image credit: Yii-Jen Deng