Watchin’ With My Little Girl (or, my summer of Cooking Shows)

Bonding with my little girl while watching the kid-friendly series “The Wire”

So, apparently, I’m a father now. As most of you parents know, parenthood changes your relationship to everything, from your relationships to your own spouse, to your own family, and to lots of things you took for granted before.

I could talk about many of these changes – how the birth of our daughter has brought me closer to my wife in ways I could never have imagined, how I feel more connected to humanity, and how I have now become an amateur photographer with only one subject – but since this is a blog devoted to television, why don’t I start there and see where it takes me.

Quality Family time?

In some ways, television has become even more important to my daily life, especially as there are always new tasks to complete – feeding, cleaning, cooking, etc. In this way, having the the TV on in the background is the perfect complement to some of the more mundane duties. More often than not, in my experience, the cooking show, and its more exciting cousin – the competitive cooking show – fits the bill for the amount of information I can actually process while doing something else (or while adapting to my often sleep-deprived brain) – which is how this became my summer of cooking shows.

The sub-par “Food Network Star” – a variant on the theme of “Amateurs cooking” show

Without any conscious effort on my part (and with the aid of my DVR) these shows have become part of the fabric of my daily life as I go about my day, play with my daughter or do some cleaning.

What is interesting to me is the way that these shows are exactly at the level of what I am able to concentrate on, how little I actually care about the “characters” or even the events as they occur on screen. What I tend to be looking for is a little white noise, something perhaps to distract me from the crying, something soothing to put on while I bottle feed, or rock the baby to sleep.

My lack of investment in a) the cooking techniques employed, b) the outcomes of these competitions, and c) my lack of any knowledge of what “uzu gelee” tastes like does not deter me from my daily doses. In fact, they only compel me to watch more.

Of all of my summer stable of shows, Chopped seems to me to serve up the best “white noise” while doing something else.

“Chopped” – my new passively active obsession

For one, there are no real “main characters” as in the long-form competitive shows and therefore no one to really follow into the next episode. Instead, you get a mystery box, you get some obscure contents, and you just need to watch (or in my case, listen) to the people as they talk about assembling their incredibly obscure dishes, then listen to the judges critiques as they talk about the need for more acid or crunch, or how they love the contrast between the canned chicken and Fruit Loops that they assigned to the cooking contestants.

More than this, the main irony of the cooking show is that because you can’t actually taste any of the dishes, and are not likely to ever encounter any of the ingredients, the cooking show becomes all about character, rather than the outcome of any food preparation. I can say with confidence that I will never try to replicate any of the meals I have seen on this show, nor have I ever actually learned anything.

I see now that this is likely a better introduction to my experiences watching cooking shows on the Food Network in particular, so maybe it’s better that I stop here before discussing shows that I am actively invested in, like Top Chef, Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, Master Chef as well as Time Machine Chefs. These are shows that my wife and I still watch together after the little one is sleeping, and that do offer different sorts of pleasures. I also hope to post my long-gestating thoughts on Girls, Smash, Bunheads, Shark Tank, The L.A. Complex and Louie in the coming weeks and months.

So, for now,  look forward to more posts about these shows (and a separate post on Gordon Ramsay) – if and when I have the time to pull myself away from my most compelling and amazing distraction – my little daughter, who is the best thing to watch…ever.


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