The ambivalence towards current food celebrities, of course, is not that different from that we see leveled at any celeb: the scrutiny of appearance and private life is as cruel and irrational as that applied to all entertainers. But there's something more, and I wonder if it doesn't have to do with the fact that, well, we all eat. Those of us who have to cook are naturally placed in a position of either wistful aspiration or contemptuous superiority, and resentment can come from either of these.However, I think there might be more to the first part of her theory -- our dysfunctional relationship with celebrities of every kind -- than the food-focused second.
He discusses a friend's theory, which tracks fairly closely to Stein's, before reaching his own conclusion:...how many of the people doing the admiring, gasping and ogling [of food television] like to cook, dream of cooking or want to know more about the mechanics of cooking? Even if it's a majority, that still leaves a lot of non-cooks in the audience. What prompts THEM to tune into food television?
When many people turn on the television set, as opposed to picking up a book or doing something more interactive, they're looking for a passive, mind-resting experience. They want something that doesn't require close attention, the way a twisty plot might. Something akin to visual music. Something ambient, in a way.I find Bruni's idea compelling. It certainly puts the dumbing down of the Food Network -- best embodied by the fact that rather than introduce more cooking to its daily programming, the network's parent company started an entirely new channel -- into context, and it reinforces the idea that food celebrities are no different from other celebrities.
Much food television gives them that. It's a banquet of colorful, seductive and familiar images, presented rhythmically, with a soundtrack of oohs and aahs.