A fascinating piece in Sunday’s New York Times magazine has been on my mind all week.  Michael Pollan, who wrote The Omnivore’s Dilemma, talks of the way his family’s meals changed when his mother started watching Julia Child’s television shows.  A lot is being written about Julia this week with the release of the new film Julie and Julia.

It reminded me of how much I was influenced by Julia. I’ve enjoyed cooking since childhood, mainly because I love to eat. By the time I was twelve I was cooking many of our family’s meals. (I got to skip the dishes) Mastering the Art of French Cooking was a Christmas gift in 1962 and quickly became my bible. In easy step-by-step directions it introduced my generation to new foods with herbs and combinations that were exotic and delicious.  Cooking became more fun.

Reading Pollan’s piece brought back many memories but I began to feel sad as he traces the demise of cooking with the explosion of cooking shows and celebrity chefs. He makes the argument that TV cooking shows no longer are “how to” but rather passive entertainment for a nation of eaters. He gives nods to America’s Test Kitchen and a few others but believes the shows are mostly carefully crafted by the food industry to sell more processed food (shortcuts) and food related items.

Pollan blames much of our obesity and poor diets on processed food filled with fat, salt, amd sugar, all are cheap and in various combinations are used in most of the food we buy. He suggests that the time and work involved in cooking once put a check on our appetites. He quotes a 1992 study showing that the best predicter of obesity was not income or social class but who cooked. In the end he says, if you want to eat less, cook it yourself. Eat whatever you like but cook it yourself.

There was so much more, I’d like to reproduce the article but instead I refer you to the source.