For almost all of history, the focus in cooking has been on how to create good and nutritious food that feeds your family. Then, somewhere along the way that shifted from “here is how to incorporate nutrition and cook food from scratch” to “here is how to bring the restaurant experience home to you.” It has been a slow and subtle shift; so slow that you might not even have noticed it, but take a moment to think back. When was the last time you simply heaped food onto a plate (outside of Thanksgiving) and dove into it?
There are a lot of reasons that have contributed to the change.”Cheap” restaurants have been upping their game, trying to create more distance between them and fast food chains. Higher end restaurants have been reducing their prices to accommodate a strapped economy and making it easier for people to afford their offerings. And, of course, the cooking show has evolved…and exploded in popularity.
Cooking shows aren’t limited to just Julia and Jaques anymore. Now there are entire networks devoted to cooking and cooking competition shows are some of the most popular productions in prime time. For example, whether you live in rural Kansas or big cities like Los Angeles, DIRECTV customers have their pick of the Food Network, The Cooking Channel, or any of the cooking shows offered via the on demand program menu. You can watch cooking shows all day if you want, and some people do!
Changes At Home: What We’re Making
Even if you have a busy family, it has probably been a while since you just baked up a package of chicken breasts and tossed them on to plates with a handful of bagged salad, right? Even when you’re under a time crunch, you probably look at that chicken and think”I could dress this up!” After all, there are entire shows devoted to cooking a full and beautiful meal in fifteen or thirty minutes, right? Why be boring if being fancy doesn’t take long?
The evolution of cooking shows and the bringing home of restaurant quality food has shown us, particularly through shows like The Pioneer Woman and Ten Dollar Dinners, that it is possible to cook amazing foods for very little money and in not a lot of time. They have also helped change our opinions on what constitutes “fancy” and “gourmet.” Recipes and dishes that once intimidated us at restaurants, we now recognize as the same thing we’ve been serving at home, just with a floofy name and some pretty presentation.
Changes At Home: How We’re Serving
Outside of buffets and huge meals like Thanksgiving, nobody just piles food onto platters or plates anymore. Now, thanks to shows like Chopped and Master Chef, how we present our food is more important to us than ever. Even when serving dinner family style, we take care to put the food into pretty serving dishes and to think about how details like color play into our enjoyment of a meal. And if we’re plating dishes individually, forget about it. Suddenly we all want to be artists!
Changes Out: How We Approach Restaurants
The wide swath of offerings via networks, satellites and, of course, the internet have caused sweeping changes–not just in how we cook for ourselves but in how we approach dining out. We are a lot more critical of what we eat, how it is presented, how it is served, etc and we aren’t afraid to play experts on review sites like Yelp, Google, Facebook, etc. These critiques often work in our favor: restaurants and eateries want to keep their customers happy and when a review is legitimate in it’s criticism many business owners take those suggestions to heart.
Of course, there are a few exceptions that have made headlines. Remember the Amy’s Bakery Debacle?