"Watching What We Eat" illuminates how cooking shows have both reflected and shaped significant changes in American culture. Since the first boxy black-and-white TV sets began to appear in American living rooms in the late 1940s, we have been watching people chop, saute, arrange and serve food on the small screen. More than just a how-to or an amusement, cooking shows are also a unique social barometer. Their legacy corresponds to the transition from women at home to women at work; from eight-hour to 24/7 workdays; from cooking as domestic labor to enjoyable leisure; and from clearly defined to more fluid gender roles. As the role of food changed from mere necessity to a means of self-expression and a conspicuous lifestyle accessory the aim of cooking shows shifted from didactic to entertainment, teaching viewers not simply how to cook but how to live. Cooking shows still attract big audiences and this book explores why it is that viewers still find them irresistible.
Kathleen Collins has written about television, media history, popular culture and food in Working Woman and Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture and in the anthology Secrets & Confidences: The Complicated Truth About Women's Friendships (Seal Press: 2004). She has a Master's degree in journalism from New York University and a Master's degree in library science from Long Island University. For the past ten years, she has worked as an editorial researcher for a variety of publications including Glamour and Ladies' Home Journal.