The Chefs Are Coming, The Chefs Are Coming . . .

by : renfield

There is absolutely no question but that we are all getting heavier as each year passes. The statistics on overweight and obesity are truly staggering but already so well publicized I won't repeat them here.

In the good old American way, we look for a scapegoat. Somebody must be at fault for our predicament and somebody must be made to pay. For this fight, we don't have an wall of black-hatted executives as confronted us in the tobacco wars. This time we have a vast array of food producers who wear gray hats: they may proffer junk that clogs our arteries and overwhelms our insulin stores, but they also bring us what we need to sustain life. Cold turkey withdrawal or an industry boycott is obviously impractical.

So instead of scattering shot all over the food industry, we pick our targets carefully. There are several niches vulnerable to attack. Fast food is the most obvious choice as our waistlines have expanded in unison with the explosion of drive-thru outlets along our streets and highways. The consumption of colas and similar sweetened beverages has quite accurately been charged with hastening our flight into fat. Additives, preservatives, hidden sodium, and the widespread use of corn syrup in everything have also doubtlessly played their part in our odyssey into obesity.

One potential culprit has, so far, dodged the arrows of consumer outrage: the television chefs.

For years, there was limited series such as the wonderful Julia Child and the hilarious Galloping Gourmet. There were occasional stars such as Wolfgang Puck and Alice Waters??? But that changed in 1993 with the advent of a channel devoted entirely to food. I remember discussing it with friends who all thought that it would be short-lived. How many shows can you do about food, anyway?

Stumbling slightly as it came out the gate, the new channel rapidly developed its own stars: Emeril, and Bobby, and Mario, and Racheal. Cooking became a national obsession fueled by 24 hours of shows a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. There was everything: holiday specialties, gourmet, barbecue, southern foods, asian dishes, home cooking, fast meal preparation, spicy food, and head to head contests to see who could produce the tastiest creation within a limit of time and ingredients.

It is paradise for the food-frenzied among us. Judging by the ratings of many of the shows, that's a whole lot of us! We become mesmerized by the patter of countless chefs who whip up outrageously gorgeous concoctions without breaking a sweat or cutting a finger. When we aren't being entranced by the antics and creations of our favorite personalities, we are being seduced by endless commercials that also revolve around food.

Our weight, as a national statistic, stayed relatively stable for two decades after World War II. The revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s were about politics, and drugs, and music and food played a minor, almost unnoticed role.

It was in the late 1980s and 1990s that we started to balloon to what is now epic proportions. Yes, that correlates with the growth spurt of the fast food outlets and the soft drink industry. It also quietly parallels 85 million of us falling in love with the television chefs and the appetite for culinary masterpieces they triggered.

Perhaps instead of bending our elbow to put something in our mouth, we should reach for the remote and stop the chefs in their tracks.