Cooking; I like to watch tv

The average American spends 27 minutes a day on food preparation and another 4 minutes cleaning up. How anyone can clean up in four minutes is a complete mystery to me. The twenty seven minutes of cooking is the focus of NYT article ‘Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch‘ by Michael Pollan. (sorry you have to register to see the NYT article, but it’s free to register)


Americans today spend less than half the time we spent cooking back in 1963, when Julia Child’s cooking show began. Less than half. And while cooking was become less popular, cooking shows are curiously more popular than ever. Many Americans spend an hour watching “Iron Chef,” a show where restaurant chefs compete and cook amazing meals, but then spend just 27 minutes cooking for themselves.

Like Chance the Gardener in the movie Being There, Americans seem to be saying “I like to watch TV.” Cooking has become a spectator sport. But why?

Could time be the culprit? Today we spend longer hours at work.

Since 1967, we’ve added 167 hours — the equivalent of a month’s full-time labor — to the total amount of time we spend at work each year, and in households where both parents work, the figure is more like 400 hours.


Could money be the issue? As income levels rise, the amount of money spent on take out and restaurant food climbs. 

And finally, processed and packaged foods have become ubiquitous. Food scientists have gotten really good at simulating real food and marketing folks are masterful at selling products. Why cook when you can buy something ready to eat?

However, no matter how many hours we work, how much money we make, or what new processed foods come to market, we can still make the choice to cook for ourselves.

I don’t love to cook, but I cook because home cooked food…

  • Tastes better
  • Costs less
  • Is healthier
  • Has less environmental impact (less packaging)

Do you like to cook, like to watch, or both?

The popularity of Julie & Julia has catapulted Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Volume One onto the New York Times bestsellers list. Maybe cooking, or at least the idea of cooking is making a comeback?


10 thoughts on “Cooking; I like to watch tv

  1. The only way you could get a four minute clean up would be if everything you cooked came in disposable containers, everything you ate with went into the dishwasher and you never touched a pot or pan. Kinda scary, huh?

    I heard on NPR that a good way to see if you’re eating healthy is to see how much packaging your meal requires. The more packaging, the less healthy. Inversely, you could see how many pots and pans your meal requires… the more pots/pans the healthier you’re eating!

    At least that’s what I remind myself of when I’m slogging through the dishes each night!

  2. I don’t particularly like to cook, but I do so for all 4 of the reasons you listed above. It’s just better all-around for us if I roll up my sleeves and hit the kitchen. We go out once or twice a month, and I’m always reminded how much money we save by eating at home, not to mention the health benefits.

    I’ve never liked watching cooking shows; they’ve always bored me. Perhaps because I don’t enjoy cooking? And no way does it take me only 4 minutes to clean up! It’s usually at least 10.

  3. I like to watch and to cook but my biggest set back in the actual cooking part is I never really learned to cook. Well nothing beyond the basics like meatloaf,turkey,etc. I actually bought Julia’s cookbook and hope to try it out once I am settled into my new apartment.

  4. I don’t like to watch cooking shows. I do however like to watch t.v. when working in the kitchen (I can see the t.v. in the family room from the kitchen) if the task is going to be long and somewhat monotonous like canning tomatoes, making jam, or decorating dozens of cookies for my kid’s 4-H meeting. Cooking isn’t my favorite passtime, but I do derive a certain pleasure from feeding my family delicious and nutricious meals.

  5. I don’t even own a TV and have not watched one since 1989, so couldn’t testify about cooking shows. I do admit however, that I cook a good deal less since I started working a later shift and get home right at mealtime. Good thing my husband retired, cause he has taken over most of the cooking. Now I only cook on days off, and I DO enjoy it, more than I ever did when cooking 7 days a week.

  6. I love to cook. My perfect day would to be sitting over a hot stove making a masterpiece; however, cooking large meals means money at the grocery store. My grocery bill can get so high if I want to be enthusiastic with dinner.

    As for watching cooking on tv, I have been inspired to try different techniques. Yes, it is spending time zoning out but to me, its inspirational like watching someone run a marathon in the hot sun….maybe someday>>

  7. Nice post. I’d have to say I enjoy both, but I am definitely becoming more mindful of planning and preparing good, simple food. I have more food magazines than I can count, and I know that I can only make SO much!! It is a curious imbalance of information and production, though. ~Suz.

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