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Watching What We Eat: The Evolution of Television Cooking Shows [Paperback]

Kathleen Collins

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May 6 2010
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Review

"Cooking is so huge on television today that it has made chefs as famous as movie stars. From the earliest days of flickering black-and-white sets, food shows have infused the tube with class and character that makes this one of the richest genres of programming. It is about time this fact was recognized and explored in depth, with insight and good humor, as it is in Kathleen Collins' Watching What We Eat. This is a book not only for foodies, but for anyone with an interest in this vital vein of American popular culture."
Jane and Michael Stern, authors of Jane and Michael Stern's Encyclopedia of Pop Culture (HarperCollins) and American Gourmet (HarperCollins)


"In her lively and informative narrative of television food shows, Kathleen Collins captures the phenomenal growth of food as entertainment, what has evolved into a new form of spectator sport in America. The rise of TV celebrity chefs within the context of the nation's growing sophistication about food are stories that needed to be told, and Collins has told them well."
Barbara Haber,


"Dione Lucas started them in the 1940s, Julia Child popularized them in the 1960s, and the Food Network hit them out of the park in the 1990s. Since the dawn of TV, cooking shows have captivated Americans, and in Watching What We Eat Kathleen Collins explains why. With an easy wit and a "me, too" voice that pulls readers right in, Collins charts the rise of TV cooks as educators, mentors, entertainers and co-conspirators; indeed, as beloved, central and enduring characters in our national pop culture."
Adam Ried, Equipment Guru, PBS' "America's Test Kitchen"


"Treena and I are just plain delighted with Kathleen Collins detailed treatment of not only our own not-so-hidden struggle between entertainment and teaching . . . but also her very readable and inclusive review of food on TV. We are delighted to be included in such wonderful company."
—Graham Kerr, host of "The Galloping Gourmet" and author of Day-by-Day Gourmet Cookbook: Recipes and Reflections for Better Living



Watching What We Eat is a well-research work filled with delightful anecdotes and fascinating insights into America's most popular food shows. It is a "must read" for everyone interested in food TV— and anyone interested in a delicious read.
Andrew F. Smith, Editor-in-Chief, Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America


I have been waiting for someone to take on this project. Some believe television changed the sense of food in the American psyche. Kathleen Collins digs into that idea with admirable tenacity. This is definitely worth the read.

—Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of American Public Media's The Splendid Table® radio show


Announced — Publishers Weekly, January 26, 2009

"In this robust roundup, researcher and librarian Collins scours the archives to show how cooking programs throughout the decades reflect America's changing cultural mores. From James Beard to Rachael Ray, TV cooking hosts have brought this intimate brand of entertainment into the home, moving from educating the general public on the finer points of home economics to coaching us on developing our inner creativity. Collins skillfully marshals her research...Readers might be surprised at the role public television played in nurturing the genre, presently evolved into the Food Network's elevation of chefs as celebrities and food akin to porn. Collins's engaging...study finds cooking shows the great leveler in gender, class and lifestyles and with a strong future." —Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)

"Collins, a college librarian with a lifelong love of cooking shows, gives a decade-by-decade breakdown of the evolution of TV cooking as a dead-accurate social barometer. From providing helpful hints for homemakers in the 1950's, catering to the lavish lifestyles and culinary excess of the 80's and satisfying the celeb-hungry, reality-crazed audience of the new millennium, Collins examines how far cooking programs have gone to adapt their content, style and character to both suit and define various moments in the 20th century. Her thorough research is spiced with anecdotes and personal testimonials from chefs, historians and foodies about the world of TV cooking and the eccentric personalities that populate it." - TIME Magazine

"Collin's failure to synthesize the in formation she has collected makes her book ultimately unsatisfying"
New York Times Sunday,31 May 2009
(Dawn Drzal)

"Collins provides a detailed and often entertaining chronicle of the rise of TV programs, excelling at insightful thumbnail sketches"
8 june 2009
(Aram Bakshian Jr. The Wall Street Journal)

Reviewed in Globe & Mail Weekend, 11 July 2009


"An entertaining look at the history and evolution of television cooking shows. It examines how the shows shifted over time, involving more men and children and mirroring societal changes."
-The Philadelphia Inquirer


"Collins, reared on food television and educated in library science, brings to the table a wealth of personal experience and research. She mined television and print archives to uncover fascinating gems about television cooking-show pioneers. On the set, Beard invented modern elements of food styling still common in food photography, using ink to emphasize the veins in Roquefort cheese and substituting mashed potatoes for ice cream."
-Wilson Quarterly


"An entertaining look at the history and evolution of television cooking shows. It examines how the shows shifted over time, involving more men and children and mirroring societal changes." Reviewed online at www.star-telegram.com


"[Watching What We Eat] is bound to become the go-to reference for anyone who wants to learn about this important, compelling aspect of food's mass-mediation in the modern age."
-Gastronomica


"What makes [Watching What We Eat] both more interesting and important, however, is not so much a review of all the people and programs, but rather its insignt into such programming as a social barometer of changing American life... Based on extensive interviews as well as archival work, this is a delightfully written record of a type of program all too often overlooked in the past."
-Communication Booknotes Quarterly

“Cooking is so huge on television today that it has made chefs as famous as movie stars. From the earliest days of flickering black-and-white sets, food shows have infused the tube with class and character that makes this one of the richest genres of programming. It is about time this fact was recognized and explored in depth, with insight and good humor, as it is in Kathleen Collins’ Watching What We Eat. This is a book not only for foodies, but for anyone with an interest in this vital vein of American popular culture.”
—  Jane and Michael Stern, authors of Jane and Michael Stern's Encyclopedia of Pop Culture (HarperCollins) and American Gourmet (HarperCollins)


“In her lively and informative narrative of television food shows, Kathleen Collins captures the phenomenal growth of food as entertainment, what has evolved into a new form of spectator sport in America. The rise of TV celebrity chefs within the context of the nation's growing sophistication about food are stories that needed to be told, and Collins has told them well.”
Barbara Haber,


“Dione Lucas started them in the 1940s, Julia Child popularized them in the 1960s, and the Food Network hit them out of the park in the 1990s. Since the dawn of TV, cooking shows have captivated Americans, and in Watching What We Eat Kathleen Collins explains why. With an easy wit and a “me, too” voice that pulls readers right in, Collins charts the rise of TV cooks as educators, mentors, entertainers and co-conspirators; indeed, as beloved, central and enduring characters in our national pop culture.”
—  Adam Ried, Equipment Guru, PBS’ “America's Test Kitchen”


"Treena and I are just plain delighted with Kathleen Collins detailed treatment of not only our own not-so-hidden struggle between entertainment and teaching . . . but also her very readable and inclusive review of food on TV.  We are delighted to be included in such wonderful company."
—Graham Kerr, host of "The Galloping Gourmet" and author of  Day-by-Day Gourmet Cookbook: Recipes and Reflections for Better Living



Watching What We Eat is a well-research work filled with delightful anecdotes and fascinating insights into America’s most popular food shows. It is a “must read” for everyone interested in food TV— and anyone interested in a delicious read.
Andrew F. Smith, Editor-in-Chief, Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America


I have been waiting for someone to take on this project. Some believe television changed the sense of food in the American psyche. Kathleen Collins digs into that idea with admirable tenacity. This is definitely worth the read.

—Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of American Public Media's The Splendid Table® radio show


Announced – Publishers Weekly, January 26, 2009

“In this robust roundup, researcher and librarian Collins scours the archives to show how cooking programs throughout the decades reflect America’s changing cultural mores. From James Beard to Rachael Ray, TV cooking hosts have brought this intimate brand of entertainment into the home, moving from educating the general public on the finer points of home economics to coaching us on developing our inner creativity. Collins skillfully marshals her research…Readers might be surprised at the role public television played in nurturing the genre, presently evolved into the Food Network’s elevation of chefs as celebrities and food akin to porn. Collins’s engaging…study finds cooking shows the great leveler in gender, class and lifestyles and with a strong future.” –Publishers Weekly (Sanford Lakoff Publishers Weekly)

“Collins, a college librarian with a lifelong love of cooking shows, gives a decade-by-decade breakdown of the evolution of TV cooking as a dead-accurate social barometer. From providing helpful hints for homemakers in the 1950's, catering to the lavish lifestyles and culinary excess of the 80's and satisfying the celeb-hungry, reality-crazed audience of the new millennium, Collins examines how far cooking programs have gone to adapt their content, style and character to both suit and define various moments in the 20th century. Her thorough research is spiced with anecdotes and personal testimonials from chefs, historians and foodies about the world of TV cooking and the eccentric personalities that populate it.” - TIME Magazine

"Collin's failure to synthesize the in formation she has collected makes her book ultimately unsatisfying"
New York Times Sunday,31 May 2009
(Sanford Lakoff)

"Collins provides a detailed and often entertaining chronicle of the rise of TV programs, excelling at insightful thumbnail sketches"
8 june 2009
(Sanford Lakoff The Wall Street Journal)

"[Watching What We Eat] is bound to become the go-to reference for anyone who wants to learn about this important, compelling aspect of food’s mass-mediation in the modern age."
-Gastronomica

About the Author

Kathleen Collins is an experienced author and researcher who has studied and written about television, media history, popular culture and food. Her work has appeared in the magazines 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 also written encyclopedia entries on a variety of media history topics. She has a Master's degree in journalism with a specialization in cultural reporting and criticism 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. She is now a librarian and lives in Manhattan.


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Expertly written piece of entertainment and education...... Oct. 25 2009
By James Doolin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book by Ms. Collins is certainly worth the read, to say the very least.!!
For one who counts himself among the kitchen illiterate, though for many years wanted to be the "sous chef", I found this to be a tremendously educating and inspiring book.

I would be redundant using words that have been well placed such as;great research,
clarity, wit, historical, educational, inspirational,etc...but, I must say that one such as myself who knows little and does little in the kitchen, I find Ms.Collins' book a boost to my pursuits in that same venue. I can see,watching at times the food channel and listening to friends comments on food and cooking in general, how the author came up with the idea for this book as everyone, young and old with no gender barrier seems to be "into it".! It is the kind of book you can pick up and select a few pages at random and enjoy it all over again, which I've done more than once already.! Hopefully this will be the first of many books from this talented author.!

James Doolin, Portland, ME.

P.S. I would like to briefly comment on a review written by a Ms. Appelton of Arizona.....This book is entitled, "The Evolution of Television Cooking Shows", NOT,.How Not To Overeat..!! Obesity, Anorexia and Bulemia are topics unto themselves and this was not supposed to be a medical journal or encyclopedia of same.
References to Japan/A-Bomb, Germany/Holocaust and Sixties/Vietnam as to matters being left out..!!??..seems to contradict your applause for both author and book.?
There is a plethora of books on the aforementioned subjects which you can buy and note that NONE of them will reference cooking shows or similiar venues.!!
BON APPETIT..!!!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a delightful ride May 14 2009
By Lisa DeLisle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
on a journey I didn't know I wanted to take! I would never have suspected how much influence these shows have exerted on our cooking and eating habits, our culture and the food industry overall. Collins loves her topics and respects them through her impeccable and more than thorough. Better still, her enthusiasm is infectious, and her prose is as breezy and entertaining as an episode of "The Galloping Gourmet."
The addition of photographs throughout the book is a pleasant surprise, though their effectiveness would be enhanced if they were a bit larger and in color. And wouldn't it have been fun if the publisher had included a DVD with excerpts from some of the classic shows contrasted with some from the "Modern Period."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book About the History of TV Cooking Shows June 14 2009
By Charles J. Rector - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a surprising book. For one thing, I did not know prior to reading this book that TV cooking shows have been around since the very earliest days of TV. Turns out that there have been certifiable stars of TV cooking long before Julia Childs. Not only does this book introduce you to stars of TV cooking shows that you have never heard of, it also details
their back stories and even some gossip about these TV pioneers. This is a human interest book at its very best.

Kathleen Collins has written an excellent book that should be on the book shelf of everyone who is a regular watcher of TV cooking shows.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a feast for the literary gourmand Nov. 28 2009
By Norman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Kathleen Collins cooks up a feast for the literary gourmand with her delightful book, "Watching What We Eat." My wife (a cook) received it for a gift but I (former TV exec) grabbed it and couldn't put it down. The book's rich content includes profiles of TV cooking hosts from when the medium began, up through today's multi-channel environment and offers a mouth-watering menu that focuses on some of television's most colorful personalities over the years. A great gift idea for anyone who cooks, watches TV or eats.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, witty, and entertaining! Sept. 7 2009
By Judith A. Degraw - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is so enjoyable that you don't even know you are learning about the history of the food shows on TV. Kathleen Collins puts it all together like a story unfolding.

I hope this talented woman continues writing. She has a great, easy-to-read style, dry humor in many parts.

I look forward to reading more of Ms. Collins' works.

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