I just have to stop channel surfing while working out in the gym! If I'm stuck with the news channels, I might actually pay attention to my exercise. But when I click on the cooking show button, I become mesmerized watching overweight chefs prepare dishes that, if consumed in typical amounts, will certainly add to the growing rate of obesity in the country. To be sure, some of the skinny chefs cook, most of the time, with skinny ingredients. But there are a few whose girth is testimony to the copious quantities of extremely high-fat ingredients comprising their dishes.
One recently caught my attention. A charming, articulate, personable woman was hosting a show called "Farmhouse Rules." When I first clicked on the program, she was vigorously mixing an 8-ounce brick of cream cheese with heavy cream and well-sugared strawberries. That done, she spread it on a sheet of puff pastry, and covered it to make a rectangle of buttery, flaky, creamy, strawberry pastry. It looked yummy but, as I rarely make desserts, I left her, channel surfed some more, and then returned to her show 10 minutes later. Now she was making a horseradish sauce to pour over slices of roast beef. She was again mashing an 8-ounce brick of cream cheese, this time with very large dollops of mayonnaise and sour cream. I like my horseradish straight from the jar, so back I went to more channel surfing. Returning a few minutes later (was I becoming addicted to cream cheese recipes?), she was making a Roquefort cheese coating for grapes. The recipe started with, yup, cream cheese mixed together with the Roquefort, and then smushed over grapes. These were dipped into a bowl of toasted chopped pecans. At this point, feeling 10 pounds heavier, I turned off the TV and tried to exercise off all those virtual calories.
I wondered what to make of a cooking show hosted by an overweight woman featuring recipes that, if eaten regularly, would add many pounds to the viewer. One would hope that someone watching that show would not go to the supermarket, fill a shopping cart with cream cheese bricks, go home and make all those recipes at once. But such programs seem to justify preparing and eating foods whose caloric contents are incompatible with our sedentary life-style. Why shouldn't we feel free to eat the dishes we see being made on these television shows? Indeed, when the cook tastes the just prepared dish, closes his or her eyes, crunches, swallows, and exhales a breath of pleasure, how can we resist? (In the interest of full disclosure, I watched her program a few days later. At that time she made a couple of vegetable dishes. No cream cheese was in sight.)
But given the unchecked rise of obesity and its disastrous consequences on health and longevity, shouldn't there be some concern over enticing people to eat foods which can only make them gain weight? What if a cooking program devoted itself only to making junk food snacks for children rather than nutritious foods that kids might eat? What if the program promoted sugary beverages and cereal/marshmallow squares, rather than yogurt and fruit-filled smoothies and vegetable dishes that kids should be eating? We would say that once again that television is contributing to childhood obesity.
Shouldn't we say the same about cooking shows whose every dish has more calories than most sedentary viewers need, and possibly many fewer nutrients?
Yes, I know we don't have to watch these shows, or make the recipes at home. Obviously not everyone watching a show on buying or renovating a house is going to run out and do the same. Obviously watching a show on how people survive without clothes on a remote island is not going to entice people to spend their vacations as nudists! But it is easier to go into our kitchens and try out a recipe, than turn a garage into a yoga studio...or fly to an island infested with poisonous snakes. The results are quick (assuming one has many bricks of cream cheese in the fridge) and, I believe, most likely delicious.
A compromise? For every heavy cream, butter, egg yolk, bacon, cheese, oil, and/or sugar-filled recipe demonstrated in a cooking show, let there be equal time given to making enticing, mouthwatering dishes that nourish, without nurturing our fat cells.
Show the calorie, fat, sugar and salt content of each dish made under a screen shot of the serving size. If an entire meal is being made, then show the total number of calories for the meal, including the calories in a beverage that is made to be served with the meal.
Temptations to eat foods that end up adding unnecessary and unwanted pounds surround us continually. It is easier to turn off the TV to avoid the temptations in a cooking show than to avoid the temptations in a supermarket, convenience store, or fast-food chain. We would still be a fat country if the food channels disappeared and were replaced by exercise programs. But maybe we can help each other stop gaining weight if we agree to decrease the ubiquity of these temptations.
The Bible says, 'Don't put a stumbling block in front of a blind person.'
To extrapolate? We should stop putting a cream-cheese filled tart in front of someone who needs to lose weight.