Poh’s Laundry

Being in holiday mode, my brain is deeply immersed in trivial thoughts, not least who the Australian selectors could sensibly pick to begin the process of rebuilding a competitive cricket team.

However an even more burning question is this: why are there so many cooking programs on TV?  It can’t just be that they’re much cheaper to make than scripted drama or comedy.  People must actually like watching them.  But why?

There’s certainly a moment of harmless if tacky diversion involved in watching the amply endowed voluptuous Nigella figuratively fellate her audience while whipping up tasty comestibles.

I even confess to once watching a couple of episodes of Gordon Ramsey in horrified fascination, though only to find out just how much bullying and humiliation contestants would tolerate in the hope of fleeting foodie fame (the answer appears to be that there’s no limit, otherwise someone would have punched Ramsey’s teeth down his throat years ago).

But with those exceptions, why would you watch a cooking show?  And if learning the finer points of domestic chores is entertainment, why don’t we see shows like Poh’s Laundry or Nigella’s Mopping and Vacuuming Titbits? Please explain.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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8 Responses to Poh’s Laundry

  1. cbp says:

    Because cooking is more than simply a domestic chore.

  2. Mr Denmore says:

    Because the words culinary and ARTS go together. Some might be able to make a case for cleaning as an art but I’ve yet to hear it.

  3. Ken Parish says:

    I bet Shannon Lush would make a persuasive argument that cleaning is an art form. But they don’t give the Queen of Clean a TV show, do they? Maybe she should learn to pout or swear a lot.

    Maybe it has something to do with male dominance/status, or a psychological connection between food and sex (make sure you scroll back to previous page when viewing this link).

    I should acknowledge that I’m sure “cooking as art” is a factor (or at least a craft, to the extent there’s a valid distinction – a topic for discussion in itself). This factor no doubt also partly explains the recent popularity of interior and exterior home renovation shows like Renovation Rescue, The Block and Backyard Blitz, as Richard observes in the next comment. These activities allow people to express their personalities and, to an extent, creativity. However, just as I think the home renovation program fad also involved elements of aspirational greed during the property boom, so too I think there are probably psychological and social factors that partly explain the attraction of cooking shows. One thing that got me thinking about this was reading Underbelly: Gangland Wars by John Silvester and Andrew Rule over Xmas. It’s not very well written and somewhat poorly edited, but fascinating just the same. One of the stranger revelations from my viewpoint was the predilection of a number of old gangsters to while away their time in the late afternoon and early evening, after long lunches in Lygon Street, by watching TV cooking shows. There was no suggestion that they actually ever did any cooking as such or had any SNAG or metrosexual tendencies; they just liked watching cooking shows.

  4. Richard Tsukamasa Green says:

    This relates to a discussion I saw but didn’t read ages ago on the Freakonomics blog 0 asking why some household labour becomes leisure whilst others remain “chores”.

    The difference I see between cooking (and the planting/landscaping but non mowing side of gardening with is also televisually popular) is that it’s household labour that produces something that did not exist in the null state. Mopping, ironing, cleaning and other things that are not leisure and do not inspire shows are merely returning things to what they should be.

    So we like doing (and watching) things that mean we are producing things, or actively making our world better. We resent and do not watching things that show us reacting passively against decay imposed by the world, labouring just to remain level. Why wouldn’t we want to watch Poh than Sisyphus?

  5. Mel says:

    I guess you don’t get the Lifestyle Channel, Ken. Shannon Lush wrote the bestseller Spotless books and stars in Lush House – http://www.lifestylechannel.com.au/tv/lush-house/

    Intractable red wine stains on your doona? Unsightly semen stains on the carpet? Shannon’s your girl. I never miss it.

  6. FDB says:

    Intractable red wine stains on your doona? Unsightly semen stains on the carpet?

    I usually find these problems the other way around.

  7. Pappinbarra Fox says:

    Madam Lush dos have a TV show on cleaning. Cookin’ is not necessarily a chore. Those who do find it a chore (like your good self Ken) probably never watch those shows. The Ramsay show is as far removed from cooking as Bollywood is from Hollywood: it is basically Rambo set in a kitchen without the funny bits!
    Bon appetif for twenty eleven

  8. Tel says:

    When the minerals run out, inevitably the Australian economy can only turn towards agriculture and tourism. Lifestyle is the last commodity we still have to sell off, and cooking is the perfect intersection of agriculture and tourism. We are training up to serve the stream of wealthy foreigners who will come here on holidays.

    I predict we will see TV cocktail bar tending shows (late night of course), and maybe fill up all those spare digital channels with some language/etiquette combo programs outlining all the major Asian cultures.

    This factor no doubt also partly explains the recent popularity of interior and exterior home renovation shows like Renovation Rescue, The Block and Backyard Blitz, as Richard observes in the next comment. These activities allow people to express their personalities and, to an extent, creativity.

    Just another facet of the hospitality industry.

    The incessant and predictable police dramas also make sense, if you think about it along the lines of Australia competing for tourist dollars against the Middle East, Africa & South America — constantly reinforcing our low crime rate and relatively tightly disciplined society advertises our advantages over our competitors, and drums into the locals how well the system works to keep them confident, cooperative, and compliant ;-)

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