All you can eat

by Steve

Guys sitting at counter of old American diner

Man V Food is a wonderful TV show. For the uninitiated: the eponymous Man, Adam Richman, travels around America visiting various restaurants and eating holes, with each episode culminating with him taking on a particular establishment’s eating challenge. The challenge tends to revolve one of two themes – either eating a lot of food, or eating something that is incredibly hot. On rare occasions the challenge incorporates elements of both.

Now, while I expect some of you think may think this is the greatest televisual concept ever (or have watched the programme and realised it is the greatest televisual concept ever) there may also be some of you who have your doubts.

Surely, this is just an expression of the gluttony and greed in America and the wider western world? Surely there is something perverse and offensive about watching someone eat far more food than they actually require? Well, you may have a point, to an extent. But Man V Food is better than that. It can’t just be written off as stunt TV, or lowest common denominator TV or just plain bad, gross TV.

For one thing, Adam Richman clearly loves his food. And I don’t mean that just in the sense of having a healthy appetite. Richman visits places that may generally be “pig-out” spots, but these are places that also use quality produce, and cook that produce with care, love and attention. These are independent outlets run by people who are passionate about the food they sell. They aren’t just serving up any cold crap, any old way. And Richman does a great job of articulating how great food can be, if you concentrate on sourcing the best ingredients and then treat those ingredients with respect. I don’t think that’s a bad message to get across.

This is all a far cry from your standard fast food/pig-out joint philosophy. Richman shows there is alternative to multinational companies who worry more about their margins than the taste and quality of what they sell. Man V Food is nothing short of a love letter to good food and the independent establishments that serve it. The food might not always actually be good for you in a purely health-related sense, but the message is: if you’re going to treat yourself to some indulgent food, at least make it decent indulgent food. And make sure you support small, local businesses that care about the food they are cooking, and care about the service they provide.

The eating challenge at the end of the episode is fun, and probably brings most viewers to the programme, at least initially. It certainly was what attracted me first (and it is played for laughs more than anything else). But what has kept me watching is the passion Richman shows for food. Fast food isn’t going anywhere, at least Man V Food celebrates the good stuff.

Image from the Library of Virginia, via Flickr