As a part of prep for my dissertation defense I've been using the hot, slow afternoons (too hot to weed, and brain needs a break from morning writing) to watch the food documentaries on Netflix. All of them. And the ones from my library. (including "dirt! a love story." Library, not Netflix)
Many of them are based on books. Many of them are based on Michael Pollan's books. "In Defense of Food," "Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation," "The Botany of Desire."
Others just have cameos with Pollan (the Hitchcock of our food systems murder mysteries) like "King Corn," "Food Patriots," and "Food Inc.," (both in Film and Book).
Other Book/Films, like "Fast Food Nation," turn into narrative films. I've fallen down that rabbit hole, too. And that has how-many-degrees of bacon to "Super Size Me."
Surprises from this enterprise: "Crafting a Nation." The story of craft beer redefining local national space. "Somm," and "Somm 2": The story of hardworking wine bros (mostly) that use rhetoric of the political left and right to define attitudes towards oaking or not.
Not surprises, but still shocking: * "Soul Food Junkies"- a good reminder about how pissed we should be about the exclusion of the history of race in food movements. Elijah Muhammed vs. Michael Pollan.
* "Bite Size"- aside from using kids as metonymic figures for whole racial groups, the shaming of over-weight kids is not self-reflexive. If you send your child to a weight-loss school, never NEVER EVER emphasize how it better work because you cashed out your IRA for it.
What are ones I have watched so you don't have to? That's tough to say. The only one that rubbed me in such a wrong was "Foodies." Synopsis: watching food bloggers eat, take pictures, travel, have experiences, emphasize their importance... yet not sense of what their blogs are like, or actually do. They weren't likable enough to look them up.
So, as I drink my beet smoothies while watching, there are trends to notice. They are highly pedagogical. They teach viewers about undecipherable food rules, choices, and food chains. They (mostly) end with gestures towards "this is what you can do to make a change." They show kids learning about tomatoes and growing things.
Other things I've noticed: Watching 15+, and adding 30+ to my queue, Netflix no longer recommends interesting things like "Indie Gay/Lesbian Rom-Coms," "Classic Apocalyptic Dramas," or "Dark Comedies Featuring a Strong Canine Lead." I've hacked my logarithm.
Now I only see recommendations for documentaries. "How To Survive a Plague" is amazing, as is "Planet Earth." But it's going to take some time before Netflix shows me anything fiction-heavy again. A very different experience from the AFI 100 Binge.
Also, go home thermometer, you're drunk.