What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this food-focused history show mostly covers traditionally American (aka "unhealthy," in many cases) food like hot dogs, hamburgers, and pizza and could very well leave viewers of all ages craving junk food. Product names and logos (Coca-Cola, Domino's, etc.) appear frequently. Some episodes include information about drugs or alcohol -- like the fact that cocaine was in the original formula for Coca-Cola -- but it's in a purely historical context.
What's the story?
AMERICAN EATS traces the origins of popular U.S. foods like pizza, hot dogs, and hamburgers. Each episode is an upbeat, fast-paced history lesson that uses a combination of experts, historical footage, interviews, and data to tell the story of a specific familiar foodstuff. For example, the episode about soda pop begins with the invention of artificial carbonation and later tells viewers that soda comprises 40 percent of U.S. sugar consumption per year and that the average American consumes 50 gallons of soda per year. Old soda commercials and clips from movies set in soda fountains pepper the action. And some surprising facts emerge -- such as that Dr. Pepper was the first big-name soda in the Unites States, and it was made by mixing a slew of different flavors together in response to customers having a hard time deciding which flavor to order.
Is it any good?
As the show traces a food's history, viewers also learn about culture, geography, economics, and business. In the soda episode, for instance, viewers find out how cocaine became a key ingredient in cola and how public policy changes led to its removal from the ingredient list. Young viewers might find food a compelling angle from which to view history, but parents should know that kids who watch American Eats may end up with an appetite for junk food, since episodes tend to cover more "exciting" foods (leaving out the history of indigenous corn, for example).
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about how what we see on television affects the food, drink, and other items we crave. After watching an episode about soda, do you feel more like drinking a Coke? What do you know about the connection between media images and what people choose to eat -- and how they choose to act? How are commercials for food and beverages different than shows like this one? Do they have similar effects? Why or why not?