This article aims to describe and theorize the role of food television in cultivating popular understandings of the relationship between food and race. Although there is burgeoning research on representations of food and identity, scholars have devoted much less attention to representations of race in food-related television programming. This article highlights the necessity of doing so through a comparative examination of shows that aim to expose viewers to racial and ethnic communities through their foodways. We ask to what extent these shows deliver contact across racial difference in hierarchical and egalitarian ways. We found that these shows convey manifestations of “eating with the Other” by providing viewers with a warm and respectful entrée into the everyday realities of racial, ethnic, and immigrant communities. Simultaneously, the shows embody bell hooks’s notion of “eating the Other,” as they commodify the experiences of marginalized communities for the vicarious pleasures of their viewers, and gloss over larger social, political, and economic inequalities. This article offers insights into the ways in which contemporary food television is dealing with issues of ethno-racial differences and inequalities, and discusses the potential of this medium to act as a form of critical intervention.

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