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Bacos and deep-fried hotdogs: Food as entertainment isn't new

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When did food become entertainment? There are celebrity chefs and television stations devoted to food 24 hours a day and dozens of slick magazines all about food.

Recently the Fifth Third Ballpark made news for hosting a "Food Decathlon" where you got a punch card and were rewarded by eating all the food, including "The Baco," which is a taco with a bacon shell.

Margot Finn focuses on food studies at the University of Michigan. She says food has always been both a form of nutrition and a form of entertainment, but there has been a rise of popular interest in food since around the late 1970s. 

Finn reasons the change had to do with the shift in class structure at the time. As the middle class stagnated and the upper class distinguished itself in wealth, food became an arena for people to express the identity to which they aspired.

Although eating contests are also seen in other countries like Japan, there has been a long association between Americans and the idea of fast-eating.

"Some people attribute that to a way of distinguishing Americans, even in the 17th, 18th century, from the Europeans. The idea is that Americans were trying to not be pretentious, not have fussy, formal meals ... bolting your food was almost a patriotic act," says Finn.

Meanwhile, the controversy around obesity is becoming a forefront issue, and billions of dollars are spent every year on weight-loss efforts.

Finn says the mass desire to lose weight could have to do with the idea that nowadays we associate thinness with wealth, despite the fact that there are both heavier people and thinner people in every income bracket.

*Listen to our conversation with Margot Finn above.

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