Let's be honest: it's rough out there in the news cycle right now. There are no shortage of studies or articles that all argue that constant exposure to news can be detrimental for your long-term mental health. We all need a break now and again—even those of us in the news business!
If you want to tune out the news but don't want to turn off the TV, here are a few delightful, healthy antidotes to binge, each of which feature food and wine, and might even restore a little faith in the future.
The Great British Baking Show/Bake-Off (PBS, Netflix)
Can one say enough kind and lovely things about this show? The answer is no. (Well, until judge/global treasure Mary Berry and hosts/heroines Mel & Sue left last year, but let's just focus on the seasons only available in the U.S. at the moment.) There are cooking competitions (Top Chef is the gold standard and a personal favorite, but it is cutthroat) and then there is Bake-Off, in which the bakers are really only competing against themselves (and maybe the clock). Sure, there was once a controversy about throwing a Baked Alaska in the garbage can (really!), but if that's how serious it gets, then rest assured, the white tent pitched outside classic English countryside estate is a safe space for you to decompress and watch the most glorious baked goods come to life.
The Wine Show (Hulu)
I still can't believe more people haven't heard of this one. This is the pitch: a show about wine hosted by two of Britain's most charming actors at the moment: Matthew Rhys and Matthew Goode. And, Anglophiles rejoice, they are soooo British on this show. (And James Purefoy joins in season 2!) The first season focuses primarily on Italy's wine regions, with season 2 based in France. But led by some actual wine experts and sommeliers, they go on excursions to wine regions all over the world, from Argentina to Armenia.
Queer Eye (Netflix)
It's arguable food and wine are the least significant contribution on the Netflix reboot of this franchise, but I think food "expert" Antoni gets a bad rap. In fact, by demonstrating very simple recipes, he's acknowledging he understands his audience and starts them slow so they can progress and succeed. Sure, we can all joke about serving guacamole five ways, but teaching someone how to cook the basics isn't the same as presenting someone with a remodeled home or new wardrobe and saying "Ta-da! We did this for you." Antoni also goes over the basics for making cocktails, which honestly, anyone who knows a good drink understands that (at least in the beginning) it's more than just pouring bottles into a glass and hoping for the best.
Nailed It! (Netflix)
You've seen Cupcake Wars. You've seen Holiday Baking Championship. Or Spring Baking Championship. Or whatever other iteration of the same baking competition Food Network decides to come up with next. While those can all be entertaining (and mindless) to watch, most of us at home can't replicate that work. Enter Nailed It!, the baking show for Pinterest Fails. Great British Bake-Off, this is not—only in that the finished results on this Netflix game show are usually just hot messes. But the hosts, judges, and contestants are all good sports about it, and they're in on the joke, so no one is being humiliated. Everyone is just having a good time.
Mind of a Chef (PBS, Netflix)
Produced and narrated by Anthony Bourdain, this award-winning series features one chef or two over the course of a season, peeling back the layers of what makes these chefs tick while following them on whatever projects they might be pursuing next. Think Rene Redzepi with a Noma pop-up in Tulum, or Edward Lee's venture into making whiskey. With some gimmicky but still entertaining cuts to brief food science lessons (including a very valuable PSA about MSG), these famous chefs also take time to teach how they prepare some of their most famous or just plain classic dishes, like Ludo Lefebvre folding a traditional French omelette or David Chang making Cacio e Pepe out of an instant ramen packet.
A Chef's Life (PBS)
This is like finding a hidden gem when scrolling through the PBS app on Roku. (Yes, some of us do that.) With five seasons completed and several national awards and cookbooks later, the documentary-style show follows Chef Vivian Howard, who has worked in the kitchens of some of New York's finest restaurants, as she opens and runs two restaurants in her very rural hometown in North Carolina. You also get to know both members of her family and local home cooks and farmers, each of whom provide insights into not only what inspires Howard, but also lessons about where your food comes from that you probably never saw anywhere else.