Food Porn

October 17, 2012 9:33 pm

What is it about photographs of food that makes people drool all the more? Once the hobby of teenage girls, taking pictures of food to display on blogs and on social networking sites are now the norm. I even catch myself doing it on occasion. Cookbooks are the obvious source of this food fetish, with the lure of unbearably glossy pages of beautifully arranged edibles, but the popularity of Pinterest and Flickr has made sure that everyone has access to pictures of perfect food. It’s all about presentation and fantastic lighting, rigidly orchestrated. Left under hot lights and to their own devices, ice cream runs, apples turn brown and lettuce becomes limp. Having been a waitress, I know the importance of maintaining a well presented plate.

In the restaurant I worked at, we had the advantage of being able to choose from half of the menu for our breaks, and what we were going to eat on our precious one hour break was a much discussed topic. Occasionally asking for food we weren’t allowed to have when the manager wasn’t there (cheese steak, BBQ lamb and teriyaki salmon to name a few), we would wait in anticipation, savouring it like it was our last meal. Working around food made us look forward to our break even more as we would take out plates and convince ourselves that we fancied having the chilli cheddar hotdog and chips with garlic mayo. It was easy to fantasize about the food when you were working within easy reach of it.

Nigella: serving up sensuality

Watching programmes like Masterchef (the Australian version is particularly brilliant) give cooking sessions, the way they talk about the food is like writing another page of the Karma Sutra. I personally blame the influence of Nigella. That woman talks about food like she’s reading an erotic text complete with coy little glances and simpers at the camera. With the camera making the most of the zoom button, there are always close up shots on her fingers tenderly caressing joints of meat, reminiscent of the character of Saskia Hazard in the Angela Carter book Wise Children. Saskia the TV cook that liked to poke and prod her ingredients in the rudest manner and if Nigella has read the book, then the inspiration for her TV persona is a no-brainer.

There’s something about Nigella that draws people to her, perhaps at the thought that if someone as inviting as her can make easy Coca Cola ham and lavender cupcakes, then we could too. Marketing food that can be as inviting as sex is a powerful tool. Forget aphrodisiacs, everyday food can be just as good as the real thing when arranged and photographed artistically and if it tastes as good as it looks, there’s nothing to lose. Certainly not your waistline (unlike the effect that an energetic tumble in the hay does for you) but at least you know that you don’t have to rely on another person in the same way. You don’t usually communicate with the chef and it’s just you having a moment with the food. Sounds slightly perverse? Perhaps, but when many talk about food, myself included, it’s all about description and flavour which gets people drooling. I’m quite adept at blocking out the sounds of calories invading my person by now. After all, the first and last pleasure in life tends to be tasting food. Food isn’t just something to survive on anymore; it can be shaped into an art form, made as a comfort, something to make a career out of and an enchantment to our senses as an equal to sex. The rise of food porn has sensationalised food in a manner both slightly disturbing and delightful. No more do people eat to live, we now lean towards living to eat.

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  • kisuke

    “Marketing food that can be as inviting as sex is a powerful tool.” really, that is very interesting….

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