Monday 14 October 2019

Liz Kearney: Food porn – the addiction we're all comfortable with

Nigella Lawson
Nigella Lawson
Liz Kearney

Liz Kearney

THERE are many ways that fellow diners can irritate: chewing noisily, talking with their mouths full, or – my own personal bugbear – eating off their knives.

In the digital age, diners who photograph their food have been added to that list. They've already been banned from some New York restaurants, after chefs grew tired of punters bringing in their own mini-tripods and standing on their chairs to get the best angle on their starters.

Now experts are claiming that Foodstagramming – the trend of snapping your dinner and posting it to Twitter or Facebook – might not just be annoying, but a sign of a psychological problem.

Dr Valerie Taylor, a psychiatrist at the University of Toronto, said this week that religiously documenting each meal might be a precursor to an eating disorder.

"I see clients for whom food has become problematic, and they struggle to go out and not have food be the key element of all social interaction: what they eat, when they ate, when they are going to eat again," Dr Taylor said.

"We take pictures of things that are important to us, and for some people, the food itself becomes central and the rest – the venue, the company, et cetera – is background."

It's definitely irritating – and although I've done it myself, every time my husband does it, I have to fight an irrational urge to reach across the table and punch him – but taking pictures of your food doesn't mean you're about to become anorexic.

Thanks to the cult of the celebrity chef, we're all obsessed with food these days. And food porn is the middle-class addiction we're all comfortable admitting to.

Our bookshelves heave with cookbooks filled with mouthwatering images of elaborate dishes; we sit glued to the TV as glamorous chefs show us how to prepare dishes we have no intention of ever making; we devour internet food blogs and we talk incessantly about what we're cooking and where we're eating.

Having spent years consuming Nigella and Jamie's slickly-produced professional food porn, it was only a matter of time before we started making our own.

Foodstagramming is like the Readers' Wives of food porn: a badly-lit, slightly out-of-focus image of our own culinary preferences, sent out into the world to titillate strangers.

Research shows it does just that: scientists have found that looking at pictures of appetising dishes fires off the feelgood chemicals in our brains and makes us feel happy.

But we don't just photograph our food to make other people feel good. In 1825, the French philosopher Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote, "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are."

I think that's spot on. We post photos of our food because we want the world to know something about what our lives are really like and who we really are.

And if who we really are is an irritating, iPhone-obsessed food bore, well, we can swallow that too.

Irish Independent

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