Food P*rn

Happy New Year!

There is an interesting article in Salon today, where a former food writer relates how she got disenchanted with the food world (though she did not actually quit, she was replaced by someone cheaper.)

I think there are two telling things in the article: one, she was not writing for a food magazine, but for a general-interest one with a food section. Two, she admits that she is not that interested in food herself, but took it more as a writing gig that would get her out of the house. So she's a writer first, and food person just professionally. She describes her subject matter as being "food porn" though. This phrase is rather striking. (And yes I know it's been used before, and is even the name of a food blog aggregator.)

Presumably, people who maintain food blogs really love food. I certainly do. But why did we pick this particular topic to write about in a public forum? Are food bloggers the purveyors of food porn, in the negative sense? While all humans require food to live, it's a fact that many people in the so-called developed world have a love-hate relationship with food and eating. Everywhere you look there are stories about the dangers of this food and that. Obesity is a major problem in many countries. For women especially, food can be a very emotionally-charged issue.

When we are describing the latest dessert we've consumed in glowing terms, and posting what we hope are mouth-watering pictures of said dessert, are we simply indulging ourselves, bringing pleasure to our readers, or filling an emptiness within ourselves? Are we same as people who write slash fiction?

I really don't have the answers. I only know that I write here for my own selfish reasons. When I write here, it helps me to keep a record of what I have created and consumed, where and with whom. And, it does fulfil some need in me - the need to empty out the obsessive little rattlings in my head that I , about how food tastes, and feels, and looks. And it's strange, but writing down my thoughts about food in a public forum somehow help to somewhat curtail what I actually consume, because it makes me want to improve the quality of the food I take into my body, whether it's for health reasons or simply for taste. It hasn't lead to some magic Food Blogger Diet yet, but it may get there.

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Perhaps you should as why you, or any other reader, reads food blogs. I read them for ideas more than anything else. I'm always looking for new twists on classics or some pairing of flavors or textures that I've never thought about. People also read them for recipes and step by step, illustrated instructions, or to vicariously share a dining experience. And we read them for the same reasons people read blogs of any kind, to get a glimpse into the life of someone whose interests may run parallel to our own.

Then there is the community aspect of food (or any kind of) blogging. We develop online friends who share our interests, who can teach us things, who can show us a slice of life in a different part of the world, perhaps.

So, conversely, don't we write them for the same variety of reasons?

I agree with B'gina.....just the passion for good food will suffice and every country, ethnic have their fav food and even that differs. So, we share, make some friend and really get lotsa ideas from food bloggers around our small world.

I think you need to keep in mind the language itself whenever that highly-loaded word "porn" gets bandied about. This recent meme - "food porn", "real estate porn" etc - is getting around willy nilly and many people are not getting the original intent.

I find New York Times food writer Molly O'Neill's definition of food porn to be very good: "prose and recipes so removed from real life that they cannot be used except as vicarious experience."

See here for her great discussion of this concept:

Food blogs seem to run the gamut from porno to down-to-earth (realistic? doable?)...I don't think your blog should be considered porn. Now 101 Cookbooks? That's a bit closer to what Molly is talking about...but really, food porn is more about MARTHA STEWART LIVING's glossy spreads, etc, than about most food blogs.

I agree with foodcrazee. The term "food porn" shouldn't even be taken as seriously as a "food nazi" (such as a restauranteur who refuses to put salt on their tables!)

It is odd when "food stylists" and air brushing comes into play, though. I wonder if there are amateur chefs out there that obsessively strive for perfect looking food like a teenage girl trying to be as skinny as Kate Moss.

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