Photographs of food, revisited
I have argued against photographs of food, but the temptation to take them and upload them to Facebook sometimes overwhelms my reason. It seems like the done thing, and who I am I not to do the done thing? (Stupid question.) A few weeks ago I learned my lesson again, receiving some very negative “comments” on my pictures of some of the very best food I have ever eaten. Here is the first of two photos that earned me the vitriol of my online buddies:
Now I should be clear that the complainants were all of the British variety, and I frankly suspect that they have simply never seen a plate of real food before, much less a plate of enchiladas and eggs smothered with sauce (Los Compadres, Albuquerque, NM). Indeed, this whole post may be more about how I and the British differ on the point of cuisine. There is a kind of tradition of nasty-looking British food — sausages smothered in gravy don’t look like much, stew looks the same everywhere, and haggis looks like what it is — but there is also a kind of pasty-white squeamishness about their whole approach. (Overcooking meat is part of this — it’s the appearance of the pink flesh that drives them bonkers.)
This is clear, I think, given the disgust expressed at the following image, which was my second and final picture of American cuisine that I shared with my British comrades:
That’s barbecue, people (City Market, Luling, TX), and if it doesn’t look good to you, it’s because there’s something wrong with your eyes. And I’ll tell you exactly what: if that doesn’t look good to you, it’s because the Devil’s taken control of your fucking eyeballs! You need to call an exorcist! OK, maybe you’re not hungry right now — you’ve just had a large dinner, say — but you’ve got an oven, right? So you have got to want that, if only to eat later. People think masochists are weird because they enjoy pain. But if you don’t want to eat that barbecue, you’re way weirder.
I include two more photographs, from my recent tour of Texas barbecue. I offer these for your consideration of the relationship between cuisine and its image. I find that these images, of some of the finest food in the world, display their subject in an honest documentary style (if there is any such thing), and if they present this food as unappealing, then this is evidence of the worthlessness of the culinary image. But I hope they will also serve as a helpful counterpoint to the photoshopped images of dainty small plates that have come to define our visual consciousness of what we eat.