Food Porn

Is the title inappropriate? Not really. And for clarity sake, let’s make it clear I won’t be talking about all the interesting things you can do with a cucumber or any other assorted engaging vegetation.

I am a self-confessed foodie. I like to cook. I love to eat. I watch shows on food. I read about food. I use food as a crutch. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I had forgotten how long I’d been doing this until I started to think about it. I had forgotten about subscribing to Toronto Life magazine years and years back. I would scour the restaurant reviews. I loved to get into the up and coming chefs that I still can’t afford to visit and try.

James Chatto was the main restaurant critic in the magazine. I love his writing style. I even read one of his books. He introduced me to the Mark McEwans and Susur Lees of the food scene and I became attached to their stories. I was so hoping Susur would win Top Chef Masters but I was more amazed at all the dishes he prepared. I watch The Heat with Mark McEwan and have been fascinated at his journey opening a gourmet grocery store. If you are ever around Don Mills and Lawrence in Toronto, check it out. After having three stellar restaurants (One, Bymark and North 44), a catering business that the stars know, now the store, and he decides he needs a cookbook. Crazy, driven and talented.

A then I was watching one of my favourite shows…Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. He’s a writer, a chef and travels the world looking for inspiration. And he likes the foods served in homes or in places tourists never go. He’s rude and he is anything but full of himself. I was watching an episode this past week he titled Food Porn. And he did the show in a dark smoky movie theatre setting for full effect.

Anthony Bourdain - No Reservations

Basically he plays all sides in this story. From the buxom female chefs to ‘real men’ cooks, he takes no prisoners, including himself. He talks of the endless cleavage shots of women stirring bowls of whatever. The shot is never just the bowl but the bouncing go on behind the bowl. He talks of the moans, the drip of some liquid off the corner of her lips, the provocative poses.

He talks of tv chefs who have less interest in the trade then the dollars generated. Mark McEwan talks often on this as well. It is far less about him cooking and far more about face time with ‘the star’. The business of the business as they say. In many ways you could say food has gone the way of sports. It is not the game but the money made.

You got these endless arrays of Bobby Flays, Guy Fieris, Jamie Olivers, Mario Batallis, Laura Calders, Giada de Laurentiis, Nigella Lawsons and I could go on and on. From the Galloping Gourmet to Julia Child, Yan Can Cook to Emeril Lagasse, the transition of chef from complete unknown in the back of the house to household superstar is complete. For the foodie, these are our heroes. They bring us to another dimension, escapism at the taste budular level (yes, I made that up), wanting, wishing, pining. Masturbation of the oral senses.

And all of that plays a part in the effect it has on people. The gluttony, the constant images of glistening fast food, the images of excess both in portion and in funding. Think about the fact that there are pron photographers for food. They don’t work in the porn industry (that I know of) but the goal is the same. How do you make a dish look so good that you are driven to eat? And when you see the dish on the cover of Saveur that drives you mad, you aren’t thinking that dish is covered in shellac and a myriad of other tools that make the dish beautiful and completely inedible.

When was the last time you had a Big Mac that ACTUALLY filled your hand. The images of it are huge, the reality is a massive disappointment. Wendy’s Baconator, KFC’s Double Down (cheese, sauce and bacon between 2 pieces of fried chicken), and today I saw Friendly’s new salvo in the calorie excess war…The Grilled Cheese Burger Melt. A burger between two grilled cheese sandwiches – 1500 calories, 97 grams of fat (triple the Big Mac!) and two days worth of sodium. You might also be stunned to hear that isn’t the highest calories item they have. That honour goes to the Clamboat Basket (1710 calories and 102 grams of fat). Better yet? Chili’s restaurant’s Jalapeno Smokehouse Big Mouth Burger – 1750 calories – the kicker? 5250 mgs of sodium. So what? 6000 is considered a lethal overdose.

Friendly's Grilled Cheese Burger Melt

They all look drippy, juicy and disgustingly lovely. And this is the real porn for me. It isn’t chefs showcasing their sales talents on tv. It’s the imagery that is presented to us daily. Me, of weakness and humanity is left wanting. I never get those things. But I eat and eat for no apparent reason other than some glib and ridiculous want. And the entire society has been geared to this excess. You wonder why obesity is rampant? I am there. Not proud. Disgusted.

We live in a world of food porn. We are bombarded by images of food. Shiny, brilliant and ever so available. And cheap! Do you wonder why a Big Mac meal is less cost than a salad? Never mind if you use the sauces, croutons and bits you’ll be pushing the envelope there too.

Our world is backwards. We are captive to notion that fast and cheap is good. Anyone below the middle class, if the middle class still exists, has little ability to afford a lot of fresh food. Some of that is cop-out. But add into that this is a society that expects long hours and little time at home, prepping dinner is just another take away from your family time.

Don’t get me wrong. It is me and me alone that is responsible for what I put in my mouth. I am anything but proud. And all I write here is not meant as excuse. I am the hand that feeds. And I take responsibility for my own disgust. But nothing surrounding me on tv, the radio, the newspaper, the internet, in restaurants, on billboards or anywhere else is designed to help me make good choices. Society does not support me in my struggles. Society is hell-bent on making it harder.

The problem with food porn is that it doesn’t require you to be huddled in a corner late at night trying to make sure no one sees what you are doing. We all do it every day. Not because we want to but because it has been allowed to become the behemoth that it is, filling every nook and cranny (anyone remember Thomas’ English Muffins?) of our day. The only condom that can keep you safe from it one of blinders.

So if you are fat like me (sounds like a great book title), don’t think you aren’t responsible. You and you alone are. But you need to be aware of the world around you and the impact it has. Consider this a first step in yours and my recovery. May the force be with you.

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