Resavoring: The One with All the Pictures

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When a cubano looks this good how can you help but take its picture?

There was a day when my meals did not begin with me pulling out my iPhone. I know there was. There was a day when the sight of a perfectly poached egg dusted with red pepper flakes over a bed of sauteed kale didn’t seem to whisper “Instagram” into my ear. But that day feels very far away.

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Nothing says “eat me” like kale…even when the egg isn’t “perfectly” poached

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It isn’t that I can’t or don’t appreciate food for what it is–namely food–it’s just that it’s become so much more in the past few years and within the confines of my little food writing world. Food has always been more than body fuel, but it’s only recently that I’ve been enamored with its aesthetic. Food is fun. Food is sultry. Food is seductive. Food is beautiful.

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Burmese curried chicken and noodle chowder. Bliss on a cold day.

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And sometimes I photograph coffee…because it is also beautiful and delicious, especially when it comes with lavender marshmallows. (Shh. Don’t tell the Flavor Bible)

I’ve read more than a few articles critiquing my “food porn” obsessed culture, especially here in the Bay Area. I’ve read complaints from chefs and restaurant managers, other diners who give simultaneously dirty and desirous looks as their neighbors snap a pic of the roasted baby beets garnished with microgreens and drizzled in a demiglaze, perched upon shallow mounds of Roquefort mousse. I’ve been those people. All of them. The people snapping. The people sneering. I try not to discriminate in my perspectives on the dining experience. But sometimes I just can’t help it. Sometimes I want to preserve my frittata and eat it too.

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The last beautiful meal I made looked like this. Roasted beet and kale frittata, homemade banana bread and poached bosc pears in a brandy glaze.

I have a friend who refuses to let me physically screen shot my meals unless there’s a person in the picture. He shows up alongside my entrees and in my photo stream on a pretty regular basis. I get where he’s coming from. I get where they’re coming from–all of the people who’d prefer if I’d restrain myself from epicurean snapshots. A meal is about community. A meal is about company. A meal is about being present, about showing up to intentionally dine.

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I had this croque monsieur with my Daddy.

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And I shared this croque monsieur with my friend Carl. Apparently this is something I do.

But I say a meal is also about food–sometimes exclusively about it. And in digitally capturing that meal, I’m mentally savoring the moment–a moment I can come back to time and time again, long after the flavors fade and the sweet scent of cumin, cardamon and garlic have been washed from my hair. You might argue that this diminishes my enjoyment, that this picture-taking thing is lessening my experience.

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Why would you not do everything you can to remember a first trip to Emeryville’s Scarlet City? #Wheresmypicard?

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I am not a wings person. Or was not a wings person. Until these crispy smokey juicy spicy niblets met my mouth.

But really, I feel like it enhances it. I’m not out of the moment, I’m in the moment, respecting the moment, taking time to acknowledge and remember the moment, and I don’t think that is really such a bad thing. In some ways photographing my food serves a similar purpose as praying for it (not a replacement purpose, but similar all the same). It is a way of giving thanks. Pausing in a world that doesn’t pause enough to appreciate something that is truly fine or beautiful or put together with great care, especially when it is shared with someone who is equally exquisite in their composition.

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Sunday morning at the Temescal Farmer’s Market and the Asian pear and amaretto kouign-amann is king, as always.

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So proud (too proud) of how good this soup was.

And as a food writer, that gift is two-fold, or three-fold; it is more than one fold at any rate. When I shoot my food before I eat it (intentional and terrible as that pun may be), it allows me to share the experience with others–with my readers and viewers and those people who just can’t get enough of seeing sunlit salads or steaming bowls of seafood. And it benefits the chefs and the sous chefs and the servers who orchestrate and carry and serve the food to the tables. It acknowledges their work as well done and meaningful, worthy even of a photo.

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Well done, Swad India, you have really outdone yourselves with this array.

So I say, go ahead. Play with your food. Arrange and rearrange and toy with angles and photo filters. Don’t get lost in it, but don’t reject it either. Live to enjoy and enjoy the act of living.

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3 thoughts on “Resavoring: The One with All the Pictures

  1. I’m not particularly engaged with the subject matter. Food has always been about the taste more than the look for me…although your pictures are scrumptious.

    However, I’m glad I read on because of one line in particular. Take a bow ” Sometimes I want to preserve my frittata and eat it too”. That really tickled me.

    BTW. Kale is one veg that always says to me “I am inedible”. So I would be interested in suggestions for making it tasty. This would also help me bond with my Dutch wife more, because kale, smoked sausage and potatoes is the closest thing to a Dutch national main course dish. And that really doesn’t do it for me.

    Well… who would have thought food photography could become a gateway into marriage counselling? 😉

    Like

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