Wednesday, October 21, 2009

why we will NOT be Slobbering over Pictures of Food around here


Back in September I started wondering whether, why, and how I would continue if I did continue for another year.

Mostly, I wanted to have more fun with the writing.  (More fun for the writer, more fun for the reader?) 

And I wanted to pay attention this time around - not to death and dying which seems to have drawn down the gaze of the Grim Reaper and his farmhands on the people I love - but to things I really do want to see more of - bikes, poetry, poetry in motion, sidewalk cafes, a thriving small town culture, wholesome farm food, more people outside enjoying this world, this time, each other.

Also,  I wanted a goal to write to.  Not that I keep goals.  Some goals are just for the pleasure of flouting, ignoring, reacting against.  But having a goal keeps me from feeling I am just circling, circling, before suddenly sliding down the drain with a glug.

So in September I started gathering ideas - material - sketches - what could this blog become? Starting first with what would NOT be. 

And first on the list, of course, was NOT A FOOD BLOG.  Because food blogs are so popular and ubiquitous, which is all that is required to make anything ridiculous. 

Not that I dislike any of you who do food posts (I can't seem to completely avoid them myself) nor even entire food blogs (yes, even that I admit to).  I do rejoice that Orangette (I am confessing here to a blogly guilty pleasure*) has at last opened her restaurant.  And I find it only mildly repulsive that she and her soadorablehusband (who actually met and fell in love  over her blog) like to read cookbooks out loud to each other before bed at the start of each season. 

So charming.

But, ridiculous? 


Anyway.  To do a food-bloggy spoof I needed to have some pictures of food.  Back at the first of September I borrowed my mom's digital camera and took pictures while we made cookies for a friend's daughter's wedding reception. (This is how we who do not frequent caterers plan to pull something like this off ourselves decades or so from now.)

Which photography was surprisingly fun.  Food is (surprise) appealing!  Which means easily photographable.  Which led into (nor am I entirely out of it yet) an interest, preoccupation, fascination, fixation, obsession, yea, even possession with photographing food.

I confess, I do, I do like looking at food on film, er - or whatever it is now that we are digitized. 

Everything is so pretty - fruits in their roundedness, the colors of vegetables.  It is, in fact, difficult to take an ugly picture of food. 

Though not impossible (I give you Exhibits A, B, and C: "Martian Mice"):

You just have to know your demographic.  I am cooking (when I cook) for a contingent that likes being grossed out. That spinach leaves dipped in pancake batter look like flattened rats with green tails is all to the good.

But foodie blogs and foodie movies and foodiness in general is all about lusciousness.  Not just delicious tastes.  In fact, in the print, web, and film media, it's not actually about taste - not in that moment. 

It's about images of taste, the idea,  nay, fantasy of ecstatically luscious deliciousness.

Gorgeous colors and contrasts.  Lots of close-ups and soft focus. 

Images/ imaginings of gratified desire (which, says Blake, is all we are really looking for in one another

What is it men in women do require?
The lineaments of gratified Desire.
What is it women do in men require?
The lineaments of gratified Desire )
Certainly not about actual taste, let alone biological nourishment.

Pecan Wedding Hearts and Lime-Glazed Coconut Snowballs ****

Are we still talking about food here? 

Eldest says she can tell I've stopped thinking when I start quoting.  Here's C.S. Lewis in an essay called "Sexual Morality" :
There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: there would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips.
But he's not talking in his essay against food-picture gluttony, nor castigating slick spreads of succulent figs and fresh cheeses.  He's using what he thinks is an imaginary orgiastic foodism as a preposterous metaphor for the other kind of orgy.  Because surely no one really would - ? would they?

But a turn of the century and we do, we do. There is a reason those mags in the checkout line are all either food - chocolate cake, fresh berry tartlets, half a luscious peach exuding its delicate juice - or lovely young women (sometimes lovely young men).  All those covers offering up their desirable comestibles.

So should we be ashamed?  Or is Lewis just being English?**

* Okay, yes, pretty much all blogliness is guilty pleasure.

** A race noted for their difficulties handling food in the raw, as it were.***

***Though English food itself is not impossible - at the ubiquitous Tesco everywhere in London I found apples, carrots, cheeses in a diversity and quality unmatched by similar grocery stores here stateside.  I think the fault lies more with the suggestive qualities of English advertising, i.e. two weeks staring at digestive aid ads morning and night on the Tube hypnotized my body into completely uncharacteristic malfunction . . . there is a deep sense of hostility between food and English culture.  Why is that?

****I usually only make cookies in December for Christmas.  This September baking was an act of love (you're welcome :D): recipes, if you insist.


Lisa B. said...

I like the kind of writing about food where the food is a part of a whole life. I also like the kind of writing about food where the food is the entire point, as long as the writing is good. Furthermore, I like food. I like the way that something ordinary is imbued with ritual when it's in the context of dailiness. And even something not ordinary--like wedding cookies--is imbued with that same kind of sacred ritual.

Also, I love your Martian mice.

All of which is to say, as I continue my expression of my hopes and fears for your blog, that I hope you write about whatever you want--cookies, bike rides, restaurants, kids leaving home, your marriage, your family, eggplants. Hopes: that Emma J. will write about whatever gives her pleasure to write about. Fears: that Emma J.'s blog may cease to be.

Emma J said...

No reason to fear - I have re-upped for another year. I'm just enjoying trying out possibilities.

I like all these ordinary rituals, too, especially if they're well written. In fact, come to think of it, that was the title of my master's what? - not thesis, my masterwork? That certainly sounds sufficiently pretentious.

I think I like any manner of thing as long as it is well written of.

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