Take A Picture, It Lasts Longer

That some people are keeping photographic food diaries and posting them online does not surprise psychotherapists. “In the unconscious mind, food equals love because food is our deepest and earliest connection with our caretaker,” said Kathryn Zerbe, a psychiatrist who specializes in eating disorders and food fixations at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. “So it makes sense that people would want to capture, collect, catalog, brag about and show off their food.” –“First Camera, Then Fork,” New York Times. 4/7/2010

Ever notice how these days, people  love to take pictures of their food?   Go in to any restaurant and I bet you will find someone who is snapping a picture of their sandwich before digging in.  In fact, go no further than your Facebook or Twitter news feed and I guarantee you will find someone who has just posted pictures of the savory breakfast sandwich they just ate or dishes from a lavish dinner party they recently  prepared.  It’s almost as if these photos scream, “look at my incredible culinary skills; too bad you weren’t here to enjoy them” or, “It’s a shame you aren’t as skilled at cooking as I am.”   I’ll admit, sometimes I feel a tinge of jealousy when I see such photographs.  I wouldn’t mind sampling your chicken parm or salmon ceviche next time I’m in your neck of the woods!

Before I go knocking this recent phenomenon, I’ll admit, I’m just as guilty of taking pictures of my food, too.  Due to my slight obsession with sandwiches, I will take picture of a delicious sandwich before eating so that I might forever remember its beauty and its ingredients.  I’ve been known to snap a photo of the dinner I cooked next to a floral arrangement and strategically placed glass of wine in the background and then posting them  to my Facebook or Twitter pages.    Should I feel embarrassed about taking pictures of my food before eating it?  Is taking pictures of your meals and then posting them online a little too boastful?

To gain insight into this phenomenon of food photography, I decided I needed to dive deeper into the culture of foodies and food photographers.  To do so, I got myself invited to the Wisconsin Board of Cheese’s Grilled Cheese Academy party at Cafe Soleil in Madison, WI.  The exclusive party was for food bloggers and people like myself who had won invitations from Wisconsin Cheese on Twitter.  Thankfully, my friends at Burp Blog and new friend from Cake Walk were also attending (and graciously drove me to Madison), thus granting me a portal into the world of food bloggers and food photography.

The moment we arrived at Cafe Soleil, it was apparent that along with gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, food photography was also on the menu.  Food bloggers from all over Wisconsin gathered at Soleil not only to sample the cuisine, but to network with other food bloggers while meticulously cataloging the dishes of the evening.  Food photography was encouraged and done with pride.

After sampling several grilled cheese sandwiches and the beers that were paired with them, the food bloggers began to record what they had sampled.  I watched in awe as my blogger friends grabbed samples of the sandwiches and moved them to the window in order to get better lighting for their photos.  They arranged the sandwiches on napkins and placed them with their beer pairings.  After snapping photos of the sandwiches from various angles, the bloggers wrote down a list of each sandwich and its ingredients to post along with the photos on their respective blogs.

It was fascinating to read their posts about the Grilled Cheese Academy on their blogs because I had learned what went into recreating such an event in a blog post; the sampling, the photography, the write-up.  After witnessing this event, I realized that food photography is not boastful when used for a good purpose, such as food blogging.  Simply posting your food photos to Facebook or Flickr with the tag line “look what I can cook” can come across as a little boastful.  If you are going to post pictures of what you recently cooked or tasted at a restaurant, tell the story behind the photos.  People love a good story especially when food is involved.  However, if you’re not the storytelling type, at least share the recipe along with your food photographs!