“Food porn” is too coarse a term for the photo that does not exist. It would have been food erotica. Humanists would have held up pictures of the wings and legs while making life-vows during their DIY marriage ceremonies. “This is what you are to me,” they would say over the Unity Bush. Grandmothers would cry tears out of their mouths. That’s called salivating, ma’am, and wait till you see the spread at the reception.
Whenever I’m out in a public space and I do take a photo of a perfect plate, a well-poured beer, or a latte with foam shaped like some kind of water fowl, I do it surreptitiously. What if all the other people in the restaurant are earthy blue-collar philosophers who would never stoop so low as to commemorate the most fleeting of experiences, a meal? As a philosopher myself, I cannot take the risk. They’d shun me, these people I do not know and will never see again. So I pretend like I am reading something as I line up the hot dog just so.*
Shallow as the impulse feels, it is hard not to admire the aesthetic of food if you are a food hobbyist yourself. (Yes. I am not using the term that rhymes with Trudy.) That must take years to make foam look like a swan! That’s a perfect slice of pizza! Look at the lacing on that empty glass of Guinness! Out comes the camera, off goes a text, with a caption suited to the moment but with a subtext that always says: “Must be nice to be me, eh?”
The trick, to get chicken to look as good as mine, is to use indirect heat. Technically speaking I think I did not “smoke” it last night, at least not exactly. I have a Weber, and I did not take the necessary steps-- like putting a bed of water under the meat and opposite the coals-- to convert the machine into a smoker. That lowers the temp and slows down the cooking time. Even still, it had a distinctly smokey taste—and that’s thanks to the wood chips. I used cherry wood last night. Don’t use mesquite, chicken can’t handle it. Just saying.
If you saw a picture you would not need to hear such caveats. You’d just agree that chicken so deeply red, like a full moon rising over Lake Michigan in September, is worthy of no descriptor but “smoked.” You would have called it photo-worthy indeed. You would not have judged me for taking it. At least, you probably wouldn’t have.
But you might have, and I would not have blamed you if you did. I couldn't take the risk.
*Oh man, that’s a terrible phrase I just stumbled upon, but it's staying.