In Support of Mediocre Food

A year ago, I was the person who stared in front of the fridge, frozen in fear and thinking about what snack I wanted. The last thing I was thinking about was what I was hungry for. All that buzzed through my head was what would people on social media want to see. Would it look aesthetically pleasing on camera? Could I incorporate avocado in a non-weird way so my photo would have more likes?

Looking back on it now, I think about why it was so difficult for me to just grab the carrots and hummus out of the fridge. Even though I love the platform Instagram has given me, I now realize how it has created unrealistic standards for how we are expected to eat. Putting those expectations on people and the food they eat is an unsustainable way to live. One can only think about maintaining those standards for their food and drinks so long before they burnt out. Cooking and eating was no longer a source of pleasure or community. It was a chore.

Consider the videos such as those on Buzzfeed’s Tasty page. I, for one,  get so sucked into these videos. Ånd in a lot of ways, their mission is a great one. The videos, shown to cook delicious dishes at lightning speeds, make cooking seem so easy. However, what many people do not realize is that these videos are produced by professionals, with professional equipment after several trials of the recipes. When you make a recipe from these videos, nine times out of ten, the food is not going to look like what you get. It is not going to be as you expect. This notion can set us up for disappointment, steering people away from trying to cook the meals in the first place.

The experiences we have with food in the age of social media can be exhausting. Food, under the gaze of influencers and apps, can no longer just be ordinary. Do you remember when we all made fun of Martha Stewart for posting not great photos of her food? The greyish lumps which she raved about the taste, but did not necessarily match the eye. What was the purpose of that? Shouldn’t we have celebrated the nourishing ingredients or the interesting techniques or the cultural connection? Instead, food through the lens of social media has taken itself way too seriously. It becomes a novelty, a status symbol that we snap with our phones.

These notions occur when we go out to eat food. A lot of our food obsession does not have to deal with the food itself, but with the experience of sharing the photos through social media. With Instagram, every meal has to be some sort of event, like something we have prepared our whole afternoons for for. It is as if we are taking the mantra “Live Your Best Life” and applying it to every single notion of every day. In some ways, this is good. With time passing so quickly, we want to make sure we are making the most of each and every second. However, when the anxiety of making everything we eat social media worthy, it can have the opposite effect. We get caught up on curating things so perfect, we forget the purpose of doing so in the first place. We forget that food is more than a photo we see.

Now, intuitively, there is nothing wrong with this. If you genuinely like spreading granola on smoothie bowl in a perfect straight line, then go and do it! However, when the feeling of making sure each snack and meal looks and tastes absolutely perfect takes up too much of our brain space, it can take time away from activities we want to focus on. I mean, does anyone actually want to wait in line for two hours for a milkshake with a piece of cake stuck in it? Is it actually worth it? I can be the first to say that no, it is not. It gives people an unrealistic expectation that food is meant to entertain us rather than nourish us. And that can put on an incredible pressure on us as consumers.

Food and social media the rise of food photography elevates a certain kind of food — a type that can be made aesthetically pleasing. Things like the rainbow trend or the unicorn trend look really good on camera, but do they actually taste extraordinarily well? I can say that, if you were to close your eyes and eat the rainbow bagel, it tastes the same as a plain bagel. Trust me. A couple of friends and I experimented The unicorn frappuccino, however aesthetically pleasing, tastes like a lot of different sweet things mixed together. Now, if you genuinely enjoy these items, then that is ok! However, it makes me sad to think that items like poutine, risotto, and hummus, no matter how tasty and nuanced they are, do not reach the same level of visual appeal on social media. Let’s be honest. They sort of look like mush.

Lately, I have become burnt out from all of this craziness of revolving all of my eating habits on social media. Since I find passion in developing my blog and my Instagram, I cannot just throw that out the window. But I have been more conscious that most food the average person eats looks sort of blasé. And it doesn’t taste mind blowingly delicious every time. That is ok, people!  We should not pressure ourselves to constantly find the next best thing to take a photograph of. It reminds me of when Adele told her fans to put their phones away during her concern. We need to spend more time enjoying our food and enjoying our company instead of taking photos of it.

Plus, the more time I spend getting the perfect shot, the less time I have to eat a warm cooked meal. And MAN, do I miss omelets that aren’t cold.

I’ve been thinking about the meals my mom would throw together when I was a kid. One of the best dinner we had was something called a “garbage” meal. But it was anything but garbage. My mom, who had to deal with the varying hunger levels of her three children and my dad, would once a week throw together all the leftovers in our fridge and call it dinner. One popular rendition of this was the fun title of “depression casserole” which consisted of a base of cabbage (which we all know lived forever in the refrigerator), hot dogs (which we always had in the freezer), and everything we had. Some nights it was rice and peppers. Some nights it was shredded carrots and hoisin sauce, tucked into rice paper wrappers.

Last night, I made one of these sorts for meals for dinner, when all the natural light had faded away. One thing I can say for sure: this plate was definitely not photo worthy. Normally, when you make a meal to take a photo of, you want differing colors, flavors, and textures to have the food stand out. This, my dears, had none of that. My plate contained kale, a little past its prime, tossed with white cabbage, crumbled tofu, some sad radishes, and dry brown rice. Was it the best meal I’ve ever had? Not by a long shot. And it might not have hit all of the color aesthetics and nutritional benefits the meals on Instagram today strive to. But they got the job done of getting dinner on the table. And the food tasted decent. And that is a ok.

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