I recently wrote about the sad demise of Lucky Peach (and perhaps related, a less than stellar review of the last series of Chef’s Table) as a sign of how “food porn” was perhaps getting a little boring, or at least bored of its own format.
Oops, I think I just made one of those clickbait titles. But what else do you call the demise of the thing that’s gotten everyone salivating up till now?
It started with the announcement that (the generally excellent) Lucky Peach is folding after their final issue is published in May. Confession: I have a subscription (though my pile does not include the elusive first copy that apparently sells for upwards of $175), and my first thought was will I get my money back for the issues I won’t be getting?Â â˜¹ï¸
So it’s been all the rage in the food world of late. First, the Oberlin College issue, which had Lena Dunham supporting students who decried that the sushi and bÃ¡nh mÃ¬ served in the student cafeterias were not “authentic”, and therefore an example of “cultural appropriation”.Â
So the Philosophe and I recently found ourselves watching a one-hour doccie about a post-mortem of an obese person (a) because we had already had lunch, and b) because it’s been in the news about being a horrible fat-shaming spectacle, so I knew I needed to watch it to either agree with or be irritated by the Twitterers.
If being a “foodie” means enjoying reading about what other people get to eat – often in some of the best restaurants in the world – then I will reluctantly admit to being one. (If it just means being obnoxiously obsessed with food, then no. Definitely not!)
But when such an account begins with the line ‘Last night, I vomited in a great restaurant‘, and goes to on to list a menu of glorious-sounding food punctuated by burps and an ultimate reversal of fortune, then I think I draw the line between pleasure and disgust.
I’m preparing to travel to Italy in a week’s time, where I’ll be teaching a course on Food Media for the Masters in Food Culture and Communications at the University of Gastronomic Sciences. Which is really just a way of bragging that soon I’ll be swanning around in this building.
I guess I should have known that a documentary calledÂ The Search for the Perfect Human Diet (subtitled “The Answer to the Obesity Epidemic”) would end up in a very predictable place. But just see how ground-breaking it sounds!:
The Perfect Human Diet is the unprecedented global exploration for a solution to our epidemic of overweight, obesity and diet-related diseases – the #1 killer in America. This film, by broadcast journalist C.J. Hunt, bypasses current dietary group-think [ding ding!] by exploring modern dietary science, previous historical findings, ancestral native diets and the emerging field of human dietary evolution – revealing for the first time, the authentic human diet. Film audiences finally can see what our species truly needs for optimal health and are given a practical template based on scientific facts.
Am I right? If only this synopsis wasn’t actually written by … C.J. Hunt.
“When I see a picture of someone who’s really hugely fat,” Nigella Lawson once told a talk-show host, “I don’t think ‘how hideous’. I think how delicious it must have been to get there”.
Not so Katie Hopkins, who earlier this year embarked on her very own ridiculous “Fat Story“. The conceit*: put on 3-4 stone (that’s about 25 kg) and lose it again to show how easy it is – or rather, that all fat people need is a kick up the arse.
If you haven’t heard of her,Â this is all you need: she calls herself the biggest bitch in Britain, and was apparently ranked the second most loathed person in the world, after Vladimir Putin. Perfect person for the job, right?
So Watson the computer has just released a cookbook. Or rather, you can now buy a cookbook full of weird pairings generated by Science.
Now Watson’s been hanging out in the [bon appetit] kitchen for quite some time already, where (s)he/it has been “learning” about which foods go together for the purposes of helping to inspire chefs and other people who like to play in kitchens about surprising combinations that apparently work. As I wrote in the Mad Dispatches on the topic of “What is Cooking”, the idea behind Watson isn’t to ‘render the human cook obsolete, but rather to put the superior speed and memory capacities of a computer to the service of human creativity by analysing, for example, similar compounds in a multitude of flavour-pairings. In theory, Watson could then come up with combinations that make complete sense but might have taken us another several decades to discover in the kitchen.’
Which is nonsense, of course. Because my Twitter is only what I’ve decided to make it, and here I will pat myself on the back for choosing not to live in a filter bubble where I only see things that please me.