Glorifying gluttony

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.

A few months ago, legendary food critic Mimi Sheraton told host of The Sporkful Dan Pashman that she hasn’t been hungry for 60 years, which struck me as the height of professionalism. If your job is to write about food for the vicarious pleasure (or whatever) of others, then surely it’s none of their business that you suffered from nauseating indigestion after eating at ElBulli. Or is it?

Sure, if the oysters at Ocean Basket (or at the Test Kitchen) make you sick, that’s probably worth complaining about. But to brag about eating (expensive food) to the point of nausea strikes me as the most disturbing kind of privilege.

Here’s a taste of the same from probably two of my favourite people in the food world. I’m a fan of most things that Anthony Bourdain and David Chang do, and watching them eat though the menu at Momofuku Ko registers for many as the ultimate food porn (and yes, this is from an episode of No Reservations called … Food Porn, ‘for hardcore viewers only‘).

Actually I’m not sure if I’m more disturbed by watching them eat themselves sick on amazing-looking food, or the fact they talk about secretly loving chicken nuggets while eating this amazing-looking food.

Or perhaps most disturbing is the appetite for watching (or reading about) this stuff in the first place. C.S. Lewis hit the nail on the head in 1943:

You can get a large audience together for a striptease act—that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you come to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food?