Back in the day, I loved the Food Network (FN). I watched two channels: ESPN and FN. Emeril Lagasse, Jamie Oliver, Mario Batali, Iron Chef (the original Japanese version) – all were fair game.
For whatever reason, cooking intrigued me. The food itself – its preparation, knife work, sauces, marinades, heating process, the presentation – grabbed my attention. In hindsight, my insatiable appetite fueled the interest, thus legitimizing the moments spent watching whole roasted chicken coming out of the oven and bread pudding being doused with vanilla ice cream.
I cannot say I appreciate FN any longer. Yes, I guess Anthony Bourdain’s literature was part of my enlightenment. My reason is simple: food isn’t just food. FN, regardless of its efforts to do otherwise, treats food as food, nothing more, nothing less.
No, this isn’t hatred. Some portray FN as the “evil empire”, and maybe it is, on many levels. But my decline in appreciation is primarily due to an increased appreciation for higher goods. Food media that does not treat food as just food. Food media that enraptures the ambiance, the mood, the people, the culture, the city, the nation.
Even food porn in written form. Limited are the words and phrases in describing food. I once wrote about Annapolis blue crabs (damn good crabs for sure – read it here). When one’s vision is narrowly constricted to the crabs themselves – yes, the steaming aroma of crab meat infused with Old Bay seasoning, married with green crab innards is, indeed, heavenly – there is only so much one can elaborate. That’s Version 1.0.
Luckily, there has been a rise in media dedicated to spreading Food Porn Version 2.0. One such outlet is roadsandkingdoms.com (you must check this out, also follow R&K on Twitter, @RoadsKingdoms).
More folks are opening their eyes to the stories behind the dishes. No sauce is richer than the stories. No dish is richer than the local culture that gave birth to it. These folks take on an entirely refreshing view, a horizontal approach to cuisine. If FN’s food porn 1.0 is “vertical”, as in cook food, show food, and eat food, version 2.0’s “horizontal” approach links food with culture, politics, travel and stories. It links food with – people.
Alas, even the State Department has caught on, as it has recently embarked on a “culinary diplomacy” program with top chefs.
But State and chefs aside, “ordinary” foodies everywhere can take initiative. Broaden your taste buds and taste the nation. There are stories out there. Food is an inherent vehicle for storytelling. Discover those stories and write about them.
Only then will we fully appreciate gastronomy. Upgrade to Food Porn 2.0.