Photo courtesey of: Ladue News 

By Debbie Baldwin

It seems there is a problem in the virtual world. Don’t panic. It’s not a put-on-your-radiation suit or head-to-the-canning-cellar kind of crisis (that’s assuming you have either of those things, which personally I do not). Nevertheless, there is a new fad that is, for lack of an industry-appropriate term, clogging up the Internet. The fad: food porn.

Now don’t get too worked up, it’s not as exciting as it sounds. There’s no ’70s soundtrack pounding a beat, and there is no mustached lothario/vacuum cleaner salesman on the doorstep, disappointing as that may seem. No, food porn is the overly salacious name for postings of food on social networking websites.

Oh, it started out innocently enough—a pastry chef posting his latest creation or a Pacific Rim vacationer adding a photo of her exotic sushi. That’s neat. That’s interesting. The sushi tells me that Janet is vacationing in Tokyo, and that she is brave enough to sample the local delicacies. Plus, the photo is intriguing and beautiful. Then suddenly something changed. Every food–any food–became Facebook fodder. Mommy burnt the grilled cheese! is the caption accompanying two grimy slices of white bread and an oozy Kraft single. Do you really need a picture to tell everyone that you charred your child’s lunch? Wait. Big picture. Do you really need to post that you burnt your child’s lunch at all? It begs the question, if you weren’t preoccupied with all the social networking, would you have burned the grilled cheese in the first place?

It’s anything. It’s everything—a snow cone in the park, an obscene cheeseburger from the state fair, beluga from the Russian Tea Room, a giant platter of spaghetti and meatballs. So what? Who cares? Nathan made a chocolate brownie pie and topped it with a generous scoop of Haagen Dazs vanilla and a ribbon of hot fudge. Good for him. How is it any different than people posting pictures of their kids or their vacation? Ha! Glad you asked. It is different for two reasons.

First of all, food never stops. People have a limited number of children, and unless they are imbalanced, generally only post pictures of children at a particularly adorable or seminal moment—Sally’s first day of school, baby’s first tooth, Jamie’s graduation. That is not the case with food. It can be good or bad, unusual or normal, healthy or decadent, spicy or bland, raw or cooked, appetizing or nauseating, sweet or savory, anything goes. Last week, a fellow I don’t know well posted a photo with the caption, Classic PBJ for lunch today, Peter Pan and Welch’s Grape Jelly on Wonder. First of all, everyone knows that the classic PBJ is Jif smooth and Welch’s Grape Jam on Pepperidge Farm, but I digress. Was that really necessary? Did it change anyone’s day? Did it help the world in some small way? And if a generic PB & J warranted a Facebook post, what’s to come? The frozen dinner? The egg-and-sausage biscuit? My arteries are clogging at the thought.

The second reason—burnt sandwiches and boring lunches aside—is that the posts make me hungry. I can sit down with my turkey sandwich and chips and get a quick FB update and it’s like walking through the food hall at Herrods. Lynn is glazing strawberries with apricot jam to top off a fruit tart. Jen is having a Provencal salad with a golden egg yolk drizzling over bibb and pancetta. Andy is enjoying a classic Cioppino on Fisherman’s Wharf. Stupid turkey sandwich. I am simultaneously famished and repulsed. I guess there’s nothing to do but try to find the positive. The pasta with turkey sausage, tomatoes and kale looks interesting. Maybe I will make it for dinner tonight. Eh, or maybe I will just burn the grilled cheese.