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  • Giorgio Pintzas Monzani

Is Food Porn Actually Cooking?

To keep it brief, unless you live in a cave, it is almost certain that the term "food porn" is at least familiar to you. It is a term used to describe the increasingly common strategy of gritty, colorful and very intrusive food advertising.

Let's proceed with caution, however, and see how and where the term originated.



(Photo: Brilliant Agency)


Early concepts of food pornography

We often hear the birth of the term attributed to feminist critic Rosalind Coward, who in 1984 in her book Female Desires, referred to food pornography, and called the curated presentation of a dish an act of servitude for the purpose of gratifying our host.

However, if we jump back a few years, to 1977, we see how the concept linking pornography and gastronomy originated from the sublime mind of Alexander Cockburn, an Irish-American journalist and author, who, specifically within an article published for "New York Review of books", wrote:


True gastro-porn heightens the excitement and also the sense of the unattainable by proffering colored photographs of various completed recipes(...).

The delights offered in sexual pornography are equally unattainable.


Alexander Cockburn, Gastro-porn, 1997


Following Cockburn's thinking, we see how in the culinary market, especially with the advent of social media and photo-sharing platforms, the presentation of food and its composition increasingly drives the concept of desire rather than pragmatism.

Selling a product that is often fictitious but could appeal to human fetishes and abundance instincts, thus becomes the best method of advertising, in food as in sex.



Effects of image on the system

If the sociological analysis was not enough for the most skeptical, to confirm that this is a corrupt system of selling, comes the various research between 2010 and 2012 on various samples of social media users: where it was shown how this brainstorming of pictures with colorful and succulent food, greatly increased the production of ghrelin, the hormone responsible for our appetite, thus giving the reader a sense of hunger.


There is, however, the other side of the coin, which creates a nonsense that has challenged researchers of social behavior.

In more recent studies, it has been confirmed that very often the user who comes into contact with this photographic material of a gastro-pornographic nature, loses the appetite for the same food as the image in real life.

Let us explain further: if we get lost among videos and images of juicy hamburgers with stringy cheese, and someone offers us a real cheeseburger, it will often happen that we will not be attracted to eat it.

A puzzle? Not really.

When we feed our brains with a type of food, presented in an appealing way, a real variant of the same food, not so flashy, will not tempt us to bite into it.

As if we are already satiated by the idea, our sad sandwich cannot compete with the colorful dish full of Photoshop filters


A saturated market that is NOT cooking

The food-porn phenomenon can and should be approached as a fad, even if it is not so transient.

The fact that platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube are now saturated with these food trends, however, does not mean that it is about cooking and gastronomy.

Like any field to which a trend is attached, the very essence of the artistic side of that world cannot and should not be diminished by trends.

Just as the style of classic clothing cannot be brought down by the fashions of tattered suits and dresses, so too, the true culinary art made up of people and research, must not feel undermined or underwhelmed by videos of cheddar waterfalls or showers of multicolored sprinkles.



This "struggle," however, must be carried on by the creators of mature, intelligent, and relevant content themselves, without feeling crushed by the algorithms of the social giants, which will push towards dark routes made up of likes and shares.

The classicism of worlds like cooking does not equate to being unfashionable and retrograde, but rather aware that after the click boom, only substance will remain, and substance is not done by following the masses, but by following culture.


However, food-porn is not only bad

We always come across positive and negative aspects when analyzing a social phenomenon, as is only right and ethical.

And it remains our duty to give light to both, regardless of our ideology and position.

The world of food-porn over the years has also created touch channels between creators and consumers, which have pushed hard on "healthy cuisine."

Many writers, creators, and social cooks, place great importance on, and often get much notoriety from, creating food-porn content related to the world of wellness and healthy eating.

Not just Nutella cakes, sandwiches, and churros, but food-porn now means enhancing products that are snubbed for their lack of taste and versatility, giving them a new and tasty life: from bowls with oats and spelt, to barley-based soups and savory pies, to legume croquettes; All recipes that bring especially younger people closer to foods now outclassed by the fast and junk food industry.

100 points to food porn!!!


Unfortunately, we live in a world that often forces us to be submitted to the ebb and flow of online fads and trends: however, this does not mean that we should remain passive and submerged.

The stream of news, like the one in a river, must first be analyzed and understood before diving in.


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