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Do Old People Know What Food Porn Is?

How do you feel about the term ‘food porn’? Do you even know what it is? I recently realized that using the term “porn” to describe all our self-indulgent obsessions may be something unique to our generation at a family party that took an awkward turn.

The party was at my aunt and uncle’s house. There were a lot of guests I didn’t know, friends of my aunts and uncles, and the day started with endless introductions and small talk. Of course, as I snapped pictures of the food,  our Instagram account @music2mymouth was a topic of discussion.

Later in the night, when everyone was much drunker and louder, one man announced “Lori does food porn!” While the declaration didn’t faze most of the party guests who went on to ask the usual questions (“What is your handle?”, “Did you take all of these?”, and my favorite “Did you actually eat all this food?”), my aunt quickly halted the conversation with a loud and disgusted “Wait wait wait…… PORN?” Bewildered and slightly inebriated, she collected her thoughts and her follow-up questions: How did I get in to this? Do my grandparents know? What do I actually DO with the food?

This interaction made me remember the first time I heard the term food porn and, to be honest, I remember it made me feel uncomfortable.  Certainly, me gawking at Instagram accounts and tagging my friends in pictures of cheese fries and donuts isn’t the same as watching porn. It sounded so vulgar, so shameful, so….honest.

No matter how icky it makes you feel, “food porn” is actually a very accurate way to describe what we do when we seek out and stare at pictures of food. It is visual stimulation that helps us imagine fulfilling a physical desire: eating.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines pornography as “a depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction”. Show me a picture of a crumbly biscuit (see Exhibit A) and I  assure you I will have a quick intense emotional reaction.

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Exhibit A 

Like, porn porn, it is difficult to define food porn. In the 1964 case Jacobellis v. Ohio, United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Steward said that although he is unable to define hard-core pornography, “I know it when I see it.” Food porn is just the same. While not all pictures of food are food porn, you know it when you see it. As I attempted to define it, I found that there are some qualities that seem to apply to all food porn:

  •      Food porn pictures involve an action, whether it is steaming, dripping,oozing, sizzling or melting. Even a still picture suggests movement. There are actually subcategories of food porn devoted to these actions. Search: #cheesepull #liftingnoodles or #yolkdrip
  • Food porn usually contains a picture with very defined texture. A food porn picture could not simply be a picture of cake, but a clear depiction of crumb size, moisture, the lightness of the frosting against the density of the cake. To look at a picture of food porn is to imagine the mouth feel of the subject, to imagine how a fork would slice through it or how it would feel in your hands.
  •   Lastly, an almost universal truth, food porn captures unhealthy foods. While there is certainly a corner of the social media world carved out for healthy meals and recipes, looking at pictures of healthy meals is not exactly comparable to looking at porn. Looking at Instagram pictures of healthy food is the pornography equivalent of watching a monogamous couple shop at Ikea. Womp. Food porn is meant for fantasy foods. Cheat foods and street foods.  If-I-was-on-death-row-and-had-to-choose-my-last-meal foods.

My aunt’s utter shock to my involvement in food porn brought something else to my attention. While my friends and I use the suffix –porn to describe anything we obsess over (#houseporn #fashionporn #makeupporn), could this be unique to millenials? We took to the streets of Long Beach Island, NJ to find out if our grandparents’ generation is familiar with the term. The result was hilarious……

 

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