Wikipedia defines a foodie as “a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages … a foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby.” Sounds great. But there are other opinions. Urbandictionary.com has several colorful definitions including, “a person who has no actual interests or hobbies.” Log on to Instagram, and you’ll find millions of photos of perfectly curated meals taken by self-described “foodies.”
Let’s be honest: foodies and Instagram are ruining food for everybody. The combination puts an emphasis on food that looks pretty, rather than on food that actually tastes good.
As The Boston Globe puts it, “Pity the stew. It is delicious and it is deeply flavored.” Unfortunately stew, while delicious, does not photograph well, so your lovely winter meal will certainly be considered boring by the foodie world.
As a result of the trendy food phenomenon, foodies are flocking to restaurants, iPhones in hand, that serve rainbow bagels, soft serve in fish-shaped cones, and sushi burritos. Are these food items worth the trek?
A reviewer of the rainbow bagel stated, “All in all, its just all right. I preferred the other bagel I picked up (a salted bagel schmeared with plain cream cheese).” In 2017, it seems that our food always needs to be Instagram-able, even if the less flashy meal tastes better.
It is not unusual to walk into an eatery and see people snapping away with an iPhone camera in an attempt to get the perfect angle. Sometimes, these foodies will even shine their phone’s flashlight on the food so their friend can take the shot in ideal lighting. Along similar lines, the New York Times identified “11 Ways to Take a Better Food Photo on Instagram.” One suggestion: “Stand up and take an overhead shot of your food, or duck down to meet your plate at a 30- to 45-degree angle from the table.” No mention of how to avoid annoying other patrons in the restaurant.
On a more serious note, there is a concern that foodies on Instagram are encouraging eating disorders and spreading misinformation about food. Time Magazine recently reported that Instagram is the worst social networking app for one’s mental health, stating that “social media posts set unrealistic expectations and create feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.” Heavily edited Instagram posts of food, posted by food “experts,” only add to the problem: “Instagrammers spend time making their food look as fresh, clean and appealing as possible, and editing the photographs so that they no longer reflect reality.”
It’s true that Instagram is addicting; #doitforthelikes is immensely popular, along with hashtags such as #eatclean, #foodporn, and perhaps worst of all, #eatingfortheinsta. While it is validating to receive thousands of “likes” on debatably unique digital content, this trend is unhealthy. Instead of posting photos of chic food items, why not concentrate on depicting real life? Perfectly green avocado toast or a flawlessly symmetrical cheeseburger is not real; it’s time for everyone to publicly admit that life is not always pretty. I would suggest posting a photo of the mess made while devouring that “perfect” cheeseburger, or a picture of the avocado you forgot to slice open on the right day, causing it to contain frustratingly brown innards.
Anthony Bourdain sums it up best: “The last thing you should ever try to do is to make your child a foodie. Nothing could be more annoying or futile.” Bourdain was a foodie before being a foodie was a thing. Let’s leave his job to the experts.