Why Instagramming your Food might just save Civilization

This New York Times article (which we are, inevitably, reading on our phones) is yet another call to put down our phones and EXPERIENCE LIFE!! As is the video that provoked it:

I get it: I’m that person at the restaurant watching my friends watching their phones, simultaneously annoyed and self-pitying. Both for being ignored by them when they ostensibly wanted to have lunch with me, and also because for many years I did not have a smartphone of my own.

But what is interesting to me is that the article brings the conversation back to, of all things, food. Now I would call this inevitable, but I’m a little biased towards the viewpoint that food is the genesis of all things human (I’m not alone: Richard Wrangham, a Harvard anthropologist, has linked the creation of culture to cooking).

Family around TVThe author, Nick Bilton, compares our current phone-obsession to the early days of television, when families rolled the box up to the table and enjoyed the novelty during dinner. Nowadays, we do everything from Instagram our courses to Yelp our opinion of the meal.

Eating around the TV became gauche, and I think many wish the same would become true of phones at restaurants (or concerts or playgrounds or what have you). One LA restaurant has even experimented with giving a discount for those willing to ignore the screen for the duration of their dining.

But here is one interesting idea to consider: while television made food worse, I would argue that phones just might be making it better.

TV is a passive medium and demands attention. When it entered our homes, it required us to stop life and watch. It ledTvdinner to the invention of a whole new food category – the TV dinner – that relied upon quick, easy warming (not cooking) and effortless eating (stab, bring fork to mouth, repeat), all intentionally designed to maximize tube time.

Now we all know what crap is in TV dinners – they are pretty much the foodie equivalent of heresy. And they taste bad. And they look worse. Thank you, television.

So how are phones different? You still stop your life to pay attention to them. True. But they are interactive in a way TV can’t be; they are social in a more real, immediate way than watercooler talk about what was on last night.

Let’s consider what is trendy when it comes to phones and food:

It is showing off photos of what we are eating and what we’ve cooked. I have one Facebook friend who changes her cover photo nearly daily to share whatever incredibly delicious creation she has produced that day (including, of course, a title in a cute font and an old timey wash on the pic).

It is faithfully reviewing restaurants and religiously checking reviews before setting foot in a new one.

It is sharing and evaluating recipes, making cooking essentially a social experience, the modern equivalent of the village firepit where our ancestors swapped ideas and tested what was good – and safe – to consume.

No longer are cooks confined alone to the stuffy kitchen all day – they need only wander over to Chowhound or Epicurious to find like-minded individuals with whom to share tips, substitutions, or hard-won advice. Cooking is once again a communal experience, thanks to our constant access to social media via the handy little devices that are smaller than a cookbook.

Another boon specifically from our phones (with, yes, a good dose of TV’s help via Food Network and Top Chef) is that beautiful food is desirable again. If it isn’t worth Instagramming, it shouldn’t be on the plate. Presentation has always been important to cooks, but now it is reaching into all levels of society, all types of dining experiences. The TV dinner made food into mindless fuel to be consumed with no care for appearances (honestly, it was better if you didn’t look); Instagram has relaunched the aesthetic value of what we eat, and, in turn, woken up a new generation to the visual pleasure of eating. The first taste is always with the eyes.

Steak au Poivre with duck fat fries

Steak au Poivre with duck fat fries

But the next taste (and thereafter) is of course the most important factor. And this is where all those reviewing apps come in handy. We can immediately tweet the location of a fantastic food truck, or post a status to warn friends off a hot new place that’s only about the scene, not the food. BrunchWe can find out about holes-in-the-wall we might never have heard of and the best dish to order there. Together we push up the ratings of the best food, thereby raising the game for all restaurants. We have begun to demand better tasting food, and that is a trend I am solidly behind.

And then the trend comes home – that Facebook friend with all the beautiful food photos? People clamor for her recipes, so they can recreate the magic. Suddenly we want to cook again, and share this food with our families and friends, and we reach for stronger skills and harder recipes and actually practice to become better cooks, as if we were going to be reviewed ourselves. Not because we are putting on pressure, but because we are rediscovering the Joy of Cooking – and eating!

The elevation of lunch at home

The elevation of lunch at home

All of this together – the sharing, the reviewing, the celebration of visual appeal and chefs who please the palate, the home cook elevating her weeknight meal – has reasserted for us the importance of eating well. And if cooking is what makes us human, then anything that promotes a higher level of this art will only make us better as a species.

So post on!

 

All Instagram photos are my own – the pics and the meals!

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Yoplait’s New Ad Campaign

Yoplait’s New Ad Campaign

It’s cute and they’re definitely quite proud of themselves, but is Yoplait really any better for you without HFCS in it? Check out this article from the “Food Inc” blog to learn more…

I like the suggestion at the end – take plain yogurt, add honey (locally grown for allergy control!), and a little fresh fruit. Voila! WAY healthier, cheaper, and more delicious!

(though personally I’ve gotten over eating insect shells…I mean, extra protein, right?)

Oh, and since I’ve picked up a few more followers lately, let me remind you to “like” FoodiEvangelist on Facebook, where I usually post little links like this. Becoming my fan there will ensure many more regular updates from the world of food & faith!

Tricky Joe’s?

The Food Babe has attacked us where it hurts: right in our favorite “unique grocery store.”

There are a lot of issues in her inflammatory article blasting Trader Joe’s, but it does upset me quite a bit that TJ’s won’t respond to her requests to verify its claims to be entirely non-GMO. Whole Foods was third-party verified. Why not Trader Joe’s??

I’m taking back the soy sauce I thought I bought safely last week. Grrrr.

TraderJoesProductsGMOs

Of course, anybody who blindly shops at Trader Joe’s assuming everything is “healthy” is not paying attention. Sadly, we can never stop reading labels, people. Trader Joe’s has plenty of junk food on the shelves; plenty of HFCS, and artificial flavors and colors, and chemicals and additives and generally the kind of thing you’d want to avoid.licorice2

Trader Joe’s deal is that they’re inexpensive for “gourmet” or exotic products. That’s it.

They’re not necessarily healthy, they’re not necessarily organic, and they’re not free-pass shopping.

Sorry.

While you read the article, here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • Her photo shows Joe’s O’s next to Cheerio’s. Even my toddlers knew this wasn’t true. Cheerio’s are more dense and less salty than Joe’s O’s. They don’t look or taste the same. No way that’s the same cereal. So that’s just a mistake right there. Makes you wonder – is there other speculation in the article? Is she just flat out guessing?
  • She lists Barbara’s Bakery as “likely” to contain GMOs. I recently contacted Barbara’s because we buy so many of their cereals, and received written confirmation that they’ve been working imagestowards third party verification of non-GMO status (from the Non GMO Project). Their Shredded Oats are already verified (along with 16 other products – I’ve seen the Non GMO Project seal on several lately), and they hope to have all cereals verified before the end of the year. So she’s vilifies them without bothering to check her facts…wonder how many others in her “bad” list were actually checked out?
  • The whole article is basically a “he said, she said” between Trader Joe and the Food Babe. TJ’s website has a statement about their company policy to be GMO free in TJ label products. Food Babe asked for further verification; TJ’s refuses to pay for third parties to do so. I wish they would, but if you want to just believe Trader Joe’s isn’t hiding anything, you can. She hasn’t proved that they’re hiding anything, she’s assuming they are.

Anyway, check out the article and leave me (or Food Babe) a comment to let me know what you think. Are you a devoted TJ’s shopper? Or are you suspicious?

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Nutrition Mistakes!

Hello! Wow, I’ve been gone so long – it’s been a busy summer over here. I found a great slideshow today that I just had to share with you. It’s chock full of advice in easily digested bits (sorry) – AND there was even stuff I didn’t know!

So check it out: The Most Common Nutrition Mistakes

Are you guilty of any of them? Leave a comment!