Friday, July 21, 2006

The Mystery of Pretty Food

The boy calls it “your porn” (as opposed to his porn, go on click it, we are totally PG-13 here). He is referring to the modern COOK BOOK. Unlike your grand mom’s much thumbed, oil splattered collection of recipes; the modern COOK BOOK matches the pastel décor of your kitchen and perfectly complements your dinner set, it panders to the yuppie inside you and most importantly (like all good things in life) it comes with a price tag. It also makes mega bucks for the publishers, who rather smugly call us a “cookbook-crazy culture”. Now that's a first for me. I have heard us being called all kinds of names by folks who can, but a cookbook-crazy culture...Nah!

For starters, most people cannot tell a tomato from a potato, will probably crumble to pieces when confronted with a whole head of garlic and probably drop dead on being told “imitation crab meat” has no crab in it. Come lunch time most folks troop out to the nearest McDonald’s to get their daily burger fix and we were just told dinner is back [hat tip: KFC , phew! what a relief]. Simply put more than half the population is incapable of fixing anything more complicated than a sandwich (mayo slathered bread with processed animal tissue in between) themselves, let alone cook a full sit down dinner for four. Then there is our social obssesion with dieting and body fat which ensures people fall over each other to grab the latest copy of whatever Atkins and his kin come out with. By the way diet hell aisle usually precedes the cookbook aisle in most book stores in case you haven't noticed.

So if the ones with body image issues buy diet fad books, the ones who cannot cook eat fast food, get fat and then head to the diet aisle....who is buying these cook books? Simply discounting the small number of people who can cook and are wealthy enough to buy these books leaves me and I am certainly not contributing to the growth of wealth in this sector. I use the Internet to do my research and graze through the cook books in various book stores to absorb ideas, just like the other cooking enthusiasts I know. I might even get one from the local library if I am interested. Then why are these coffee table style, lifestyle glossies written by some photogenic food personality flying off the shelves like hot cakes. Here's what I think is happening, explained with the help of an example:

A is an average person on the North American continent. Like most other fellow inhabitants of the continent, A eats out every day because A cannot cook. Sometimes in a hurry A even eats fast food and pretty soon A is growing obese at an alarming rate. Haunted by social taunts and the visible lack of that thing referred to politely as "love life", A visits the dieting aisle of the neighborhood book store. A likes good food (remember the restaurant visits) and Rachel Ray promises quick meals, so A picks up the display copy some silly clerk had left near the diet aisle, on the way out. The hunger pangs from dieting set in and A figures out a perfect way to satisfy the cravings – the untouched Rachel Ray (A still does not know a pot from a pan) book with pretty pictures. No, gentlemen, A does not eat it. A proceeds to drool all over the pictures and feel satiated without inhaling even a single calorie. Infact next week A goes back, heads straight to the back wall where the food porn is tastefully arranged (for the discerning buyer who can cook) and buys two more books. A gets a Moroccan themed one and one with lots of pasta pictures and fantasizes about the guilty pleasures in store on the way home. Next A tells some friends "The Great Dieting Story" and pretty soon folks are lapping buy cook books and diet books at the same time. They have even started giving buy-one-get-one-free offers on particular combos.

Tra-la-la, the mystery of Photogenic Food for the Not So Photogenic Folks successfully solved. There might be a more rational, statistically correct explanation but I love my story and am sticking to it. And this article is solely responsible for bringing forth all the mental bile that I had painstakingly sequestered away till now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ha Ha,
A does what I do (although he does it for his obesity and me to live upto a grad student life) . Browse over 'the Great Indian Curry Book' while gulping alu seddo and bhat.
K