Seductive Food vs Food Porn: Do We Need Both?

Topics: Celebrity, Obesity and Weight Loss, Recipes, Wellness and Health
papaya sorbet and pumpkin "pudding" with tropical mamey, crunchy amaranth alegrías, and warm honey.

Everything about food, to someone who loves art, music, nature or sculpture, can be sensual. Food is truly seductive in its textures, colors, aromas, sounds and of course flavors.  And there is a whole section of food photography called food pornog*raphy, which (almost needless to say) features intimate closeups of mozzarella ooze, or a glistening morsel of uni or the added-refined-sugar-free papaya sorbet and pumpkin “pudding” with tropical mamey, crunchy amaranth alegrías, and warm honey from Chicago pastry chef.

See how seductive?

Eating with your eyes and ears is not overrated: we eat what we see, and what is put in front of us (too often), and what excites us visually and aurally.  The cascade of hormones involved in this seduction is as long as some textbooks in endocrinology, and for my patients, often plays a critical role in the pleasure they take in food.  

That pleasure, by the way, is encouraged…especially as they learn both better quality foods instead of simply more food, and re-discovering savoring that food. Their meals are all the more delicious because they are eating from smaller plates.

If we want to sell more food that people want to eat, it’s got to look good, taste good, and even sound good— and by sound I mean roll-off-the-tongue-in-a-way-that-makes-you-drool.

I first learned about the power of naming recipes so you want to eat and explore them from Rick Bayless at Topolobampo in the middle 1990s: at the time, we were beginning to source local tomatoes, onions, chilies, fresh cheese and other ingredients from local farmers: some of whom were in the Cabrini Green projects a few blocks from the restaurant. Rick is still innovating, as you’ll see from the menu below.

Here is a 2014 menu from Topolo, which focuses on authentic Mexican cuisine from 1491, without using modern refinements like milled wheat and refined cane sugar

What if good-for-you food was this enticing, and you didn’t need to visit a great one=star Michelin restaurant to find it?

What if we named each of our good-for-you dishes with sensuality in mind, instead of pure function: e.g., Anti-Inflammatory Avocado Hummus, or Luscious and Rich Avocado Hummus?

And what if we integrated food porn photography with seductive good-for-you food, on hospital menus, and in taco trucks?

We have to start challenging ourselves to think creatively about how to move America from fast food that’s killing and lying to men, women and children to food they can savor, love and share as we get stronger and healthier as a people.

IMO, it’s not too late: we need to start now.