Recently, I synched my Apple TV with my Flickr account so that when the screensaver comes on, all of my pictures on there–over 28,000–dance across the screen. And, wouldn’t you know it, most of those pictures are pictures of food. In fact, when I open my iPhoto and try to find pictures of me and Craig or me and my family, I have to fight my way through a tangled web of food imagery; portraits of dinners and lunches and breakfasts past. Recently, though, as I watched these images scan past on the TV in my living room, I began to have a thought: these pictures of the food that I make actually reveal something about me. But what, exactly?
Well, for starters, I think these pictures show that I’m not fussy. This salad, for example, isn’t molded or mounded or presented in a martini glass. It’s not overly worked; it’s just a jumble of good ingredients that I thought would taste good together. Still, there’s thought that went into it, a certain amount of editing: fennel and apples pair nicely, arugula and Parmesan help things along. But the radishes I got in my CSA wouldn’t really fit in here, would they, so I left them out. I guess that’s not apparent in the picture, but it’s something that helps explain what you’re seeing. Toasted walnuts make sense here, peanuts probably not. So add “thoughtfulness” to “not fussy” and you get two character traits that you can learn about me from this salad picture.
I can see how this exercise might teeter over into the absurd: Oh mussels and clams? That must mean I love the sea, that I’ve disavowed my Jewish heritage (shellfish! not Kosher), that I’m experimenting with bisexuality because of the vaginal implications. Ahem. Yeah, I see how that’s taking things too far. And yet I can’t help but think that this big pot of mollusks you see in the picture above does reveal something about me and my style of cooking; it’s loose, it’s exciting (note the red chile), it’s comforting, it’s slightly exotic (hey, those are cockles). It’s a cool moment when your food begins to reflect who you are.
Which raises the question: can you change who you are by changing how you cook? I certainly think so. For example, are you a penny pincher? Is it hard to justify buying the farmer’s market heirloom tomatoes when the supermarket tomatoes are half the price? Well, buy the heirloom tomatoes anyway and see if that loosens you up a bit. Or, conversely, if you’re a spendthrift, buying way more than you need for every meal, try cooking out of your refrigerator or pantry one night and see what you come up with. Being resourceful in the kitchen may spill over into other areas of your life. Same goes for how you handle fat and salt: if you’ve been stingy with it in the past, for fear of gaining weight, be more generous next time around to see how it improves your cooking (and your spirit and the spirit of everyone eating your food); if, on the other hand, you’re a little heavy handed with the butter, pull back to see if you can get away with less to achieve the same result. Maybe that discipline will lead you to the gym and you’ll have six pack abs and a record deal before you know it.
Character is revealed through action (I learned that in drama school) and cooking is nothing if not a series of physical actions shaped by character. Paula Deen and Anthony Bourdain both know how to whip cream by hand, but how they go about it will be totally different because of who they are as people; and I think the resulting whipped cream will taste and maybe even look different because of it. So remember, as you cook, this isn’t something to take lightly; every dish that you make is an edible self-portrait. How do you want to be remembered when people look back on the meals you’ve made over the course of your lifetime. As a bowl of Lucky Charms floating in expired milk? Or something a little grander, a little more ambitious, something a little more you.
10 thoughts on “What Your Food Says About You”
Great post! I agree and I think I am going to be little more adventurous.
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Love this post, and I agree that our food says a lot about ourselves.
So what WOULD Paula Dean’s whipped cream taste like?
First of all, I would like to say you are my favorite food writer! This is a brilliant post. Secondly, I have the same problem you have – photos of family and friends get lost in a sea of food. Lastly, I love your assertion that you can change yourself by changing the way you cook. I’ve always thought of you as a perfect-roast-chicken-no-nonsense guy.
This post makes me think about my own cooking. Food blogging has made me become much more adventurous in the kitchen, in terms of experimenting with flavors and food. Getting out of my comfort zone is fun, yet stressful at times, but ultimately I know it will make me a better cook. That’s how you grow and that’s how you learn the best.
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whowww. I have just started blogging about food at PumlasFood. An Actress by Qualification. Food has always been part of my life. Finally, I have decided to really take my cooking carieer to the next level. in 2 months time I will be giving my first Cooking Demo to a live audience at home. I’ve food hosted 2 years ago on Tv. now this is how I stumbled on your blog. I was looking for tips on how to’s od Cooking Demos. Then came across this article about what our food says about us. This article left me jaw dropped. Brilliantly written! Wicked sence of humour! and yet true in every sense of the word. Thanks so much for such a brilliant artcle. It made me look at my cooking as a ”Story” of its own. Each dish and what went into making it a story on its own. Presentation as well, I will never look at my dishes the same way ever again. I defintely be following this blog from now on. p.s. I must admit the article stroke a cord and always made me shy away a little. when u mention that youre not fussy as im one of those cooks that like things to look pretty. I guess I am a self confessed Fuss Freak!!!