What is Food Porn?

It’s a term that is sometimes looked down upon. It reminds us that food can bring about some of our more base instincts. Some of us may be embarrassed by this, others indulge in it. The term is, of course, “Food Porn”.

I use the term a fair bit on this site, often with a photograph of a food that looks particularly appealing to myself. Television and magazines (both, not coincidentally, visual mediums) revel in it, and many of them owe their success to it. One need not look further than the recent cover of Gourmet or watch the latest commercial for McDonald’s.

The use of “food porn” as a term is really a shorthand term for a form of fetishizing that in which we take pleasure. What makes it unique is the fact that it’s a process that crosses the lascivious with the intellectual.

Yes, I said intellectual. Because we don’t all like the same foods, what is one’s persons porn is another person’s poison. So while there are some sorts of emotional and physical responses going on, personal taste does enter into the equation. When someone who doesn’t like McDonald’s sees a dressed up picture of a Big Mac, they don’t think “Food Porn”. Instead, they’re likely to see the man behind the curtain, and realize that the picture is designed to illicit a response.

My own response to these kind of pictures has changed over the past few years. Where ten years or so ago, I would have dismissed “food porn” out of hand, more recently I’ve been willing to let “porn be porn” for lack of a better phrase.

I suspect most food bloggers do this, even if only an instinctual basis. Some of the folks out there are better at it than others, and I wish I had more of an eye and ear for it. I can intellectually remove myself from it and examine it, but it’s still difficult for me to explain what it is. Like sexual porn, I know it when I see it, but I can’t put a clear definition to it.

So what’s food porn to you? Do you like it or dismiss it? Do you think it’s an important part of the food world, or is it an easy, if not hackneyed way to get a response?