How many of us have never heard of “food porn” or even bump into the hashtag foodporn? Where does this term come from?
The first documented use of the term “food porn” comes from the feminist writer Rosalind Cowards’s 1984 book Female Desire. Women’s Sexuality Today. The writer started with the fact that cooking and preparing food in the most beautiful way could be an act of submission, and in generally all that perfect images had nothing to do with preparation, with what had been before coming to that result. What was observed was that the photos were even retouched to make them more “appetizing”.
Only the aesthetics of the dish counts, who cooked it and how it is cooked are marginal factors, it is important the desire that aesthetic can arouse, a desire comparable to the sexual one.
It is obvious that this meaning is still valid for all the images that circulate without rest on the current social media.
The photo-sharing website Flickr launched a “Food Porn” category in September 2004, which today counts hundreds of thousands of photos and a few months later, in April 2005, it entered the Urban Dictionary lexicon with the definition: “Close-up images of juicy, delicious food in advertisements”.
So, for the Urban Dictionary, seemingly minute details about a dish’s appearance, like shape, can alter diners’ perception of its taste. According to some studies, however, what’s still murky is whether the perception of a plate that may seem to be better then it necessarily translates into hunger and therefore desire for that dish.
The chef’s maxim that people “first eat with their eyes” is backed both by common sense and by science. Food stylists exist for a reason, and a glistening grill-marked burger that oozes cheese is an easier sell than a limp, gray one.
A 2012 study published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, for example, found that seemingly minute details about a dish’s appearance, like “gloss, evenness, and shape,” can alter how diners perceive its taste and smell.
But what happens when eating with the eyes is the only step, rather than just the first—when the image isn’t a bridge to smelling and tasting a dish, but the entire experience? Let’s know more.