About six years ago, I invited a few BCU students to our home and I made a number of mouth-watering dishes, as usual with a strong Sichuan flavour, hot and spicy. I remember a Malaysian Chinese student Susana who took pictures of each dish and then posted them on her Facebook.
They looked absolutely fabulous, I had to say. I was proud that my home cooking was rated so highly that they were put on-line for the whole world to see. That was a time when my own photographing was still mostly on shooting Greek or Spanish beaches, churches or temples, landmarks of tourist attractions and group pictures of friends and family before or after their dining. Holiday snaps used to be developed and stored in albums – that time is gone.
Then I had my first smart phone with an inbuilt camera that changed everything. No more messing about with taking out this and upload that, and a few straight forward clicks away your photos can be everywhere, Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest, Instagram, you name it – who knows what else in being created by nerds all over the globe?! How easy it has become to shoot everything our eyes reach and our heart desires!
Back in 2011 I went on a research trip to Fujian, where some of my main characters in Land of Hope came from. My generous hosts took me to a number of fab restaurants treating me with delicious local delights. I remember taking photos as the dishes were spread in front of me, like the one below. One of my hosts exclaimed: “I’ve never seen anyone photographing the food they eat before!”
His comments embarrassed me so I stopped what I was doing and concentrated on enjoying the food instead. I bet as I write this, he is probably taking photos of his food with his iPhone6 somewhere in China, and nobody would bat an eyelid.
In fact every time I go out, especially in China, I see many people doing the same, snapping away as the food arrives on the table. Before they are consumed, they have to be recorded, on camera, and instantly shared on one of the many social media platforms!
Last weekend, I was invited by two of BCU’s visiting academics to their apartment near the Edgbaston Reservoir. It was kind of goodbye before they return to China. Look, everyone’s phone was aimed at the dishes before they were consumed!
On Wednesday evening, I was invited to dine with our BCUIC colleagues and a group of Chinese university teachers and agents. What do you see from the picture below? I hasten to add that the food was sublime – does it taste better by sharing with our loved ones afar?
Is this another reflection of Chinese people’s obsession with food? Not only do we spend a lot of time preparing food, talking about it, dreaming about it, sharing it with friends and family, but also we obsessively photograph it and post it before we are allowed to touch it with our chopsticks, or fork and knife. One day, will our friends on the other side of the world smell and taste the food just as we do here?
Interesting thought, don’t you think? Perhaps computer geniuses are already making headway towards that direction now. Who knows what the future will bring? After all, food not only gives satisfaction to our very basic needs of survival but also leads to enjoyment of finer things in life! It’s an art form and my fellow countrymen and women definitely make it so.
My husband is not too thrilled whenever I stop him from his instant gratification of the food he has ordered. Neither is he when I stop outside many neighbours’ front gardens to take pictures of their flowers every time we are out walking. Should I blame this OCD behaviour on the the invention of iPhones?
Are you someone who would eat whatever is in front of you without spending too much time on its presentation and contents, or are you a foodie plus simultaneous photographer who prolongs the meal time without a care in the world?
Whatever you are, here is some food for thought. Whether you like food porn or not, enjoy every moment!