Sunday, August 23, 2020

Instagram-ish Food

I would like to acknowledge the arrival of a new trend: Instagram-ish Food*. Having metastasized from the Internet, it's spreading like kudzu in what used to be known as the "real world", becoming the basis of how the food industry conceives, prepares and markets. And I'm against it.

Instagram-ish Food has a shiny veneer of slickness and symmetry that doesn't "look good", in terms of conveying any prospect of deliciousness, but has a "good look", which is a whole other thing.

And this "look" is only about the veneer of the veneer. There's rarely any subtlety or personality on display (both of which, non-coincidentally, are nearly extinct, per the links). How could there be, when the entire frame (both literal and metaphoric) is a meager 640x640 pixels?

Instagram-ish Food has a simple basis: flaunting unrepentant cliché. It's about pursuing the most camera-ready ur-form of some familiar or stylishly contrived item. Not a deeper pineapple upside-down cake or a more interesting or yummy one, but a pineapple upside-down cake projecting smug composure in stamp-size, streamlined to be flattered by filters and over-saturation. And then, of course, you up-charge the bejesus out of it.

Instagram-ish Food is also characterized by what it's not. It's often captioned but never described. Wanting to know what's in it would be gauche and passé. It is what it looks like! Why would a thing specifically configured as a sparkly image require more than a mumbled few words of description? When Brâncuși sculpted "The Kiss", it didn't come with an index card explaining what a kiss is, identifying the two subjects, and explaining the context. It is, you philistine, an objet d'art that speaks for itself.

Now, sure, Brâncuși's work is far more than a trifling objet d'art. It's a bona fide art object, with feeling and depth and subtext, while Instagram-ish Food embraces its triviality without higher aspirations. The latter is what it is: delightful knickknacks for display and consumption. No one places decorative ornaments on one's mantle to provoke deep thoughts or provocative conversation, even if they're very expensive. Exorbitant trifles are the perennial decadent indulgence of an aristocracy.

That's what Instagram-ish Food is: aristocratically decadent trifles. Nothing to discuss, or to, like, "rate" in terms of, like "quality", grandpa!

The problem is that this is becoming what food is, at least the "innovative" end of the business, for people who "care about food" and are willing to up-pay for "better". I'm using archaic words, because they're all I've got. But there's nothing more than a vacant 640x640 pixel caricature of innovation, caring, and quality. Most of this stuff isn't even trying to be any of those things.

Really, it's 1963 again. It's like the 90s never happened.

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