As the saying goes, a picture’s worth a thousand words.
However, no matter how artfully taken, pictures cannot capture the taste or the aroma of a dish. It can tantalizingly hint at deliciousness with wisps of rising steam, a smattering of fresh green herbs, and the glistening of rich sauces, but it is our imagination that fills in the rest.
Recently, Buzzfeed ran an article by Rachel Monroe, “Why Your Dinner Doesn’t Taste As Good As It Looked Online.” It’s actually thought-provoking and well-written, unlike all those lists with which Buzzfeed draws the majority of its readership. As I read it, I realized, so much of what makes a food blog great is not, in fact, the food. Many of my favorite blogs are my favorites because of the voice of the author, witty, with light and heartwarming anecdotes. But recently, many food blogs have started to sound the same.
Food photography has followed this trend towards indistinguishability. Everyone is striving to appear on Foodgawker (rejected every time, I’m not bitter) and Tastespotter and all those other aggregator sites, but in many cases, the quest for increased traffic has led to a sameness as photos converge to meet a certain standard. Monroe also points out that these aggregator websites also (hopefully subconsciously) favor Western cuisine, thus more soft-lit cupcakes and pastas are apt to appear, and get more favorites, than, say, aloo paneer kofta or Chinese tea eggs.
At the same time, I fervently wish I took better pictures. I love scrolling through pages and pages on Foodgawker and use it to find almost all the recipes that appear on this blog. I totally judge food by how pretty it looks in the picture.
Then I remember that the best (literally the best) chocolate cake I ever had was in a homey Israeli restaurant. The grandmother of the owner had been making it since her youth, and our waiter swore it was the best cake he’d ever eaten. However, the slice placed before us looked like another sad example of quantity over quality. The top was unevenly domed and there were no fancy garnishes. However, my sister and I gamely took a bite…and quickly finished the rest of the slice. The cake was moist, lightly spiced, and yet comfortable, like sleeping in your bed after a long semester away at college. The icing was not polished, smooth ganache or perfectly whipped buttercream. It was gritty and rich and the perfect balance to the soft, dense crumb of the cake. My sister and I reference that cake all the time. No chocolate cake since has even come close to being worthy of comparison.
I started this food blog because I wanted my friends to know that cooking in college can be delicious without being difficult. My photos are, in some cases, pretty terrible. I shoot everything on my iPhone with very little ornamentation, and I shoot my dishes right before I’m about to eat them. Maybe one day I’ll appear on Foodgawker, but I want to do so without having to change my voice so that I sound “smarter” and more relatable, without buying fancy lighting equipment and cooking dinner in the morning just for a good shot in the morning light. That’s not what I’m about.
They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. Well, so is the is the aroma of a freshly baked batch of muffins, and so is the first bite of a succulent pork tenderloin. Our five senses all capture something unique, and yet sometimes we rely so much on sight we forget about the others.
That being said, please excuse the heinous picture of these chicken wings. My family was all ravenous and I barely was able to snap this picture before everyone dug in. But I can vouch for these wings – they’re crispy, saucy, sweet, and spicy with just a kick of sour lime, and they’re easy to make. Also, they have Sriracha in them. And everyone (everyone) loves Sriracha.
My picture may not be worth any words of mention, but these wings really do deserve every single word of praise. Enjoy!