First World Problems: Complaints About Food & the Internet

As I get older, I’m increasingly afraid that I’m going to turn into a colossal crank. It’s fine to dislike things, but being a crank is more than having a pronounced set of dislikes. To be a crank is to be reflexively dismissive and pissy about anything one does not immediately understand, and the more that impulse is indulged, the worse it gets. What starts out as a simple distaste for something new and different (the music of Drake, for example – Drake isn’t new, but he does kind of suck) can, if left unchecked, start one on the road to irreversible psychological decline. Some bewilderment at new shit is perhaps inevitable, but there’s no need to be an asshole about it.

So it is with a heavy heart that I make the following request – Chill out with taking pictures of food and posting them on the internet! It depresses me to be making this request. People taking pictures of food for the internet is not a new thing, and for most of the time it has been a common practice, it didn’t bother me. While I was unlikely to whip my phone out at a restaurant and snap a pic for my (non-existent) Instagram, those who did so weren’t hurting me any.

And yet! While this was going on, I also noticed a sharp uptick in the amount of times I would go to a restaurant, order the steak, and then receive steak that was perfectly tasty, but also pre-sliced for no immediately discernible reason. Why slice up the steak in advance, I would wonder to myself as I sliced the steak up further, since it was inevitably sliced into slightly larger than bite-sized pieces. (Important note here: some cuts of steak, such as flank steak and skirt steak, are meant to be shared, and this cases, slicing before plating is an obvious call.)

I long assumed that some sort of bizarre steak hacking was being implemented. Proper steak cooking has long been the focus of innumerable culinary dick-measuring contests. People engage reverse searing and buy stupid expensive sous vide machines and sometimes just flip their steaks entirely too goddamn much – I once met a guy who “bragged” about how he flipped his steaks once every 15 seconds in order to minimize loss of steak juice, which, uh…sure buddy – all in a mad alchemist’s quest to cook the one and only perfect steak. It’s the most psychotically competitive field of home cooking, incalculably worse in this regard than both chili and scrambled eggs.

So I figured the steak slicing thing was part of the steak-cooking arms race. Nope! It’s strictly for presentation, a way to show off how perfectly cooked and rested the steak was prior to serving. Who gives a fuck? You know what’s gonna best demonstrate the level of steak-cooking proficiency? Eating the fucking steak! There’s no sensation quite like slicing into a big hunk of deliciously seared steak, observing the level of redness, tightening up slightly when you realize that you’re not sure you actually know the difference between rare and medium rare, then biting into the steak and discovering whatever temperature it technically is, it’s fucking delicious, because steak is delicious and meant to be eaten, not photographed for immediate funneling into the social media aspirational vortex of sadness.

Similarly, stop making cakes so fucking big! Look at this shit! When did we decide, as a people, that cakes needed to be taller than they are wide? In seeing cakes here with four layers and five layers and sometimes seven fucking layers! Who out there ate a slice of three-layer cake and said to themselves after, “Gee whiz, that cake was really good and all, but it wasn’t quite enough enough sugar and fat for me”? As with steak, there appears to be some sort of cake-based arms race, and it confuses and frightens me!

And in this fear lies the essence of crankiness. None of this shit I’m describing hurts me. Steak that’s been sliced before serving is still pretty damn tasty. I don’t regularly interact with cakes that are taller than my feeble mind can comprehend. And even if my dislike of these things were more pointed, I could still make all the steak and cake for myself that I wanted, according to my own fussy specifications. But in my mind, food is intended solely to be eaten, and while I can understand and respect that other people might have a different relationship to food than my own, I still get a jolt of fear and alienation from these things.

I don’t do artifice very well. It’s not in my nature, and I constantly worry about the extent to which society prioritizes appearance above reality. It seems unhealthy, a reflection of how much time we spend pitching ourselves and our talents and our bodies and our minds to the coked-out venture capitalists who have spent the last half-century (and more) pillaging society solely for their own gain. Any emphasis on appearance and presentation reminds me of these things, and of those aspects of modern life that exist outside of my control. Even if we grant that taking pictures of food and posting them on the internet reflects those values (at least partially), being pissed and annoyed about it will not win, or even appreciably swing, the outcome of the current class war.

Don’t be a crank. Engage with society and its actual problems. That is all.

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