From Yum to Yuck

Illustration by Erik Carter. Photographs by Sung Won Yoon

Excerpt from this article:

Earlier this year, a video called ‘‘Korean Girls Taste American Snacks’’ appeared online. It featured the reactions of young women as they sampled popular American junk food like Pop-Tarts and s’mores-flavored Goldfish crackers. …

But it wasn’t a one-hit wonder, or a fluke — the video is part of a larger trend of culinary voyeurism that involves coaxing unsuspecting volunteers into trying unfamiliar food items and then filming their bewilderment.

…These videos are the descendants of a much older food meme in which toddlers are recorded tasting something intense for the first time — lemons, say — so we can witness their comically grimacing faces. It appears that there’s a universal appeal in watching someone encounter something entirely new and strange, especially if the viewer is already intimately familiar with that experience. Perhaps that’s because this Internet phenomenon works best when it takes our mundane rituals out of their usual context and turns them into an intoxicating spectator sport.

We Don’t Need Another Cronut

Excerpt from this article (it’s a great article overall about trends, virality and tapping into the next great thing, though I’ve added some emphasis to denote the digital/social media aspects):

Seen with the clarity of hindsight, it’s evident that the magic propelling the Cronut wasn’t just that it came after the cupcake, but that it was the cupcake’s perfect opposite, an un-cupcake, an antidote to cupcake fatigue. The name is novel. The backstory is clever. Unlike form-over-function cupcakes — beautiful often at the expense of flavor, more craft project than foodstuff — Cronuts are technique-driven, complex pastries that embody the virtues both of innovation and culinary skill. Unlike cupcakes’ white-noise ubiquity, Cronuts (which Ansel savvily trademarked, only he can make and sell them under that name) are available from few locations and in limited quantities; their scarcity is part of their allure. (And, for that matter, it’s part of the social media frenzy that surrounds them: the hours-long line elevated to lifestyle performance.)

So if you want to figure out what the next Cronut is, the wrong move is to sit down and try to dissect the pastry itself. Instead, deconstruct the precise confluence of moods, interests, motivations, and areas of fatigue that it was born into in 2013, and figure out what the analogs to all those are right now. Trends are driven by broader forces: Kale and quinoa are driven by an obsession with healthfulness and nutritional density, artisanal-everything is a backlash to the sterility of mass production, toast with fancy things on it looks incredibly pretty on Instagram. And not all these forces are consumer-side: The sudden glut of hip chicken sandwich restaurants isn’t the result of some shady collusion of culinary illuminati; rather, it nails the intersection of comfort food, Southern food, and fast-casual’s potential for extraordinary (and extraordinarily scalable) profits.

So, what is the new Cronut? I’ll be shocked if it’s anything close to a mash-up dessert or a dish with a clever portmanteau name. Still, the future is ultimately a product of the past. It stands to reason that we should be able to look around at where we are today, and figure out what’s to come. Here are some predictions for the (short-term) future of food.

Instagram Death Match: Rosé vs. Avocado Toast


A fun post to wrap up the work week and kick off the weekend, excerpt from this article:

Round 1: Seniority & Insta Visibility

…The experts at Yes Way Rosé confirmed that rosé officially became a “thing” on Instagram as early as summer 2014. It caused such a movement that there was a rosé draught in the Hamptons.

Avocado Toast … It’s rumored that Instagram founder Kevin Systrom created the app after visiting Manhattan’s Cafe Gitane (arguably the OG of AT) and saw people photographing their strange yet delicious green-smeared toast.

Round 4: Douchebaggery, Scale of 1 to 10

An [avocado toast] Instagram is only as good as its restaurant tag. In the year 2015, you not only are what you eat, you are where you eat. The exception is a Pinterest-worthy DIY — a humblebrag in its most earnest form. Douchebag level: 7

Rosé-grams, on the other hand, depend less upon brand names (you’ll note that very often it’s just a filled-up glass and no labels) and more upon the locational geotag. Because said tags vary from the humorous (#bathwater) to the obnoxious (#hampton$), rosé’s douchebag level exists on a sliding scale.

Round 6: Seasonal Consideration

Avocado toast is year-round, making it an Instagram staple.

Rosé is the new white jean: more declarative of summer than Memorial Day, if only because it appeases our mindset when the weather is not yet fully ready to cooperate. Likewise, its ephemeral nature makes rosé feel special and encourages joie de vivre for the sake of a time limit.

These Plates Exist Purely So You Can Take the Perfect Instagram


Excerpt from this article:

Low restaurant lighting, basic plating and ineffective Nashville filters ruining your damn life? This social media-savvy restaurant knows your struggle. Israel establishment Carmel Winery have been working tirelessly against low-lit, poorly-composed foodstagrams, teaming up with Tel Aviv restaurant Catit to create special Instagrammable meals on tailor-made crockery.

Available only on certain nights, the art project/gastronomy experience/publicity stunt is called ‘Foodography‘ and is probably the most serious control we’ve ever seen a restaurant take over their social media presence. Created by ceramic design artist Adi Nissani, the Foodography dishes have been crafted to make your food look as good as it possibly could on Instagram.

The Koreans who televise themselves eating dinner

Lee Chang-hyun

Excerpt from this article:

How do you fancy eating your dinner at home in front of a webcam and letting thousands of people watch? If they like the way you eat, they will pay you money – maybe a few hundred dollars a night… a good salary for doing what you would do anyway. This is happening now in South Korea.

It’s often said that if you want to see the future look at how technology is emerging in perhaps the most connected country on the planet. The food phenomenon is called mukbang – a combination of the Korean word for eating (muk-ja) and broadcasting (bang-song).

…Some 10,000 people watch him eating per day, he says. They send a constant stream of messages to his computer and he responds verbally (by talking) and orally (by eating, very visibly and noisily).

If the audience like the performance, they allocate him what are called “star balloons” and each of these means a payment to him and to the internet television channel on which he performs.

An Open Letter to People Who Take Pictures of Food With Instagram


Excerpt from this satirical letter on McSweeney’s:

Dear People Who Take Pictures of Food With Instagram,

Just because the picture looks artsy doesn’t mean you are. I get it. We all went through our creative, experimental stages. There is a period in all of our lives where we think we can probably make money off our pseudo-artistic talent of choice. And now, you think you are a photographer because Instagram does the work for you. Do you have to focus anything? Do you have to worry about lighting? Do you have to think at all? Not really. You are part of a fast growing legion of people that have been duped into believing they are visionaries, auteurs, even.

…You proceed to take various angled shots of the avocado being sliced, the blueberries getting washed, and your bearded boyfriend plucking feathers from the partridges because the Farmer’s Market only sold them with feathers, because plucking out the feathers themselves would be too mean and they’re the nice kind of farmers who kill with love. And now that your meal looks professional and Alexandra Gaurnaschelli would approve of it (but Scott Conant would totally get the one piece of undercooked bird) there is a great final product shot taken, complete with two Coronas because you were feeling summery. “Ah, the good life,” you caption, wanting me to be simultaneously awed and intimidated by your domesticity. “This looks awesome! Wow!! You two are so cute!!!” writes jealous girl between drafts of her latest Game of Thrones fan fiction. That’s when you know you’ve done it: you are officially the greatest woman on the entire planet.

…I think it’s best, especially in the interest of honesty and my mounting rage, to tell you that no, no, I really, truly, absolutely, do not care about you or your food. I don’t. Sorry.

The Public Humiliation Diet: A How-To

The Public Humiliation Diet: A How-To

Excerpt from this article:

I’ve struggled with my weight for my entire life… So I needed to set some ground rules for myself to lose weight, ground rules that I felt were reasonable to follow for the rest of my adult life. Here’s what I did:

3. I posted that weight daily on Twitter. But it doesn’t matter where. It can be on Facebook or your blog or whatever. Shit, you can print it out and stick it on your office cube every day. What I found doing this is that it 1) gave me a public incentive to stick to a goal; 2) garnered support from people. Most Americans struggle with their weight, and most of them sympathize with someone else trying to get healthier. Support helps. Maybe some people will tease you, but that’s its own incentive anyway. Part of losing weight is acknowledging the fact that you have issues with food. And holy shit, do I have issues with food.