Culinary Pornography

Ah yes, Pornography.

But if you’re expecting luscious photos of pretty food, well that last was century.

Today it’s all about Big, Loud, Ugly and Fake.

Culinary Pornography really got going around the middle of the 1950’s, as several phenomena conspired to form the food world we now live in.

  • Television—c. 1950
  • Mass Food Marketing
  • Playboy Magazine—1953
  • TV Dinner—1954
  • Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring—1962
  • Julia Child’s French Chef—1962
  • McDonald’s (franchises)—1955
  • Additives and preservatives

If the connections seem tenuous, try to envision our world without any of these, and you’ll see that each represents an essential facet of the Food World juggernaut.

The TV Dinner, which you could eat as you watched ads for…the TV Dinner which you could eat…. For the first time since Humans discovered fire, families did not look at each other as they ate.

Like Chauncey Gardener, they liked to watch.

By the mid seventies, these had all become fixed in our culture and had started to form strange, incestuous bonds. America discovered that it loved television, Julia Child discovered that she loved McDonald’s, and in a parallel universe a mass of people, guided by the light of the now dead Rachel Carson, among others, had found that they didn’t like any of it.

But Culinary Pornography is with us today as strong as ever. We’ve become a nation of Chauncey Gardeners. We watch as actors pretend to cook food that other people pretend to eat.

Here’s the Ron Jeremy of TV Cooking…

We did not make this up. It actually exists.

Food TV has proved that we would all just rather watch. Almost no one ever tasted Julia Child’s food. No one had any idea what her food tasted like, they just took her word for it. As a team of eighteen people spent many, many hours preparing, photographing for her half hour show, housewives declared themselves “Gourmet Cooks”, based on lessons from a TV performer about a cuisine they had never known.

It never occurred to them that learning to cook from television is like learning Architecture over the radio.

Her most enduring contribution might be the fake orgasm of Culinary Porn: “Mmmmmmmm…delicious!”

In the end, as one French Chef observed, “I think Julia Child’s greatest influence was to make Italian Cuisine America’s favorite food.” 



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