Shortly after my first child was born, my wife gave me a video camera. C’mon, every dad has to have a video camera, right? I used that sucker quite a lot, early on, but after a year or so, it got used less and less. I haven’t touched that camera in 10 years or so, primarily because I realized that I was no longer participating in the action. I was documenting it, trying to get the “perfect shot.” Those perfect shots often took 5-10 minutes at once, where you were more focused (no pun intended) on keeping the camera in frame and not really paying attention to what was truly going on.
The exact same thing happened to me with dining and the internet. I would go out to eat, taking my camera along. I ultimately found myself more concerned with taking lots of food porn, so that I could share my experience with my “friends” on eGullet. I paid less attention to my dining companions — my real, honest to goodness friends — than I did with my camera and the lighting.
That pretty much stopped a couple of years ago, however. As I spent more time with bloggers and the like, I realized that the people who spent so much time on the photographs weren’t all that fun to be with. It’s not that I didn’t like them, but they weren’t enjoying the meal itself. They weren’t engaged with the others at the table. I asked myself, “Am I like that?” and the answer was a resounding “Yes.”
Sitting at the table, sharing a meal with friends and family, is an activity that in many ways defines us as human beings. Our events of celebration and sorrow typically revolve around food. Every culture has their food-specific holidays, and the evening dinner is still considered to be the highlight of our daily family routine (although it’s certainly on the wane). The meal is incredibly important to us, socially and nutritionally.
But when the meal loses that social dynamic, I lose interest in it. The foodie with the camera makes me feel the same way as the person who has to tell me how many grams of fat are in every dish I eat. They take the fun out of it, turning my meal into a clinical exercise.
Yeah, I’ll still take food pictures now and then, and I’ll even chronicle every dish in a meal occasionally. But I’m glad that’s the exception and not the rule, as I truly love to interact with those around me and to appreciate the food that’s before me. Boy, meals are so much more fun now.