Friday, August 1, 2014

Ugly is beautiful - the real face of food?

picture courtesy of

Do you remember this picture? The first time I saw it I laughed. Basically the point behind the shot was to see if you could tell the difference between a food network star moaning about food, or someone who works in the sex industry just plain moaning. Take a look - tough isn't it. That's what has happened to the presentation of food. Essentially the lines have become so blurred that you can't really tell the difference between someone selling sex or selling food.

I recently read a fantastic article in the Globe and Mail about food, and how it's supposed to be presented to consumers. Basically, it has to be perfect - nothing less. We shouldn't be be surprised by that admission, since the sex and fashion industries are notorious for pushing that image since its inception. It's only natural it would extend to the presentation of food.

The Food Network, along with many, many food blogs (and I'm certainly not discounting mine), do an amazing job of the pornification of food, showing off food at it's best, making it look so succulent, moist and mouthwatering. The people who make or present the food are in the deep throes of ecstasy over what they make and put in their mouths. The viewers see presenters on Food TV with their eyes rolled to the back of their head in sheer, scripted joy, as the prepared meal goes into their mouths. You get the picture.

So here we are. That is what people want to see. That's what people have become used to seeing. When consumers go to the store, that's what they expect to see displayed in the produce section - perfection. The boxes and canned good needs to be as visually appealing as ever, and the baked goods? It practically needs to leap out of the display cases just ready to drop into your shopping cart.

But what if your food looked like this:

Or this

pictures courtesy of
Would you buy it?

Does it still appeal to you?

An honest question searching for honest answers. As you'll see from the images, there is an active campaign by food companies to start changing the minds of consumers on what they think food should look like, to what it really looks like. A good percentage of food that people perceive to be visually unappealing is either thrown out, or used for other purposes (liked canned goods). The truth is, there is nothing wrong with the food, but we've become so conditioned to accept perfection, that it just wouldn't sell. At least not without a much heavier ad campaign to really start persuading people that there is no difference between that perfectly round strawberry, and the one with a "double chin".

I applaud these latest efforts to try to change the mindset of the consumer of what food beauty really is, but there is a great deal of work to be done. Just scroll up to the top picture again if you need a reminder. If we can get the food network stars to look ecstatic over a lumpen, mis-shaped potato, we may just be on to something that could alter the way we all view the perfect imperfections of the food we eat.

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