Like any pleasure, food porn has a dark side. Or, more appropriately, a “daylight side." Things that appear glamorous in the wee hours, provocative in dark alcoves, and sensual by the light of neon take on a pale, shallow hue in the once the sun rises and the blinds go up. 

Food porn parallels this same phenomenon, particularly the original brand- cookbook pictures. They present an idealized, hard to obtain standard that is just not realistic for most of us. My kitchen doesn’t have that lighting, my counters don’t look like that, I don’t own the right French imported tea towel to wrap around that loaf pan! I want to party with this recipe, but will the real thing compare to the fantasy? Part of what we are trying to do with this blog is both celebrate the universal appeal and emotional connection with food while also honoring its authenticity, and it is in that vein that we present our first “series": Cookbook vs. Cooked, where we’ll compare the model to the real deal (and hopefully offer some useful tips should you want to outdo us). 

Case in point- the "Surprise tatin" I (Crystal) made from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty. He seems to encourage the pleasure-seeking home-cook not only with the beautiful, rustic (and very accessible-looking) pictures in this awesome book, but by the fact that none of the recipes contain total time estimates. This potato tart is a slow Sunday exercise but a most ambitious weeknight recipe (my husband and I killed a bag of popcorn and three bananas before we actually were able to eat this at 10 PM). Each step is about 25 minutes, but there are like six hefty steps: cook and halve new potatoes, roast tomatoes, sauté onion, MAKE CARAMEL (surprise!), assemble, and bake. I’ve never made caramel in my life, and the thought of cooking butter and sugar to perfection terrified me. It takes practice, which is why my potatoes look burnt. They aren’t, but the caramel is, slightly. I could’ve skipped that step, used jarred or canned roasted tomatoes, and shaved an hour off the process. Still, the caramel lent a sweetness to the savory, puff pastry grounded tatin. My circus-yellow painted counter tops (don’t ask) and bright kitchen light notwithstanding, this tasted (and smelled) friggin amazing. 

Have you ever been for breakfast, or a late morning drink, at an establishment you’d normally only frequent at night? Or prepped for the lunch shift after closing the night before? The crowds are gone, and with them the echos of laughter and swinging bathroom doors, and the candles are covered in grease but there’s also kind of a quiet, poignant beauty. The glamour and the sexiness might not be there but something else is, something you can’t put your finger on. I think cooking is the same way. When I prepare food for myself and others in my home it’s about 1) necessity and 2) pleasure. The comfort of home, and the pleasure of the process, adds something almost as nourishing as the food itself. Food porn is nice, but it ain’t nothing like the real thing. 

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