Pictures from Senegal

Sunday, December 5

Food Porn

The idea of food porn is not my creation. In fact, I actually can’t attribute it to anyone in particular. But it is, however, a much thought about and highly integrated part of a Peace Corps Volunteer’s life. The word porn is used in this sense to mean an unfulfilled desire captured in video, picture, verbal exchanges, and publication- cyber or printed. And of course it has to involve food: making, buying, preparing, ordering, eating, or just simply staring at a coveted food item. The practice of engaging in one of the aforementioned verbs related to food is considered “food porn.”

For the average PCV, food porn is a daily vice like nicotine or booze to an alcoholic. Perhaps, it’s the mere exercise of sitting in one’s room smelling the preparation of lunch and day dreaming about what the day would be like if your favorite meal were in store- instead of the rice and fish you’re going to get. Some volunteers will watch cooking shows like Iron Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, or anything found on the Food Network to get their fix. Others explore all the different substitutes possible in their favorite recipes given what’s available in Senegal. For example, I have made a fabulous batch of chocolate chip cookies substituting honey from the Casamance region for brown sugar. Don’t judge me or I won’t share any of the millet banana cake. And still others spend time looking up pictures or articles about food online. Websites like thisiswhyyourfat.com and one’s giving food critic reviews are nothing to dismiss.

There is a volunteer produced cookbook with tricks of the trade: building your own stove or baking with a gas tank and the more successful in-country substitutes for unavailable ingredients. But whenever possible we prefer to spend money at import stores buying western ingredients to cook at home or in our regional houses. Volunteers often have their favorite foods shipped to them by loved ones. Peanut butter, spices, dried or freeze-dried items, and even meals for created for mountain climbing enthusiasts. Again, don’t knock some of those pasta dishes until you’ve tried them.

Volunteers frequently attempt to make American meals to share with their host families. The success rate is dismal but the efforts continue. To my knowledge one of the truly “amazing” things my predecessor made for my family was a pot of extremely spicy chili (though it’s unclear if the success was due to the level of spice or that the spice clouded the taste of the foreign meal). For holidays I attempt to make my family some of my favorite desserts. And they eat it politely but I can always tell they don’t understand the concept of apple cobbler or why anyone would want to make such a chocolate moist cake (read: brownies).

And when none of this is sufficiently satisfying, we PCVs travel over multiple days to reach the splendor that is Dakar often creating a weekend agenda centered solely on food. The attraction is of course the bevy of western restaurants and menu items. Cuisines of Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Lebanese, Ethiopian, French, Italian, Mexican and even an American diner food and a KFC knock off are residents of Dakar.

But none of this will ever compare to the day we actually go back to the Western worlds from which we came and our food porn was born. With my pending vacation in the great land of convenience (aka the USA), I can’t help but imagine my first meal back home. Not just casually thinking of my favorite foods, and narrowing them down to most important, I take it one step further to food porn because I picture myself preparing and then sitting down to the master piece of a meal. I can smell the kitchen and grill smells, lick the bowls used in preparation, see the familiar colors of my favorite items, and I salivate. In fact, since I’m thinking about it now, I might as well share.

My dream starts with some fresh pieces of veggies (like carrots, cucumber, and broccoli) dipped in the hidden valley ranch packets that are mixed with sour cream to make dip. It should be noted that I mix 1.5 packages to prescribed amount of sour cream for increased flavor. This is washed down with my favorite white wine Relax, a type of Riesling. For dinner we eat a McCormick seasoned steak grilled medium-well and served with horseradish sauce (made from a base of wasabi mayo and horseradish). On the side is a salad with the following toppings: dried cherries, feta cheese, onions, tomatoes, cucumber, and croutons. The dressing is, of course, jalapeño ranch from Pepperidge Farm. For dessert there’s a giant bowl of cold berries (really any fruit ending in berry will do) and barely thawed cool whip. Oh, and let’s not forget the large warm chocolate chip cookie. I don’t like a lot of chocolate chips in my cookie, just one or two, because I’m really in it for the dough- of which I’ve already a few spoonfuls when raw.

No, not all of those items go together, but I suppose it wouldn’t be food porn if they did. Or if I hadn’t described it all in what I’m sure was boring detail to you (which was pretty agonizing for me). I do think it’s telling that most of the items were based from fresh healthy foods… that were accompanied by dairy based products. It says that I don’t get either of those food “groups” in sufficient quantity here. You should be concerned if my 1st supper had included rice, pasta, bread, or any other form of carbohydrate. But anyway, I figure you get what I mean by food porn by now. And yes, Dad, the above was a not-so-subtle hint. Thanks.

1 comment:

  1. Hey!
    Just wanted to let you know that your blog is awesome and I've just read through almost the entire thing. It's been a tremendous insight into volunteering and I can't wait to get my invitation!!!

    ReplyDelete