21 January 2014

Eat with one eye open, gripping your camera tight

Tofu & Wakame Salad. Baby spinach, green beans, spring onion, wakame & tofu, served with sesame dressing garnished with sesame seeds. Delicious.
Zakura, Wexford Street, Dublin, 21st January, 2014
Being away from home, or rather being away from the home that also contains your much better half, means spending a lot of meals alone. I like food, it being (despite the numerous restrictions placed upon my diet both medically and pig-headidly) one of the few pleasures that I have left in life (that and feeling smugly superior to omnivores every time another horse-meat scandal canters over the horizon. You know what's in my carrot, folks? Carrot. You know how I know that there's only carrot in my carrot? Because it's a carrot). However, I am not, and never have been, a fan of cooking for one. Actually, that's not true, I don't mind cooking for one if that one is someone else and I'm not eating at the time, but I absolutely hate just cooking for myself. If Bachelor Chow was a real thing, and not the only culinary thing possibly sadder than the existence of breakfast burritos, I would consume it happily when on my own.

But I digress, sort of. Being on my own for one week in every two, and being too lazy to cook for myself, I end up sitting alone in local restaurants, reading a newspaper or magazine while eating and trying to not catch the pitying eyes of my fellow diners. Which is just as well, for the look I would return is one of mostly sad contempt.

I do not, as habit, eat in glasshouses, which is fortunate.

Dining alone, you tend to overhear a lot of other people's conversations, and what you quickly learn is that other people are really, really, really boring. I don't mean just lull-in-the-conversation-because-their-story-ran-out-of-steam boring, I mean DOA-at-the-hospital-with-toe-tags-on-before-they-even-opened-their-mouth sort of boring. If their conversations ever reached the lofty heights of mundanity they would die from the apocalyptic nosebleeds it would cause.

Now in the olden days, you could escape such conversational collateral damage simply by getting up and leaving the offending area, but in the digital age such memetic polluters have become wise to this option, and have added a new string to their Bow Of Exceptional Boredom (+1/+3 vs Elves and other races with keen hearing), the cameraphone. If you thought other people's conversations were dull, wait until you see their Instagram of their food.

In the Really-Real World of work, which ironically for me is actually the online world, I see an awful, awful lot of other people's awful photos, but in a good way, not the PRISM/NSA way. The number one thing that people photograph is themselves, pulling a stupid face. The number two thing they photo is their food, or their coffee, or their pint. And then they share it with the world.


I mean, I get why they took the photo, maybe, if they want to commemorate a particularly amazing quiche or mocha-frappe-chococcino, but what makes anyone think that anyone else in the world, and I mean anyone,  would be interested in a picture of it? With a fuzzy filter on it. Maybe the chef and/or barrista, but I think they'd just get annoyed by the filter. Not even your mother cares about what your dinner looked like, and she thinks you never eat enough. Do they not feed you in that place where you live/work/are incarcerated?

Unless I am very wrong about all of this*, I don't think that anyone else actually looks at these photos, and I'm not even sure if the people who take them ever look at them again. Every day 55 Million photos are shared on Instagram.  55 Million. They're not all food shots, but a huge amount are. Believe me. So every day we have millions and millions of photos uploaded to the interwebs, and no one will ever, ever look at them. They just sit there, orbiting our lives like a colossal hispterfied cloud of photographic space-junk, a ticking timebomb that any minute could come crashing through your timeline unheralded and uncalled for, leading to a catastrophic loss of mental pressure as your train of thought implodes out the airlock and you are left reeling and staggering, crying out, "Why? Why? Oh please tell me why anyone would ever think that I would want to see a picture of their uneaten Tofu and Wakame Salad?".

No matter how tasty it looks.

Where did you say that restaurant was again?

So, like the old adage about a gentleman being someone who can play the accordion, but chooses not to, maybe it is time in this digital age of oversharing to call a halt to the food pics. And the selfies. And the cat photos.

But start with the food.

And don't pull any of that "First they came for the foodie pics..." nonsense, this isn't about expressing your individuality, for if 55 million other people are doing the exact same thing, there's nothing individual about it.

It's about good manners. Didn't your mother tell you not to chew with your mouth open? It's the same thing.

Oh, any while we're at it, next time I'm eavesdropping on your conversation because I am sad and old and eating all alone, can you come up with something better to talk about?


(Kids, when you get older, try not to be on your own for too long. It does bad things to your head. Very bad things)

* Which never happens. Back in 1996 when I first heard about Amazon, I said loudly, "Buying books online? Who on earth would ever want to do that? That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard". I stand by that statement, better to double-down in the face of such awesome wrongness than to admit defeat.

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