Feasting on food porn: what are we consuming?

Event date: 13 December 2010



Royal Holloway Faculty of Arts

Feasting on food porn: what are we consuming?

A roundtable discussion with James Abadi, Ruth Cruickshank, Mark Dredge, John Ellis, Mike Hoare and Carol Vallejo

The recent explosion of food and drink in the print media, TV, film and the Internet prompts us to feast yet reminds us we are getting fatter and unhealthier. TV serves an endless diet of ‘celebrity chefs’, with brand identities and lucrative spin-off products. We turn from lascivious Nigella to bullying Gordon. From Heston’s hyperreal creations to the cult of conscience cooking à la Hugh or Jamie. We revel in the delicious schadenfreude of Come Dine with Me, Masterchef and ostensibly ‘self-improvement’-premised programming that feeds on its over- or under-eating subjects. Restaurant-based sitcoms bring us light relief from documentaries revealing the evils of what we eat. Then we can flick through any number of food-dedicated lifestyle magazines, or lavishly illustrated national newspaper food sections. And online, blogs feed a diversity of appetites from recording daily food habits and restaurant reviews to odes to bacon or to cupcakes and the discussion of the worst of airline meals and the best of bento boxes and beyond. Cinema has brought us blogosphere crossover biopics, and has hit a rich seam of documentaries lambasting fast food or wine or coffee production. All screened alongside feature films which celebrate food, or trade on it as a trope.

This round table explores how the celebration and re-thinking of eating and drinking in the print media, TV, film and the Internet affects our relationships with other consumers and food professionals; and with our minds and bodies and the environment. Chaired by Dr Ruth Cruickshank of the SMLLC, it brings together experts: James Abadi, of Combined Mind, film-maker, TV producer and director alumnus behind Gordon Ramsey’s Boiling Point; Mark Dredge, the man behind Pencil & Spoon, one of The Times’ Top 50 food and drink blogs and 2009 and 2010 winner of The Beer Guild’s New Media Writer of the Year; Professor John Ellis of Media Arts, whose TV production experience spans TV’s French Food in Ten Minutes and This Food Business; Mike Hoare, RHUL’s Head of Catering Services; and Carol Vallejo, our own Head Chef at The Hub and contestant on BBC’s Put Your Menu Where Your Mouth Is. From global, price-driven supply chains and fair trade sourcing to the impact of celebrity chefs on government food policy and in–house training; and from perceptions of beer, wine and women to questions of sustainability and slow food, panelists and contributors from the floor will be invited to draw on their experience to discuss our expectations and uses of food and drink, addressing issues including:

  • How do the print media, TV, film and the Internet affect the way we think about food and drink?
  • How do the print media, TV, film and the Internet affect the food and drink we consume?
  • How do the ways food and drink are celebrated and re-thought by the media affect food professionals’ relationships with consumers?
  • How does the explosion of food and drink in the media food affect our bodies, our minds and the environment?
  • How do the print media, TV, film and the Internet contribute to the economics and politics of food production and consumption?

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