I wasn’t always a FK’er. I came to Filipino Kitchen from the outside, from the offline world. I was raised on food as a medium of expression and approach cooking with a practicality that takes occasional detours into reverence. Though the ladies of FK and I share the same food-mindedness, I'm still new to blogging. Here, in my Filipino Kitchen blog debut, I give my take on the food blogosphere as an outsider looking in.
I had a Nokia brick phone until Halloween 2014. I carried it as a badge of honor—I had not fallen prey to the constant onslaught of mobile device marketing. Each time someone did a double take at the sight of my phone, I mounted the same defense: yes, this is my real phone. No, it’s not a burner. No, I don’t play Snake on it. No, I don’t want a smartphone. And no, it’s not about the cost.
It’s about the culture.
I won’t lie—a not-small part of me resisted getting a smartphone for so long because I didn’t want to give anyone the satisfaction. Once a resistance becomes your trademark, people tend to wait around to savor your eventual fall from grace. There’s nothing quite as gratifying as an I-told-you-so, followed by an “OMG now we can FaceTime!!!”
But more than that, I resisted the idea of constant connectivity. So far, I could function just fine without the internet in my pocket; I didn’t want to get to the point where I couldn’t. Moving to a new city without Google Maps on standby forced me to learn my way around analog-style: studying a printed map, getting lost, getting unlost, and gradually getting my bearings.
Digital oblivion proved equally repulsive. Every morning on the train I laughed internally at the absurdity of a bunch of strangers squished together inside a metal tube, completely absorbed in their screens. It’s a sea of bowed heads, faces illuminated from below, eyes glazed like donuts.
I understand that it’s too early and we’re all on the same commute as ever and we’d all rather be someplace else. That struggle is real. But look out the window. There’s so much to see. I’ve seen buildings added to our skyline and caught offbeat, seconds-long performances on the top deck of the Steppenwolf’s parking garage, all from the Brown line tracks in between work and home. I revel in that awareness.
In the same vein, I recoiled at the idea of simultaneously living a moment and commemorating it. Nothing is safe from instant documentation; everything from a morning cup of coffee to a day at the laundromat is grist for the “pics or it didn’t happen” mill. I got the distinct impression that people were so concerned with preserving the moment for posterity that they would plum forget to look around and experience it while it was happening. And that’s just not my bag.
So imagine the identity crisis of trying to reconcile my Luddite tendencies with the reality of dining with food bloggers.
At a recent communal dinner, I was ready to channel my inner flying squirrel and descend on a quarter sheet pan of fried chicken. I went in for a drumstick, but instead of making contact with crispy batter, I made contact with Natalia’s palm as she caught me mid-reach. I forgot that food bloggers don’t just consume; they duly document the entire dining experience for the purpose of public consumption. First it’s the DSLRs, then it’s the iPhones, as food, decor, server, coupons, server posing with coupons all get immortalized.
Having dabbled in photography, I understand the preoccupation with light and composition, and I’m aware that food photography is a special breed of nit-picky (see tabletop directing). I can look on longingly for a moment while the bloggers rearrange the corn muffins and adjust the settings on their cameras. But while they’re hashtagging social media posts to inspire FOMO and build their brand, my chicken is getting cold. The moment is slipping. Pretty soon the spontaneity of dinner out with friends is lost to the unrelenting media churn.
It’s a sensory overload world for the technologically reticent among us. So build that empire. Establish that social media presence. Just don’t be absent in the moment. Because the moment is now, and isn’t it something?